Access to publications

The full text of publications, notably articles from subscription journals, will often not be accessible via the databases and search engines that list them, and you may need to develop strategies for getting a copy of the full text.

Databases are generally just a search tool (i.e. they do not contain the full-text of the publications themselves). There is therefore a two-step process to acquiring evidence via bibliographic databases:

  1. Searching the databases
  2. Retrieving the full-text of publications

Access to the publications is not always free, and can require subscriptions or pay-per-view payments, especially if they are in commercially published journals.

The Open Access movement

There is a strong will among many in the academic community to make publications open access, with free and unrestricted access online. Many research councils are now making it obligatory for the publications arising from the research that they fund to be made available open access, and so it is likely that this trend will grow in future years. But for now, not all access will be free.

If you do not have paid-for access, the following alternative techniques may help you get access to the full-text of publications:

Free access to publications

Google and/or Google Scholar

Google will help find any Open Access copies of the publication (e.g. those held in University repositories or websites).


PubMed has the full-text of a small subset of the articles it lists, so you may be lucky. Failing this, you can restrict the results to the titles of journals that you do subscribe to.

Access via professional bodies

Most vets will have at least one professional membership, which may give them access to journals and other resources to support EBVM. It is worth investigating which resources your professional bodies give you access to, and perhaps lobbying them for more, as this can be an extremely valuable service offered to members.

Some examples are given below:

Access via libraries

RCVS Knowledge Library

Membership of RCVS Knowledge Library and Information Service gives you an economical and efficient way of accessing journal articles. Members get access to most veterinary journals, including Veterinary Clinics of North America, JAVMA and Veterinary Surgery. If the Library does not provide access to the article you need, they can usually get it from another library. Even if you’re not a member, RCVS Knowledge Library can provide you with copies of articles at a cheaper rate than most pay-per-article options on publisher websites.

Use your Public Library’s inter-library loan service

This is not to be underestimated, as for a small fee public libraries can obtain all manner of publications, including journal articles. If obtained via National Libraries these will often now be emailed to you in electronic format.

Use any access to University Libraries you may have

If you have a University login, you can access the Library subscriptions for free – many of their journals and books will be online now.

National libraries

Some offer national schemes to help get access to subscription resources. For example, vets resident in Scotland should be able to access some eResources through registering with the National Library of Scotland

International libraries

The International Directory of Veterinary Medical Libraries is available from the Medical Libraries Association in the USA.

Paying for access


Most journal publishers offer the option to buy individual articles as you need them, which can prove expensive if you are doing a lot of searching. So while it may not always be the most efficient mode of access, it can help sometimes.

Subscribe to key journals

As a practice or individual, once you have identified the journal titles that publish the best evidence in your field of practice. Subscription to the online version enables simple cross-searching of backfiles, which can help with an evidence search.