How to Look for Research Articles

If you want to read the latest research results, Medscape and PubMed are two well-recognised, reliable sources of information.  Medscape offers a source of clinical information intended for the non-science public, whereas PubMed is aimed at scientific/medical professionals. While PubMed can be quite technical in content, it is worth having a look as nearly all clinical research reported worldwide will appear in its database.


In Medscape, older articles tend to be free, full text access, and it may require a username and password to access articles (easy to set up online).


Pubmed is a searchable database of clinical and biomedical reports published in medical journals. An excellent tutorial ("Quick tours") is available to get you started. You can also read our Finding an Article in PubMed page.

PubMed and access to research reports

A typical frustration for patient groups is access to free, full text articles, as many of the original research reports require a paid subscription to the medical journal that the research is published in, and these fees are quite expensive. (University libraries and research organisations typically have a subscription, whereas this is unlikely for patient support groups.) An alternative offered by many journals is the option of purchasing a single copy of the report you're interested in. This is all done via the Internet. After paying for the single copy online, you are granted access to download a PDF copy of the research article you specified. Fees to purchase single copies are more reasonable, but are typically payable in USA dollars and must be purchased online with a credit card.

If you are wary of making a purchase online, your local library may be able to order the article for you, but it is likely that the fees still apply, as well as library fees associated with ordering the article.

How to find research reports of interest to you

But, having said all that it is possible to find research reports in your topic area that can be accessed for free. Here's how to find them:

Access to all PubMed articles – This includes free and payment requiring articles. As most research articles publish an abstract (a summary) for free, it is worth looking at all relevant research in your topic, regardless of whether it is free, full text access or not. That way, you do not miss out on anything that might be important to you.

PubMed Central (PMC) – In PMC, all articles are free, full text articles.

PubMed 'Limits' – If you select "Limits" as your search option, you can specify that you want to search for free, full text articles.

And a last option - but probably the most straightforward – ask!  See our page on "It's Okay to Ask".

Back to Research Information.