…even if you don´t have one of those horribly expensive subscriptions to scientific data bases such as ScienceDirect or PsychINFO.
If you want to stay up to date on Positive Psychology, there´s lots of stuff for you out there. You can:
- read books on the subject;
- follow researchers like Todd Kashdan who regularly publishes “popular science” articles on Psychology Today, or Robert Biswas-Diener who publishes articles via LinkedIn Pulse.
- follow Positive Psychology bloggers like Seph Fontane Pennock or Samantha Boardman;
- subscribe to Positive Psychology news outlets such as Fulfillment Daily or Positive Psychology News Daily (PPND);
- visits researcher´s sites such as Marty Seligman´s www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu.
But if you are a little bit like me, you like to read an original research paper once in a while (here´s a collection of essential Positive Psychology papers), e.g., to do a fact-check, find additional articles, or just to get an in-depth perspective on a certain topic. Now, it can be a bit tough to get a hold of those papers since typically, they are hidden behind a database´s paywall. But then, the original publisher´s database is not the only way to obtain a certain paper. Here are seven alternative ways that don´t cost a cent.
Nowadays, your first visit should always be Google Scholar. It indexes the sites of academic institutions but will also find a lot of research papers that are hosted somewhere else on the net. If you already know the paper´s name that you are looking for, just type that into the search field. But of course, you can also search for keywords, researchers, set a certain time frame, or limit your results to a certain branch of research etc. pp.
If a free PDF is available, it´ll typically open up directly when clicking on the article in the search results. But oftentimes, there are different references for the same articles. It´s always helpful to click on the “versions” button below the search result – sometimes, the link to a PDF does not work, but then you can find another link that actually does work via that button.
Another great feature is the button that letS you find “similar results”. If you have found an interesting article, clicking on that button will display papers that are very close to the one that you´ve found, e.g., because it´s from the same researchers, covers a similar topic, or cites a lot of the same references. Using this button cleverly will quickly deliver a decent overview of the really relevant papers for a certain research topic.
Google Scholar also shows you how often a paper is cited by other articles. Without changing the settings, articles are typically (sort of) ranked in that order. Once again, this helps a lot to understand what are the really relevant papers and/or researchers in a specific field.
Use Google´s “Filetype Search”
Even though Google Scholar is pretty good at finding research PDFs on the net, it will not find all of them. I´ve obtained a lot of papers by using a valuable tool from the regular Google search. You can limit your search results to PDFs by typing “filetype:PDF” before your search terms (of course, this also works with .doc; .ppt etc.). This way works most effectively when you already know the full title of the paper that your are looking for. In that case, limit your search to PDFs and then copy/paste the title into the search bar in parentheses. If the article´s PDF is to be found somewhere on the internet, you´ll get it that way.
Visit the Researcher´s academic Website
For good reasons, most of the researchers will have a publication list on their websites. If there´s a free PDF on the internet, most of those researchers (those that have an interest in being read and cited) will set a link to the respective PDFs or host them on their own website. While it is typically not allowed to host a research paper that resides behind a database pay wall, there are often exceptions for the authors of those papers (at least, after a certain amount of time has passed after publication). Even if you do not find the exact same paper that you´re looking for, you may find earlier working papers or conference papers that are very similar to the article that you are actually looking for.
There´s a (rather) new and very cool site by the name of ResearchGate. It´s something like a LinkedIn/Facebook for researchers – and a lot of articles are available via the participants´ profiles. So it´s a good idea to sign up. But typically, if a PDF is to be found there, Google Scholar will also reference it.
Send an E-Mail to the Researcher
Nowadays, you´ll find the e-mail address of the so-called “corresponding author” on the title page of every research paper (and in most cases, it´s also mentioned below the article’s abstract on the net). If there´s no way to get a free PDF via the WWW, you can just send an e-mail and politely ask for a copy of the paper. If the researcher in question is still active and has an interest in being read and published, there´s a good chance you´ll get a nice reply containing the PDF in no time.
Ask a Buddy
It´s always handy to know at least one professor, post-doc, or Ph.D. student. Even if they do not work in the specific field that you are interested in, there´s a good chance they can obtain a paper via their university´s database subscription – and e-mail it to you. Use this method sparingly as this group of people tends to work about 150 hours per week.
Just kidding. If the aforementioned six way don´t work, you’re probably screwed.*
*If you know additional ways of obtaining free research PDFs, please leave a comment below this article.