Jeromy Anglim's Blog: Psychology and Statistics

Monday, April 19, 2010

How to get Quick Access to Full Text Journal Articles using Google Scholar

This post presents strategies for accessing proprietary full text PDF journal articles in ways that minimise the number of steps. It assumes that you have institutional access.


There are many occasions where you find a reference and you want to get the full-text.
  • Browsing your RSS feeds of a journal
  • Reading an article and you see a reference that looks promising
  • You find a reference in a database and the database does not provide direct access
This post presents some strategies for getting access to full-text quickly. Some of these tips may not work for you. One, they assume that you have institutional access to the full-text. Two, even if you have institutional access, systems vary in how libraries interface with proprietary databases. However, even if the strategies don't work for you, perhaps they'll provide a starting point. If you have any of your own tricks, It'd be great to hear about them.

IP Filtering

Some publishers use IP filtering (e.g., "Science Direct"). This allows me to access full text through the publisher's site directly as long as I am on a campus computer. It's unfortunate that more publishers don't provide this service.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar provides a comprehensive database of journal articles. Direct links to free PDFs are sometimes provided. Alternatively, my university library interfaces with Google Scholar. Under preferences, Google Scholar can be linked to many university library systems. In my case, this creates a "SourceIt @ Melbourne" link for most articles in Google Scholar. This link tends to be able to fast-track my access to the journal article. I find that a few words from the title are sufficient to bring up the article.

To speed up this process I wrote a script in AutoHotKey. To install the script:
  1. Download and install AutoHotKey. It is free and runs on Windows.
  2. Create a new script (i.e., a text file with a *.ahk extension) and paste in the code below
  3. Change the line that starts "C:\Documents and Settings" to the location of your browser
  4. Double click on the script to activate it. If you want the script to always be active, include it in your Startup folder
The following script operates as follows:
  1. Select words of an article title (e.g., you see a reference in a PDF or a journal article or an RSS feed)
  2. Press Windows+G: This copies the selection to the clipboard (assuming the program supports copy and paste) and generates a search on Google Scholar for the article. If you want to use this yourself you'd have to change the location of the web browser.
  3. If I'm lucky, the first hit is the desired article and I control+click "SourceIt @Melbourne; I control+click "Export BibTeX"
  4. I then follow my internal library links to the article
  5. Highlight the BibTeX reference and drag into JabRef
  6. Get the newly imported BibTeX key from JabRef (Ctrl+Shift+k) and use this as the file name for the full-text PDF
  7. Save the PDF above into your repository (where JabRef can find the file) and paste the file name in as the BibTeX key.
clipboard =  ; Start off empty to allow ClipWait to detect when the text has arrived.
Send ^c
ClipWait  ; Wait for the clipboard to contain text.
ArticleTitle := clipboard
StringReplace ArticleTitle, ArticleTitle, %A_SPACE%, +, 1
SearchString := "" . ArticleTitle
Run "C:\Documents and Settings\jeromy\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" %SearchString%
If this does not bring up the reference, several additional strategies include:
  • see if the article is available through a plain Google search
  • reduce the number of words being searched. Sometimes too many words can lead to exclusion.
  • If none of these work, I fall back on using my institutions standard system for getting articles
  • If my institution does not have a subscription, I sometimes give up. If the article is important enough, I'll check out the website of author or authors and see if they provide full text copies.
Two problems with the Google Scholar System: (1) The latest articles are sometimes not available. (2) The reference information is sometimes incomplete or inaccurate.


All publishers and institutional library staff should actively seek to minimise the number of steps required to obtain full-text copies of journal articles for researchers with institutional subscriptions. Access should be as seamless as Google Search and a hyperlink. IP filtering or some form of general login system, such as The Athens system ( represent a minimum standard for integration. Open access is better but I understand that publishing has costs and someone has to pay. At least for researchers inside institutions, accessing articles should be as seamless as open access.


  1. Your system that you have worked out sounds pretty good Jeromy :) Another solution that is almost as fast is searching via pubget - - simply install their firefox plugin and whenever you need an article select the pubget search service for the firefox search bar and *magic* full text pdf is available.

    Although there is still room for improvement in pubget I have found there developers to be amazingly receptive to my feedback and they have addressed every bug I've brought to them and even implemented a few features that I have requested.

    It's well worth a try :)



  2. Hi Patrick,
    Thanks so much for the Pubget suggestion.
    It looks like it has real potential.
    I'm having a play with it now and might write a post at a later point on my experience.

  3. My evaluation of PubGet:

  4. Hi
    Thanks for the info, it was really helpful. I want to recommend you one site that also contains free science and technology books and journals (free for read, download, share), it might be useful for you. It's called Sciyo, .

  5. Try :)

  6. hi to access journals from pubget for free..?? they ask to buy the pdf!
    pl help