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The Industry Researcher’s Guide to Effective Literature Searching

A guide designed for industry researchers

Screening results

Before pursuing any full text, you will screen your results, which you do by reading the title and abstract of each record.  Discard any which obviously don’t fit your research question.   If in doubt, try to get the full text so that you can make an informed decision.

If you are not using FSTA, which screens all journals included for quality, at this point you will also need to consider if the research was published in a trustworthy, non-predatory source. Learn more about predatory journals and how to identify them.

Once you've determined which articles or other research outputs you need, a first step can be to see if you can find a free and legal copy of an article,  Thanks to open access, a growing proportion of academic research is available online for free. 

Think about budgeting. Wait to make your purchasing decisions until you have run your searches and gone through your initial screening process, and then seen what you can source for free through the avenues described below. 

Getting full text for free

If your organization has an information specialist or librarian, they may have subscriptions to key journals.  Check to learn what you have access to and how you can get it.   If you are searching IFIS Collections, each record will link straight to a free, open access copy of the article if one is available, or to a purchase option.

 Anyone can get the full text of open access articles. Using a browser extension like Unpaywall can help you source free legal open access copies of articles. 

Other open access browser extensions include CORE Discovery and Open Access Button.

Google Scholar will sometimes link you to legal versions of the full text. Search the full title of the item, inside quotation marks, to check if this option works or not.  It may lead you to a researcher platform. Find more information about those on the next tab.

Note: Google Scholar's version control is demonstrably poor.  It sometimes presents different items as though they are different versions of the same thing.  A link you think will take you to a six page journal article can take you instead to a 210 page thesis, or a six page conference proceeding.  Despite sharing a title, these are not the same item!*  Always check that a link is taking you to what you need.   
*see Dotson, D.S. (2019)  Citation Rates for Ohio State Graduate Theses & Dissertations: Trends, Surprises, and Inaccuracies.  Library Philosophy and Practice.  https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/3580/

On ResearchGate and Academia.edu an author might make a copy available to download, or let you request a copy. 

To use either platform, you need to register for a free account. 

Be aware:  sometimes the articles supplied through these platforms are manuscript drafts or pre-prints, which should only be used with caution.  They have not been through the peer review process, which almost always results in changes to an article, and sometimes leads to it not being published at all because of problems with the research or the write up.  

Learn more about manuscript versions at https://libguides.cam.ac.uk/openaccess/manuscriptversions

If you cannot get an article through your library by locating an open access copy, you can write to the corresponding author to ask them to send you a copy of their article. The information to reach them is part of the article record.  It can look like this:

 

Or it might look like this:

 

When you know a patent's title or publication number--both of which are available in FSTA--the free patent sites Espacenet or Google Patents will usually lead you to the full text document.  

Get full text with Espacenet

Espacenet often leads to full original downloadable patent documents, and also collates patent families, linking together patent applications for the same content filed with patent offices around the world. To find a patent: 

  • Search the patent’s title inside quotation marks
  • Or, search the patent number with any spaces closed up
  • Toggle to the Patent Family tab to see patents for the same invention filed in different countries. Select the “original document” for your preferred version. Next, click on the three dots in the upper right-hand corner of the screen to download the full document.

Get full text with Google Patents

  • To check if Google Patents has the full text search the patent title, inside quotation marks, into the simple search box. 
  • Or, search by publication number, with any spaces closed  

Sometimes Google Patents results will include a downloadable PDF version of a patent and sometimes only an HTML version.

Go directly to a country’s patent office search

In the rare cases that Espacenet or Google Patents fail to retrieve a patent’s text, try googling the issuing patent office. Translate the page, if necessary, to find how to proceed.

Learn more:  Finding and Retrieving Food Science and Nutrition Patents (ifis.org)

Copyright considerations

There are various forms of intellectual property (IP) rights which protect assets such as discoveries, inventions, and literary and artistic works, including research. In many cases, IP rights begin automatically when the work is created. The owner of these rights may sell them or issue licences to allow others to make use of an asset. If copyright is infringed, the owner can seek damages or an injunction to prevent further infringements. 

It is important to familiarise yourself and comply with the law in acquiring and using research articles and other material.