Experiment guidelines

Experiment guidelines

Participants should preferably be connected to the Internet through a non-university connection while attempting to access literature. Since this might be impossible to universally verify and maintain for all participants working on computers connected to a university the methodology has been designed so that data will be verified (the PDF retrieval URLs) once the experiment ends. However, what is essential is that each article attempted to be retrieved during the experiment would be documented in a standardized way, noting down which retrieval mechanisms have been attempted and which resulted in a free full-text document being accessed (and which did not).

To get set up for the project initially

  • Internet connection through a non-university connection while attempting to access literature.
  • Download the Recommended data collection templates of your choice and read the file carefully.
  • Live life normally until you encounter a need to access a specific article. Recommended to keep the data collection sheet open at all times so you don´t forget about it.


  • For every article, or piece of paywalled academic literature, during the 30 days please perform the following:
  • Note down the article citation
  • Visit Google Scholar to search for the literature. If you use any other search engine for locating OA copies of articles please note down what you used in the data collection sheet comments. Search by using the article title.
  • Check to see if you are able to download the full-text of the article in any form.
  • If not you may proceed with any of the following approaches, but please note down what you tried even if you succeeded/did not succeed in obtaining a copy.

Contact the author

  • E-mail the corresponding author and ask for a copy of the article
  • Use the Open Access Button (https://openaccessbutton.org)

Communicate broadly

  • E-mail a colleague at another institution
  • Tweet article info (e.g. DOI) with hashtag #ICanHazPDF

General notes and comments

Here you can note down anything, did you try something not noted down in the data collection sheet? Please provide too much rather than too little information about what you tried and with what kind of results. Article version is important to note as well (article manuscript/final publisher PDF)


Recommended data collection templates:

Open Document Spreadsheet (ODS) 

Microsoft Excel (XLSX)

Alternative (please copy-paste the template for each new article you attempt to retrieve)

Open Document Format (ODT)

Microsoft Word (DOCX)