Tool tip #1: access paywalled articles for free using Unpaywall

Published on
June 13, 2018

In this new series of ‘Tool tips’, Library Research Support staff review handy research tools. Think of tools that can help you with publishing, accessing literature, and handling data. We’re bringing you the first one in this series: Unpaywall!

What do you do when you find a useful article online but it’s behind a paywall? You might try ResearchGate or Academia to see if there is a (possibly illegally shared) version of the article available. But doing this for every article takes time – and chances are that you don’t find an open version in the end.

Unpaywall is a light-weight browser extension that lets you access open versions of articles with a single click. Whenever you visit a journal article’s landing page, Unpaywall automatically searches for open access versions of the article. A little tab will then appear on the right side of your screen. If this tab is green, an open version is available – and by clicking it, you’ll get to access it straight away. (And if you like to know if the open version is green or gold, you can even have this shown too.)

Of course, Unpaywall cannot get you access to each and every article you find. But it certainly is the most comprehensive open access provider up to date. It aggregates data from thousands of disciplinary repositories, (open access) journals, and other websites. Its database currently covers over 17.5 million articles.

Researchers around the world are applauding this little tool. Tweets are positive, and so are online ratings, which show an average of 4.6/5 (Chrome) and 4.3/5 (Firefox) and a total of nearly 153,000 users.

Sounds like worth a try? Simply download the extension for Chrome or Firefox, visit a few article pages, and see how it works.

Accelerate your research!