Getting Research Articles for yourself

This post is dedicated to walking you through and possibly ordering the latest (or any) research papers available. Unfortunately, without the access privileges of a large school or university, it can be limited and costly.

All the latest research is almost always published in scientific journals. There are hundreds of journals out there covering the broadest subject ranges.

A caveat:
Remember, good quality and poor quality research can both be published. Journals like Science and Nature as well as many of the medical society journals are among the best when it comes to quality research. Many of these top journals have some serious, serious approval requirements and scrutiny when it comes to being published in their annals. That being said, good research and poor research can pop up everywhere. Assuming the authors have been honest, there is still a critical mind that is necessary (usually developed through rigorous academic training) to evaluate the reserach itself to deem it worthy. Even many doctors today don't have this training to contrast good studies from bad. Unfortunately, neither does the media, and this is why we always hear stories that are way out there. How many times have you heard news headlines like this . . . "chocolate can protect you from heart disease" or "X ingredient can help you prevent cancer"? Unfortunately, too much. Most of these headline making studies are so flawed, that they are really just a joke, but, hey, as long as some researcher published something somewhere, its fodder for the media beast.

Another Caveat:
This is about the limited availability of research articles to the public. I am going to show you in this post how to search for articles on anything that you want, however, that doesn't mean that you'll be able to just click and receive. Many of these articles are available only if you either subscribe to that journal (hundreds of dollars a year for just one subscription) or are willing to purchase the article (through a convoluted system that is expensive and time delayed).

Okay, so after those gloomy words here is a possible upside. If you have access or are part of a college or university (especially a larger research university) your science library should carry many of the journals you may be looking for. However, for the most extensive availability, only the best-endowed school libraries will have this voluminous catalog. Okay, maybe another caveat, most universities are going electronic with all their journals anyway, so if you aren't officially a student/faculty member, you probably won't have access, since the libraries are doing away with the print issues of the journals!

So, for the smallest number of you that have made it this far in the post here's what you can do. You'll have to search PubMed. I have carried a link for this, check under the section entitles "Dr. David Loves . . . these links of truth" on the left sidebar of this blog. Now this should open up PubMed.

Here's the easy part, just type in whatever you are looking for! Some suggestions: be specific for what you are looking for. I suggest entering ONLY keywords, and as many keywords that MUST be in the articles you are searching for.

Okay, so you have a bunch of results that pop up. If you're looking for something general, let's say, latest treatments for psoriasis or skin cancer, I suggest once you get the results, click on "Review" and this will give you what are known as "Review articles" which are articles that have actually gone through a bunch of other articles and published an overview or a "Review" articles with the information from a bunch of articles available in that field. It's more bang for your buck.

If you're looking for something really, really specific, you might not find as many Review articles available, so you can just stick to the "All" section which is the default.

Now, just cause you can't obtain the full article, you can get the gist of it by looking at what is called the 'abstract'. Go to the Display dropbox and click on "Abstract" and the titles will expand showing you the abstracts. This is a kind of "summary" illustrating the major points of the study and usually the conclusion as well. You can kind of get the whole point of the study in the conclusion. But BE WARNED: it's not very scientifically accurate to assume the author's conclusion is either correct or valid. There is no way to know for sure what the value (if any) is of the study without scrutinizing the whole article, especially the study methods, conduct, and approach.

Unfortunately, unless you have full access (through an institution that pays the heavy fees for jounal access), this is all you get. You can not see the whole article. Rarely some journals have some articles available, if so, you will see a link saying so and you can click and open up the whole thing.

So, you've found an article you just MUST have?!?! Or you really want to start actually getting these articles, but don't have access to them. Unfortunately, your options are limited. But here they are.

1. You can contact the publisher of that journal and request a free copy/fax of the study, they will usually oblige (I can't vouch for this, but I've heard from collegues they will do this). You can also contact the author, although I wouldn't recommend this.

2. One sure fire way to get them is through something called Loansome Doc. This is a service that allows you to sign up with a local medical library to get copies of the article from them. Like I said before, this isn't so simple. You may have to apply first to the library to be approved, some charge a deposit as well. And then you should find out how much the library charges for each article and what methods of delivery are available (fax, email, physical pick-up). Some charge outrageous rates of up to $20 or more per article. So, if you want to start that endeveor anyway, just click here and find out all there is to Loansome Doc.

I'm sorry this is such an unhelpful post, but when I found out just how difficult is was for the lay person not associate with an institution to get a significant number of articles at east, I was very upset. Ideally, it would be nice to have this knowledge and information available to the mass public. I think a nice change would be to completely overhaul the "loansom doc" service and integrate it into the pubmed searches better than it is now. It's quite cumbersome.

Well, hope this helps for those of you that can afford price requried of opening the gates of knowledge :-) Not to digress, but kids these days have it much better, I remember in college (it wasn't that long ago) I had to dig through the stacks of publications past to track down specific articles. Today, all I have to do is just go to PubMed through my University and in one click I have the whole article right there. WOW, it's nice to see techonology improving lives (and saving time and effort). Now if just everyone could have access!

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