How to find the science paper behind a headline when the link is missing

Jeff Leek

I just saw a pretty wild statistic on Twitter that less than 60% of university news releases link to the papers they are describing.


Amazingly, less than 60% of university news releases link to the papers they’re describing

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) January 15, 2015

Before you believe anything your read about science in the news, you need to go and find the original article.  When the article isn’t linked in the press release, sometimes you need to do a bit of sleuthing.  Here is an example of how I do it for a news article. In general the press-release approach is very similar, but you skip the first step I describe below.

Here is the news article (link):


News Article



Step 1: Look for a link to the article

Usually it will be linked near the top or the bottom of the article. In this case, the article links to the press release about the paper. This is not the original research article. If you don’t get to a scientific journal you aren’t finished. In this case, the press release actually gives the full title of the article, but that will happen less than 60% of the time according to the statistic above.


Step 2: Look for names of the authors, scientific key words and journal name if available

You are going to use these terms to search in a minute. In this case the only two things we have are the journal name:



And some key words:




Step 3 Use Google Scholar

You could just google those words and sometimes you get the real paper, but often you just end up back at the press release/news article. So instead the best way to find the article is to go to Google Scholar , click on the menu item on the top left, then click on “Advanced Search”.




Google Scholar

Fill in information while you can. Fill in the same year as the press release, information about the journal, university and key words.


Advanced Search


Step 4 Victory

Often this will come up with the article you are looking for:

Scientific Article


Unfortunately, the article may be paywalled, so if you don’t work at a university or institute with a subscription, you can always tweet the article name with the hashtag and your contact info. Then you just have to hope that someone will send it to you (they often do).