Paywalls, and how to see through them

DSCN8088Here are the hoops we – academics, teacher educators, pre-service teachers, students – regularly jump through to get access to the research publications we need to do our jobs.  Suppose we find an article that we think is relevant to our work.

  1.  First step is to check our university library website to see whether we are subscribed to the journal.  Type the journal name in the search box (not the article name) and see what comes up.  It’s much more likely that we’re not subscribed, but it changes all the time so I have given up trying to keep track. If we are subscribed to the right journal with the right date range, then we’re good to go as long as we have our university login and password.
  2. Failing that, the official route is to ask for an interlibrary loan (prêt interbibliothèque, PIB).  You have to fill out a form, probably in person,  pay maybe 4 or 5 euros perhaps – and they get you a paper version in a finite time.  Our research lab pays for this, but I find the whole process time consuming.
  3. Instead, you can search for the article (and/or the authors) on  Maybe the authors have put a PDF somewhere.  You can also check for them on ResearchGate and since many journals allow authors to self-archive. You might have to sign up yourself, but you may as well: keeps your online profile looking professional 🙂
  4. E-mail the author saying you’re interested in their work because you’re working on something similar, your institution is not subscribed to the journal, and could they send you a PDF.  Most journals allows authors to use their own articles for teaching, presenting, and collaboration with other researchers. This kind of direct request works about 50% of the time because many people are basically nice, we’re all in the same boat (and of course #citeme).

Any further steps are unfit for publication, and are time-consuming in themselves (chronophage, the French call it).  On the plus side, step 4 can lead to very rewarding connections and exchanges: this morning someone in New Zealand sent me their paper within three minutes of receiving my e-mail.  Now that’s something to celebracite.


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