Tips for sourcing full-text online articles

If you use citation management software, it can search online for full-text articles (including free copies) for you

Members of the Evidence-Based Veterinary Medical Association (EBVMA),, have exclusive online access to the VetLexicon point of care reference and CABI VetMedResource, the most comprehensive veterinary database in the world.

Practicing evidence-based veterinary medicine (EBVM) requires finding published evidence. Fortunately, there are some solid techniques that can help you find many full-text articles even when you are not affiliated with an institution.

There is not one, central place to look for all relevant information in veterinary medicine, so what you should look for is a guide where to look.

These strategies apply when you have information about a specific article, a citation. You can begin with a straightforward online search to find a link to full-text. Although a search engine may find full-text, a specialist site is more likely to find it.

Big data pools

Three great places to search are Google Scholar, Dimensions, and Lens. You may want to choose one and become comfortable with it, or bookmark them all to try. Their content overlaps and each has unique links.

  • Google Scholar (GS) is located at in the United States and may have other addresses in other countries. This is a subset of the Google search engine, and the results are citations with links to all the instances of full-text Google can locate.

Enter the title of the specific article you want to find into the search bar. If you are fortunate, you get one result—that article. It may help to put quotation marks around the title to find the article and not results about the topic. There will be a link to full-text on the right of the screen, which is one of the places GS found full-text but not necessarily the only place. In the line below the citation will be additional GS commands. Choose “More Versions” to see a list of links for other sites where GS found full-text. Often, if one is not freely available to you, another is.

  • Lens is located at At the site, you must choose either a patent search or a scholarly search. To locate free full-text articles, choose a scholarly search. Lens is not an internet search engine. It does not scour the internet looking for content. It intentionally includes content from several data sources including Microsoft Academic, PubMed and Crossref. The free full-text links are from several sources including OpenAlex and UnPaywall. This means the content should be stable, and if you enter the same search on a different day, you should retrieve the same results plus
    newer information.

As with GS, enter the article title in the search bar because you are seeking a link to that full-text and choose to search in the title field. When you look at the record for an article, on the right side will be a list of links for all the locations Lens has for full-text; this is similar to “More Versions” in GS.

  • Dimensions is located at At the site, choose “Access Dimensions.” Dimensions is the world’s largest linked research database, and similar to Lens, it is not an internet search engine. This means, as with Lens, you should be able to replicate your search and the results at a later time.

In the search bar at the top, you can enter the title or the digital object identifier (DOI) of the article you are looking for. Be sure to choose the correct field. If Dimensions has a link to full-text, it will be linked to the article.

Specific databases

If you know the article you want is included in a database, you can use it for full-text links as long as you remember most databases do not have as many links as search engines, such as Google Scholar. Dimensions and Lens are exceptions as they are databases that strive to be comprehensive and include as many stable, legal full-text links as they are able. Subject-specific databases, such as PubMed, strive to cover a topic well and not to be comprehensive nor do they link to all the available full-text.

  • PubMed,, is a database covering biomedical literature. If you have a specific article, you can enter the data you know about it in the search bar. PubMed is programmed to recognize the data as a citation, and searches for the article. On the right of the screen will be up to three links: the first is a free version in PubMed Central (PMC), PubMed’s repository of articles. The second is the publisher, and these links may or may not be to a free version. The third is an employer or university subscription, if enabled.

If you believe you could, or should, be seeing a link to your employer or university, ask your librarian or information specialist about it. To see the third set of links, institutional subscriptions, you need to begin at an institution specific link, not the plain PubMed link. This is because PubMed itself is freely available and you need to specify which institution’s subscription links to display.

  • Europe PMC,, focuses on the life sciences and provides access to more than 42,000,000 articles and preprints.

Let tools do the work

Internet browser extensions and citation management software can each perform searches for full-text articles for you.

Internet browser extensions are also called plug-ins, add-ins, and add-ons. What is available varies by browser. These are executable programs you install in your browser. They sit to the upper right of your screen as small icons. To use them, click the icon. The best bets are:

  • Unpaywall,, currently claims to access nearly 48,000,000 articles. After installation, when you visit an online article, a padlock icon will appear on the right side of the screen. A green padlock means Unpaywall located a free legal online copy; while a grey one indicates otherwise.
  • Open Access Button,, functions as both a website and an extension, where you can enter data about the article to find it.

If Google Scholar works well for you, it also has an extension.

If you use citation management software, it can search for full-text articles, including free copies, for you. Zotero and EndNote each have this ability. If you have institutional access to subscriptions, each can be configured to also find the subscription copy. Ask your librarian or information specialist for assistance. In addition to assisting with organizing your library of citations and articles, these software packages are linked to Retraction Watch, which is a freely available database of retracted articles. EndNote and Zotero each indicate articles in your library that have been retracted.

Other online sources

In person

If you live near a university, or will be traveling near one, contact them and ask about their services and access for visitors. Many allow access to computers, databases, online and print journals, scanners, and the expertise of the librarians and information specialists.

Contact your local public library; they purchase packages of information that often include some veterinary journals and books. Library card holders often have online access. Also, ask about their policies and costs for obtaining articles and books from other libraries for you through interlibrary loan.

Membership benefits

Check with both the library and the college at your alma maters about alumni benefits. Some subscribe to information packages, similar to the public library, which include some veterinary information and have online access. Talk to the associations you belong to about what matters to you as a member. Within veterinary associations, some have provided information access or discounts to subscriptions for their members. Others have changed their publications to be freely available for everyone online. They do not know what is important to you until you tell them.


If you have information about an article and cannot locate free full-text, two additional strategies are often useful.

  • You can look for the articles cited within the article you’re searching for because this list is increasingly freely available in databases like PubMed and at sites like Dimensions and Lens. This is the reference list for the article and, if you think about it, the articles on the reference list are so closely related to the article they needed to be included. Sometimes a cited article covers the aspect you’re seeking and is freely available. These will likely be older than your original item because they had to be found and read and incorporated into the article in order to be referenced.
  • You can look for articles that cite the one you’re searching for because, again, this list is increasingly freely available. Google Scholar, Dimensions, and Lens are best bet sources for citing articles. These will likely be newer than your original item because they used it in their research. Again, you may find one that fits your need and is freely available.

L.M. Rey is the southern director of the EBVMA and currently serves on the EBVMA board.

Heather K. Moberly previously served on the EBVMA board and was instrumental in securing access for members to several subscription products and discounts. Moberly currently serves on the CABI Publishing North American Library Advisory Board and the VetStream Academic Advisory Board. While all articles are reviewed for content, the opinions and conclusions of the author(s) do not necessarily reflect the views of the EBVMA or Veterinary Practice News. For information about the association or to join, visit

Members of the Evidence-Based Veterinary Medical Association (EBVMA),, have exclusive access to the VetLexicon point of care reference and CABI VetMedResource, the most comprehensive veterinary database in the world.

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