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Reading scientific literature is a critical part of conceiving of and executing a successful advanced science project.The How to Read a Scientific Paper guide can help you get the most out of each paper you read—first, of course, you have to actually get your hands on the paper! Below you'll find tips and resources for both searching for and acquiring free copies of scientific papers to read.
This is particularly true for older science papers, which were published before online content became routine.
In these cases, there are additional ways to get the paper at no or minimal cost.
Fortunately there are specialized academic databases and search engines for nearly any topic imaginable.
This isn’t a ranked list, but a sample of many of the highest quality online resources for academic research.
A few, like Pub Med, do provide links to free online versions of the paper, when one is available. Once you've found the citation for a paper that is relevant to your advanced science project, the next step is actually getting a copy so that you can read it.
As mentioned above, some search engines provide links to free online versions of the paper, if one exists.If the search engine doesn't, or if you got the citation somewhere else, like the bibliography of another science paper you were reading, there are several ways to find copies.Searching for Newer Papers (published during Internet era) Searching for Older Papers (published pre-Internet era) Even with all of the above searching methods, you may not be able to find a free copy of the paper online.As a college student, you will be required to write research papers.Beyond the course materials, there are many online tools available to you to help with spelling, grammar, and finding the best sources for research.Note: The results of academic search engines come in the form of an abstract, which you can read to determine if the paper is relevant to your science project, as well as a full citation (author, journal title, volume, page numbers, year, etc.) so that you can find a physical copy of the paper.Search engines do not necessarily contain the full text of the paper for you to read.Consult the school's library webpage, or call the library directly, to find out to which academic search engines they subscribe to and whether or not you'd be allowed into the library to access them.Table 1: This table provides a list of free, online academic search engines for various science disciplines.When you start your background research, one of the early steps is finding and reading the scientific literature related to your science project (see the Roadmap: How to Get Started On an Advanced Science Project article for more details on project steps).Mentors are a great resource for recommendations about which scientific papers are critical for you to read and you should definitely ask your mentor, or another expert in the field, for advice.