How to Access Full-Text Research Papers Online (5 strategies)
Interesting strategies, find out more

How to Access Full-text Research Papers Online (5 free strategies)

In need of online access to full-text research papers for your projects?

Try out these trusted and legal options, which have proved helpful for several researchers.

In this article, we further outline the potential for success with each suggestion.

Do let me know which of them works out for you.

1. ResearchGate

ResearchGate is an underutilized platform in the academics. However, it’s one of the primary sources of online access to full-text research papers.

Usually, the full-texts are available on the platform. You may need to make a direct request to the authors.

From experience, adding these two features have proved helpful,

  • attach an introductory email
  • a specific time range by which you would love to have the full-text.

Compared to the plain, automated request for full-texts, these two tips significantly increase your chance of a positive response.

Effectiveness Quotient (based on personal experience from sourcing for research papers): Subjective

2. Endnote

Do you have an endnote software? An automatic search option is attached.

Connect to an internet provider, click the search button and voila, it searches the online database available and returns full-text results.

Where your institution has access to journal repositories or subscriptions, the results returned from the search is higher.

You can see an example here.

Effectiveness Quotient (based on personal experience): Subjective (depends on the number of online repositories your institute is connected to).


A useful option for those living in developing countries, as they can get free access to the platform with an institutional email address.

HINARI contains a host of full-texts across different academic fields.

A search through the repository could prove beneficial.

Effectiveness Quotient (based on personal experience): Free access is limited to developing countries

4. Unpaywall

A legal resource and relatively new option which provides access to paywalled full-texts. The software navigates the web to find full-text versions uploaded anywhere online.

It’s available as a Google Chrome Extension which can be added to your browser toolbar. It is represented as an open (green) or closed (gray) lock, usually on the right of the screen. Other useful Google Chrome extensions for improved productivity and browser experience are discussed here.

Results from a search show up as an open, green lock if available and grey, if inaccessible.

Effectiveness Quotient (based on personal experience): >50%. This frequency will depend on the sector or field in which you need full-texts. Also, the yield from search is subjective.

5. Google Scholar/Advanced Search

Google Scholar provides access to some research papers. Access to full-texts online is depicted on the right-hand side of the screen if free or open access. Where connected to an institutional cloud database, the link to a free version of the full-text is also visible (if available).

For Google Advanced Search, navigate to the advanced search option, usually found on the lower right of the screen, or use this link. Search for the full-text using the title of the paper. Where a free version is found, the links will reflect on your screen. This option is quite limited though.

Effectiveness Quotient (based on personal experience): 30%.

6. Colwiz

Colwiz is another free option for sourcing full-text research papers online. I discovered it as an addendum to Google Docs. Further research into the software shows it to be a tool for sourcing research papers and research management. The software can be assessed on most devices including Mobile, Windows, and Mac computers.

Users can access and read files (mainly open access, based on my stake-out of the platform), store and annotate them. Groups and project collaborations can be created and managed on the platform with shared calendars, to do lists, task creation and assignments, file imports and bibliography generation.

It can be integrated into Windows, Open Office and Google Docs for free, as a cite-while-you-write helper.

New sign-ups are allotted a cloud storage space of 3GB and more are added to subsequent social media connections and referrals. The platform operates a model similar to Dropbox at the outset.

Profile completion grants you 400MB cloud storage space, ad 1GB if you connect your social media profile. Successful invitations to the platform add a further 30GB.

Effectiveness Quotient (based on personal experience): Quite low (I could only find open access papers, limited success relative to ResearchGate).


If all else fails, do consider renting or getting the paid version of the full-text.

These suggestions do not preclude the option of paying for a full-text at the outset but should be considered to save costs, more so when on a research budget.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. With the advancements in technology and open access initiatives, more options for free, online access to full-text research papers are being developed or discovered.

For projects conducted with funds from the Bill Gates Foundation, an automatic open access label is assigned. Free access is granted to all research papers from this funding.

Which resource have you found useful in sourcing for full texts of research papers? Please share in the comments below.