Nobody can belittle the importance of research, which is about learning new things and finding new things. It helps us broaden our own horizons as well as advance our knowledge. Whatever be the domain in which you operate, you need to keep up with the latest developments/discoveries in that realm. The best way to accomplish this is to go through research articles published in professional journals pertaining to your area.
Though really good content is available in scientific journals, conventional search engines are not sufficient enough to find them. To facilitate this process, we need to take recourse to special search services, generally known as academic search engines.
When it comes to looking for various kinds of research articles- for doing any kind of research, whether it is scientific or not- Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com/) is the go-to resource. An interesting aspect of the Scholar’s search output is that underneath each result, there is a ‘Cited by’ button. This allows you to see any work that has cited the piece being displayed. Apart from Google Scholar several other research content discovery tools also exist.
Microsoft Academic (http://academic.research.microsoft.com/), the search engine developed by Microsoft for finding thoroughly researched information products, is an effective tool worth a try. The latest version lets the user create an account and offers a personalised homepage for each of the logged in user. The service lets you follow authors, topics, journals and so on. The service claims that instead of mechanically finding out the words in a document and indexing it, their crawlers try to understand the document content, extract the concepts and build up a knowledge graph. As the application is trained to understand the meaning of concepts discussed in the papers, the probability of obtaining more relevant results is quite high. Along with search results, you will find related research areas, publications and institutions in the search output.
Social networking sites for professionals/researchers
A social networking site is an online platform that is used to build social networks or create connections with other people who share similar interests. As you would already know, a plethora of social networking sites is in place (Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter and the like). The features of these sites generally include a personal profile, user-generated content and an ability to connect with others. Apart from social networking platforms meant for the general public, social networking sites meant for professionals/researchers are also in place.
In research or academia, a social networking site is used by researchers to connect with people who share the same professional interests. It enables the professional user to disseminate information and to easily reach like minded contacts.
When we think about a social networking site for professionals the one that comes to our mind is ResearchGate (https://www.researchgate.net/), a site often touted as Facebook for researchers. It is a social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask/answer questions and find collaborators. It is considered as the largest academic social network in terms of active users. Members of the site can upload research output including papers, data, research proposals, presentations and so on.
Another academic social networking site (for professionals/researchers) worth a mention is Academia.edu (https://www.academia.edu/. This platform can also be used to share papers, monitor a work’s impact and follow the research in a particular field. The service allows its users to create a profile, upload their work, select areas of interest and to access the networks of people with similar interests.
LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com ) is another social networking site heavily used by professionals and researchers, especially by the ones in the business domain.
Though search engines like Google Scholar help us discover research articles relevant to our domain, unfortunately, such services have one limitation. When you use these services you will often stumble up on many resources on which you don’t have full access. If you wish to read research articles from journals you will notice that most of the time you will not be able to read them in full – you will just be able to read the abstract or executive summary only.
Some means to bypass paywalls
Though many valuable research pieces are hiding behind the paywalls, tech innovators have come out with a few means to help us access these documents bypassing those paywalls.
Unpaywall (http://unpaywall.org/) is a browser extension (right now, available in Chrome and Firefox) that lets you access scientific articles for free. With this tool, you can get past the paywall and view your favourite research piece. The tool scours the Web for free open access versions of the paper, whether that is on the author’s website or on other academic content hosting services like ResearchGate. To integrate the tool with your browser, access the Unpaywall (http://unpaywall.org/) site and install the extension that suits your browser. Once installed in the browser you will find its icon (a padlock) on the browser toolbar. Now, when you access a journal article, the extension will display a small padlock icon (at the right-hand side) and if the article is available for free somewhere on the Net, it will display a green padlock that is unlocked. When you click on the padlock, the extension will take you to the free source and download/display the article in your browser window.
Kopernio (https://kopernio.com/ ) is another service that can be used to access scientific articles hiding under paywalls. Before using the service, you have to create an account with them and integrate its extension to your browser. Once the browser is equipped with the extension, whenever you access an article, the extension detects its PDF link and displays the message ‘Get PDF’.
Now, simply click on this button and download the PDF version of the article. You may also note: The Kopernio icon will appear in the search results of academic search services like Google Scholar and Pubmed too. This will enable you to directly access the relevant documents.