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How to find openly accessible articles

Below are tips for finding openly accessible versions of articles — that is, non-paywalled articles you can read and download no matter where you are. Depending on where you search, articles may be the final publisher’s version, the accepted manuscript, or a preprint.

Install browser extensions

You can find open access articles through browser extensions. These tools find legally available manuscript versions as well as final published articles when the journal allows it or the journal is open access.

  • Open Access Button: Enter an article’s URL, DOI, title, or other information on the OA Button website to find free, legal, open access versions. Or install the Chrome or Firefox extension, then click on it from a paywalled article to initiate a search for an open version and, when available, instantly get free access. When free access is not found, the service can contact the author directly to help them make the article available.
  • Unpaywall: Directly search an open, legal database of millions of open access scholarly articles. Or install the Chrome or Firefox extension to connect to open access versions of paywalled articles. Unpaywall data is integrated into the MIT Libraries catalog, as well as Web of Science.

Search open repositories & portals

Searching for articles through Google Scholar will find them in well-indexed repositories. The repository versions are usually those deposited by the authors and may include versions prior to peer review. More information on Google Scholar & article searches.

Examples of repositories to search directly:

Find OA articles via the MIT catalog

Data from the Unpaywall database of open access journals and repositories is integrated into the MIT Libraries catalog, which means an OA version of an article will appear as an option in search results if one is available. Unpaywall is also integrated into Web of Science.

Ask the author

Most publishers allow authors to responsibly share their own publications. You can contact the author and ask for a copy. The author’s name and institution are usually shown on the preview page of the article.

Some authors are open to receiving requests for articles via social networking sites for researchers.


MIT Libraries do not endorse using Sci-Hub for article access.

Last updated: June 10, 2020

Acknowledgements: Thanks to the UCLA Library for this useful web page.