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

Published on
June 13, 2018

In the series of ‘Tool tips’, Library staff reviews handy research tools. Think of tools that can help you with publishing, accessing literature, and handling data.

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 you can find a shared - possibly illegal - version. But this takes time – and chances you won’t find an open version.

Unpaywall is a light-weight browser extension to 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 appears on the right side of your screen to let you know Unpaywall working. If this tab is green, an open version is available. If you click on the tab, you immediately access the article. And, if you’d like to know if the open version is green or gold, you can see this too.

Unpaywall cannot give you access to every article you find. But it’s certainly the most up-to-date comprehensive open-access provider. 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: 4.6/5 on Chrome and 4.3/5 on Firefox. Unpaywall has a total of nearly 153,000 users.

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