Free articles online? Making sense of ResearchGate, Academia.edu, PubMed, and institutional repositories
If you are searching for scholarly sources using Google or Google Scholar, you may come across articles available for free online. The most common sites are ResearchGate, Academia.edu, and PubMed.
Since most articles require an institutional subscription (such as accessing articles through RDP Library), are these sites credible?
ResearchGate & Academia.edu
ResearchGate and Academia.edu are social networking websites that include free articles uploaded by the authors. Since authors are uploading their own work, this research may or may not have been subject to adequate scrutiny regarding quality. Additionally, many authors do not have permission to upload these articles; in fact, Jamali (2017) found that more than half of the papers uploaded to ResearchGate infringe copyright.
PubMed is a search engine from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. PubMed includes results from MEDLINE and PubMed Central (PMC). PubMed Central is a free full-text archive that includes articles and ebooks. Since PubMed is carefully controlled by various branches of the U.S. federal government (NCBI, NLM, NIH, etc.), it is a reliable source of articles.
Most academic institutions have institutional repositories. For example, Red Deer Polytechnic’s institutional repository is here: RDP Digital Repository. Institutional repositories are websites that enable authors to upload their own work for public access. Since institutional repositories are carefully managed by each institution, they are also reliable sources for articles.