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Gerstein Science Information Centre

Searching the Literature: A Guide to Comprehensive Searching in the Health Sciences

Students and researchers in the health sciences are often required to conduct comprehensive searches of the literature. Follow the steps in this guide to learn how this process works.

Locating Full Text

Locating Full Text

Once you've conducted your search and found relevant articles, you're ready to find the full text of each citation. Often, this step is easy--simply search for the article title on the library homepage, Google Scholar, or in the database of your choice. Select an option to view full text, or click on the Get it! UTL button button.

Researchers conducting systematic/scoping reviews may also use an automatic full-text finder in their reference manager. These full-text finders rely on open-link resolvers much like the Get it! UTL button, and are similarly reliable. The full text finder is available in Endnote Desktop


What if I can't locate full text this way?

Get it! UTL landing page when PDF cannot be found, suggests searching the library catalog or requesting on RACER

In some cases, finding full text is more complicated than just searching for the article title. While many people's first response to the landing page above is to request the article through interlibrary loan (RACER), this is often unnecessary if we have the item at U of T! There are a few steps you can take to locate the article you need before requesting it on RACER. This page will show you multiple methods to locate full text in the library catalog.

Watch the video on finding full-text articles when you hit an error message on the library website, or follow the steps below.


Finding full text in the library catalog: a three-step process

There are a few different ways you can access full text through the library. Follow the steps below before resorting to interlibrary loan:

  1. Search the library catalog for the journal that the article you need appears in
  2. Determine if the journal is available electronically or in print
  3. Access the journal online, or visit a library to reference the journal in print

Search for Journals

Searching the Library Catalog for Journals

Before requesting an item from another institution, check to see if it is available in the U of T library catalog. You can do this by searching for the journal name.

Gerstein library homepage, with the "Journals" link highlighted on the right side of the page under "Catalogue"


  • Locate the "Journals" category under the "Catalogue" section on the Gerstein Library homepage (see above)
  • Navigate to the "Search Catalogue" page and search for the journal you need


Is the journal available electronically?

A journal record that is available online will have the text [electronic resource] in the title, and list "Web" holdings below.

Catalog record for the journal Radiology, indicating it is an electronic resource and listing web holdings URLs below the title

  • Select one of the "Web" links that contains the year of the publication you need
  • Navigate to the electronic journal page and locate the correct year, volume, and issue
  • Or, search within the journal for the article title


Is the journal available in print?

If the journal is not available online--or the electronic resource does not include the specific year you need--you may still be able to access it in print! Catalog records will indicate below the title which libraries have the journal. Note that copies listed at hospital libraries are accessible to hospital employees only.

catalog record for the journal Radiology, indicating which libraries have copies below the title

There are multiple ways to access an article in a print journal.

  1. Visit the library and make a physical copy of the article (for a small fee)
  2. Make a scan of the article (for free with a USB)
  3. Request the article through our Scan and Deliver service (faculty, staff, and graduate students only)
    • Click the "Options" button to the right of the catalog record
    • Select "Request" from the menu that appears
    • Choose "Request Scan & Deliver"
Faculty, Staff, and Graduate Students Only: 
Request print articles through our Scan and Deliver service: 
  • Click the "Options" button to the right of the catalog record
  • Select "Request" from the menu that appears
  • Choose "Request Scan & Deliver"

Requesting an Article via Interlibrary Loan (RACER)

Request an Article via Interlibrary Loan (RACER)

If the library does not have the journal you need electronically or in print, you can request a specific article from another institution through our interlibrary loan service, RACER. Note that you should only request an article through RACER if it is not available electronically or in print through U of T.

There are two ways to request an article through RACER, but before you can request items, you must register for a RACER account.


Request the item from the Get it! UTL landing page

Message reads "We do not have access to this item. Follow these steps to locate a copy: 1. We may have this journal in print. Search the catalog for this item in print. 2. Request this item from another institution (first time users will need to register for RACER). 3. Ask us to help you find it.

The Get it! UTL landing page gives a few steps to locate full text. If you have already tried to locate the item in the U of T catalog with no luck, you can follow the link to request it on RACER. This should auto-populate the request form with the article information. Double check to make sure the information is correct, and that the ISSN number is included. You can locate the ISSN number of a journal by searching for the title in Ulrich's Web.


Fill in a Blank Request Form

If you navigated away from the Get it! UTL landing page, you can still request the article by filling out a Blank Request Form on RACER.

  • Log into RACER
  • Select the "Blank Request Form" option from the menu on the left
  • Fill in the form with the complete citation, including:
    • Article title, author, and page numbers
    • Journal name, volume, issue, and year
    • Journal ISSN number

Further Assistance

Further Assistance

Still having trouble finding full text?


Contact us!


Ask Chat With a Librarian: More information and chat here 

In-person Reference: Visit Gerstein Library for in-person reference help