How to Get Paid Journal Articles for Free

If you’re a student, professor, or researcher, you want to surround yourself with tons of journal articles. After all, they’re very essential in class discussions, reports, case studies and theses. While there are plenty of sources available to get journal articles, they are often costly. The cheapest can cost around $30. If you’re researching your topic, it’s not really practical to pay $30 for each article. This post is going to show how to find free, yet high quality, journal articles.

It’s important that you have a clear idea of your topic. What’s your study about? What are the keywords that you might use in order to find related literature? Having the keywords ready can help you find what you need much faster.

If you’re a student, you probably have come across Google Scholar. It’s an awesome tool to search for a variety of scholarly articles, including abstracts, peer-reviewed journals and physical books.

Type on your browser’s address bar, or simply type “google scholar” on Google search. Enter your keywords and see what comes up. For example, I’m doing a study on political discussions on Twitter. So, I simply typed “political studies twitter.”

Go to Google Scholar.

You can use the “advance search” option by clicking the drop-down on the right side. This allows you to find articles by title, author, publications and by publication date.

Use the 'advance search' option.

However, on your preliminary search, I highly recommend just doing a basic search, as it gives you an idea of the type of studies done on your topic.

Download free PDFs from Google Scholar.

Most of the time there will already be quite a few PDF files on your first search. If you’re lucky they might already be available for free. Click on the PDF link of the most relevant article. If it’s free, the download will start automatically. Sometimes, however, you might get routed to the article’s abstract. From there,  you can purchase the full PDF.

But our goal is to find free journal articles, so JSTOR would come in handy!

Now, if the free PDFs you found on Google scholar aren’t enough for your research, you can add more literature to your to-read list through JSTOR.

JSTOR is an online research and teaching platform. Setting up an account is free, though you can only store up to three articles. It costs $19.50 a month to get unlimited access. But what’s great about JSTOR is that it allows you to get access to the full PDFs for free.

On your account, you’ll have a “Shelf” where you can store up to three articles. If you find more than three articles on JSTOR, you can simply remove it from your shelf and then add the other articles you want to view.

Sign up for an account on JSTOR.

Use the same keywords you used on Google Scholar. Keep in mind that your search is limited to JSTOR’s database. You’ll find fewer related literature. Based on my experience, however, I always find the journal articles I’m looking for.

With the free PDFs you found on Google scholar and the articles you have on your JSTOR’s shelf, you’ll most likely end up with five to ten high-quality journal articles. It’s more than enough to get you started!

If you feel that they aren’t enough, however, one option is to contact the author(s) directly. I haven’t tried this yet, but based on what I’ve read online and my professor’s experience, authors are usually willing to give you a free digital copy. They might even be happy to know that you have an interest in their work! Of course, this is time consuming. Not to mention you’ll have to wait for a response. Only do this for those journal articles that will serve as the core foundation of your study.

With tools like Google Scholar and JSTOR, you’ll have access to tons of great literature about your study at your fingertips.


  1. While well intentioned, this article does a disservice to the academic community by suggesting that the limited scope of Google Scholar and non-subscriber JSTOR access provides adequate content to professors, students, and researchers. Institutions that employ and educate your target groups have libraries, with a wide array of specialized data bases and discovery tools that provide the full text of content. Database producers provide a list of the titles indexed, so the user is assured that the key journals and books are represented in the search. Google does not. And if a particular article is not licensed to your institution, a librarian will probably have it in your hands within hours.

    The use of Google Scholar and non-subscriber JSTOR may be of some utility to the unaffiliated individual with a casual interest in the subject, not for those who intend to publish, educate, or pursue a career.

    • Hi Melinda, thanks for taking the time to comment and point out the negative side of this method.

      Please know that it was not my intention to provide a disservice to the academic community. I’m just sharing an experience and method that have worked for me as a graduate student. Of course, this method and resources are just a few of the tools that students or any individual can utilize. I believe in making the most out of free tools and resources. Our university provides us access to databases such as ProQuest and EBSCO, but I also utilize Google Scholar and Jstor.

      Lastly, I’m recommending this method to those who are just exploring the topic and doing preliminary research.

    • For individuals isolated from a first rate academic library, there is the Library of Congress, in the USA. Try this:
      Alternatively, there is a list of the largest libraries. You can dig a little, really not much of an effort, and discover there the appropriate means of inquiry into the library. Try this:

Comments are closed.

Sponsored Stories