Getting the Most From a Publisher or Journal’s Site

Chances are that you’re going to enter a publisher’s or a journal’s web site at the article level, after having read about that article in a research update on a health organization’s site, heard about it in a news item from the national media, or found it by searching someplace like Google or Google Scholar. Once you get there, there are several ways to find other research articles that might be of interest to you.

Although the full text of the most recent articles is likely to be available online only by subscription or for a fee, there is a lot of free information on publisher and journal sites. This usually includes tables of contents, abstracts (brief summaries of articles), articles over a certain age (often those published more than 12 months ago, but sometimes even less) or those that are made free upon publication by the publisher or author, search results, lists of related articles and alerting services. Each site is different (although journals hosted on the same online platform often have similar features), but here are some basic tips to help you get more from a publisher or journal web site.

First, a Note About Registration

If a publisher or journal site gives you an option to “register” on the site, you might want to do it. Registration is free. It won’t get you access to features and full-text articles that are only available via subscription or fees, but it may allow you to use some extra research tools, such as e-mail alerts about new content or folders for organizing “favorite” articles.

Tables of Contents

  • Next to an article listed in the table of contents there are often links to the abstract or a preview, the full-text HTML version (which is formatted for viewing online) and the full-text PDF version (which is formatted like a printed page).


  • You can usually search not only within a single journal but also across multiple journals, sometimes the publisher’s entire list, including books and databases.
  • If a “Quick Search” or “Find” box has a field to specify a journal title and you don’t enter anything, it’s likely that the search will by default return results from across the publisher’s entire list of journals.
  • Some sites allow registered users to create and save lists of favorite or most used journals and then to perform searches across those journals.
  • Clicking on a link to do what’s usually called an “advanced” search will get you to a search page where you can do such things as select multiple journals or specify a single journal, enter a date range and indicate where your keywords should appear (e.g., in the title and the abstract or just in the title). Sometimes you have to do a quick search before you can see a link to an advanced search page.
  • If you don’t see an “advanced” search link, look for “more options.”
  • Take a little time to experiment and to read “help,” “info,” or “tips” pages.
  • Make your keywords as specific as possible, and use more than one. Use of a single term, such as “lupus,” may return a long list of results—too long to wade through if you’re only looking for information on lupus in children, for example.
  • Specify a date range to get the most recent articles.


  • Many publisher or journal web sites will allow users without a journal subscription to sign up to receive e-mail notifications for various events such as publication of new issues or of articles on specific topics. You may be required to register to use the site in order to sign up for alerts or even to see what alerts are available. Some sites simply ask you to sign in by entering your e-mail address.
  • These may be called e-alerts, table of contents (TOC) alerts, or saved-search alerts, just to give a few examples.
  • Pages where one can sign up for alerts are sometimes found by following links “for researchers”—and you are, after all, a researcher.
  • If you find a useful article and want to know when similar articles are published, you might sign up for an alert that will let you know when articles that contain written by the same author are published.
  • Another way to follow research in a specific area over time is to sign up for alerts that tell you when a new article is published that cites (includes a reference to) an article you’ve found helpful.
  • Sometimes it’s possible to sign up for alerts that tell you when an article is published that contains certain key words that you specify. Try to be as specific as possible. As in a search, entering a broad term like “diabetes” will get you a flood of results on everything that could possibly have anything to do with diabetes. Using more terms—for example, “type 2 diabetes,” “kidney disease,” and “ACE inhibitor”—will narrow the hunt.

RSS Feeds

  • Most journal sites offer an RSS feed of new tables of contents and articles that are published online ahead of regular issues. You can subscribe to receive RSS feeds in your RSS reader of choice without a subscription to the journal or registration to use a publisher’s web site.
  • Some publisher sites offer an RSS feed for notification as new content of several types is added. For example, on, it’s possible to subscribe to a feed that will let you know not only when new journals are published, but also when new book chapters or reference works are available.

Tools Within an Article

  • When you enter an article from a search, table of contents, or other link, you’ll usually get to the abstract, a brief summary of the research that is almost always available without a subscription or registration.
  • On the abstract page, there will usually be links to full-text HTML or PDF or the article. If you click on one of these links and the article is not yet free to the public, you will usually be taken to a screen where you can sign in if you have a subscription to the journal or you can pay with a credit card to access the article. This is often called “pay-per-view,” and the price varies widely among journals.
  • Other links on the abstract or on the full-text HTML page of the article may take you to related articles, articles that have referred to the one you’re reading, articles by the same authors, or even a patient-friendly summary of the article. Once again, take a little time to explore the links to see what else you might find.
  • If you’ve registered to use a site, you may be able to save the article to your profile or a favourites folder so that you can find it again easily.