Finding academic research articles for non-academics

I found myself writing these instructions for a fellow engineer who comes from the public sector, and it occured to me that many others may find this useful. Academia should not be an obscure and exclusive ivory tower—we do this work because we want to share knowledge and ideas with others!

  1. Start your search on Google Scholar.

2. If you find an article that is open access, look for “full text” or “download pdf” on that web page.

3. If you find a paper you want and it’s behind a paywall:

a. Search for it on ResearchGate. You may be able to download an author’s copy from the researcher’s profile page.

Here’s mine:

Otherwise, make a free account and you can send a request directly to the researcher if they also have an account.

b. If not ResearchGate, try the same thing on

c. Find their personal web page (Search: “author name” “institution” “research”) and see if they provide author copies or “preprints” there.

I try to do this with work from my group:

d. Email the corresponding author (there should always be an email that will be visible in front of the paywall, if published in this century) and ask for a copy.

We love to know someone is interested in our research, but for the best chance of getting a response please keep your email short!

e. Search their institutional repository (Search: “institution” “repository” “faculty”)

Ours is:
In my experience, it’s a slow process to get them added and confusing to know where to search, so only a few of my materials are here.

Berkeley has an excellent repository on a subject of interest to me, building science:

Employees of the U.S. DOE make their work available freely:

NASA publications are also fairly easy to find:

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