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Access Full Text: sub-module 3 of 4 of start to search

When searching in a database or discovery layer, you’ll notice that clicking on the title of one of your search results doesn’t usually take you straight to the full article. Instead, you’ll usually see a page with information about the resource; this page is called the record. In this module, you’ll find out how to access the full text of a resource, what format to view it in, and how to get access to a resource that is not available through your library.



  • Click the full text link to read the full article. You won’t usually see the full article when you click on the title of a resource in your search. You will need to open the article by clicking the full text link.
  • Choose the right format for your needs. The full text may be available in more than one format. If you can choose, open the full text in PDF format if you want to save or print it, and open the full text in HTML format if you want the article to resize to fit the width of your browser window.
  • Request access to resources that aren’t available through your library. If you want to access a specific resource, but it’s not available at your library, you can ask about an interlibrary loan to gain access through another library.

Accessing Full Text

When you first click on the title of a result in your search, you won’t see the actual text of the article. Instead, you’ll see a page called the record, which will have information about the author, the journal title, the abstract, and more. From the record, you can do the following:

  1. Read the record for information about the resource. The record should give you enough information to decide whether the resource will be useful to you.
  2. Click a link to see the full article (this is what we call the full text).

Explore the tabs for information about the following aspects of accessing the full text of articles:

  • Opening the full text from the record
  • Choosing the format for viewing the full text, if you have more than one option (HTML or PDF)
  • Requesting an interlibrary loan to access resources that aren’t available through your library

How to Open Full Text

Once you have opened a record, you will need to click on a link to open the full text. Records in different search interfaces will have links in different places. Watch the video and read the information below to find out where to find the full text link in various search interfaces.

To access full text in CINAHL, click the full text link, which is typically in the upper left corner of the record (see Figure 1).

A record in the CINAHL database. The links to full text are highlighted on the left side of the page.

Figure 1: A record in CINAHL

PubMed only contains records, so to access the full text, you will need to go from PubMed to a page containing the article. To access the full text through PubMed, follow these steps:

  • Click one of the full text links in PubMed, which are typically in the upper right corner of the record (see Figure 2). These links will not take you straight to the full text. They will take you to another page (sometimes in PubMed Central, which is a section of PubMed that contains open access articles).
  • Look for another full text link and click to open the full text.

A record in the PubMed database. The links to the full text locations are highlighted on the right of the page.

Figure 2: A record in PubMed

You don’t have to open the record in Google Scholar to see the full text link; you can access them from the search results. Google Scholar provides full text links for the following:

  • Full text that it is able to find from a public website. You will find these to the right of the search results (see Figure 3).

    TheFigure 3: Search results in Google Scholar

  • Full text from your library if you set it up to do so. Google Scholar may be able to provide full text links for articles that your library subscribes to if it knows you are a student (e.g. sometimes if you are on campus); however, by default, Google Scholar does not include these links. You can change your settings to view your library links as long as your library has enabled this function.

    To set up library links in Google Scholar:

    1. Click the hamburger menu icon in the top left (see Figure 4).
    2. Click Settings.
    3. Click Library Links from the menu on the left.
    4. Type in the name of your school and press enter.
    5. Check the box next to your school’s name and click Save.
    6. After completing these steps, you will see your library’s full text links for articles your library subscribes to.

    The process of enabling library links in Google Scholar

    Figure 4: Changing the settings in Google Scholar

    Note: If you have trouble with this process, you can also copy and paste the title of an article you find in Google Scholar into your library’s discovery layer or databases to see if your library provides access to that article.

Choosing a full text format

The full text of an article may be available in different formats: HTML, PDF, or both. The content of the article is exactly the same between the PDF and HTML versions. Here is some information about each format.

  • PDF: This is the most common format for full text articles. It’s great for saving the article to your computer or for printing it. PDF articles may appear in your browser, or you can open them in software such as Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • HTML: HTML is the same format used on most websites. An HTML article will appear in your browser. In some databases, the HTML full text will appear on the page below the record (see Figure 5), while other databases will have a link to the HTML full text.

How do I choose?

  • If you want to save or print the article, choose PDF.
  • If you want to quote the source, choose PDF to get a page number for your citations.
  • If you want the text to flow and resize to fit the size of your screen (especially on mobile devices), choose HTML.

Figure 5: HTML full text at the bottom of a record

Figure 5: HTML full text at the bottom of a record

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

Regardless of which search interface you’re using, you may find a record for an article that interests you, but you can’t access the full text. If this happens, contact your library and ask whether they can help you get a copy of the full text.

Accessing a resource from another library is known as an interlibrary loan (ILL); your library may not use that name, but most college libraries offer an ILL service. The library staff can request a copy of the full text from another library, which they can then provide to you. The article may arrive in just a couple of days, but it could take a week or more, so be sure to start your searching long before your assignment is due. Typically, the library would send you the article as a PDF.

TIP: Be sure to use your student email account (and not a personal email account) when contacting your library, so they know right away that you’re a student..

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