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There are a handful of free, publicly available academic search engines that can be accessed online; some of these are listed in Table 1, below.
When you start your background research, one of the early steps is finding and reading the scientific literature related to your science project (see the Roadmap: How to Get Started On an Advanced Science Project article for more details on project steps).
Mentors are a great resource for recommendations about which scientific papers are critical for you to read and you should definitely ask your mentor, or another expert in the field, for advice.
For those of you who aren't already using it, the site in question is Sci-Hub, and it's sort of like a Pirate Bay of the science world.
It was established in 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, who was frustrated that she couldn't afford to access the articles needed for her research, and it's since gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of papers being downloaded daily.
If that doesn't work, Sci-Hub is able to bypass journal paywalls thanks to a range of access keys that have been donated by anonymous academics (thank you, science spies).
This means that Sci-Hub can instantly access any paper published by the big guys, including JSTOR, Springer, Sage, and Elsevier, and deliver it to you for free within seconds.
Reading scientific literature is a critical part of conceiving of and executing a successful advanced science project.
The How to Read a Scientific Paper guide can help you get the most out of each paper you read—first, of course, you have to actually get your hands on the paper! Below you'll find tips and resources for both searching for and acquiring free copies of scientific papers to read.
Note: The results of academic search engines come in the form of an abstract, which you can read to determine if the paper is relevant to your science project, as well as a full citation (author, journal title, volume, page numbers, year, etc.) so that you can find a physical copy of the paper.
Search engines do not necessarily contain the full text of the paper for you to read.