Free Content on JSTOR: Accessing Journal Articles as Non-Patent Literature

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false]Most researchers have probably come across JSTOR sometime during their academic career: JSTOR is a large subscription-based online archive of journal articles and scholarly content produced by the not-for-profit organization ITHAKA.  Although JSTOR covers many journals relevant to the social sciences and humanities, the portal also allows access to a number of scientific journals that may be useful to prior art searchers as non-patent literature.  But if you aren’t a member of an institution that subscribes to JSTOR, is there any way to access their journal archives?

A recent discussion on the CHMINF-L listserv (which I would highly recommend subscribing to, especially if you have any interest in chemical reference products and services) alerted me to a new open access program that will soon be beta tested on the JSTOR portal.  JSTOR also currently allows open access to much of its early journal contents.  After the jump, learn how find this free content on JSTOR!

The Free Content

If you visit the Access for Individuals section of the JSTOR website, their are two methods listed for accessing free content on JSTOR:

  • Early Journal Content – According to a press release on the JSTOR website
On September 6, 2011, we announced that we are making journal content in JSTOR published prior to 1923 in the United States and prior to 1870 elsewhere freely available to anyone, anywhere in the world.  This “Early Journal Content” includes discourse and scholarship in the arts and humanities, economics and politics, and in mathematics and other sciences.  It includes nearly 500,000 articles from more than 200 journals. This represents 6% of the content on JSTOR.
  • Register and Read – This is a “new, experimental program to offer free, read-online access to individual scholars and researchers who register for a MyJSTOR account.”  This program will soon be released in a beta-testing phase, and the available content will include about 70 journals from more than 30 publishers with coverage “from the first volume and issue published for these journals through a recent year (generally 3-5 years ago).”
Accessing the Early Journal Content
Users don’t need to register to access the free early journal content on JSTOR, although I’d recommend creating a free account so that you will have one when the “Register and Read” program is launched (see the section below).
From the JSTOR homepage, the user can select the “Browse” option, and then select the “by Discipline” option from the drop-down menu.  On this page, the user can select from various relevant scientific topics to view the related journal titles.  A useful key above the list of titles illustrates how much access the user has to a particular journal title.  Most of the early content titles will have the “You have access to part of this content” icon.

This key illustrates the level of access the user has, per journal title.

After selecting a journal title, the user will be taken to an index listing all issues of the journal in reverse chronological order, with the same icons designating whether the issues are accessible to the reader.  For the early journal content, the user will want to focus on the issues published prior to 1923.

Free issues of the journal prior to 1923, based on the open-access "Early Journal Content" program.

After selecting the issue, the user will be taken to an index of articles in the issue, also marked by the accessibility icons.  The user can select an available option to view the full-text scanned version of article.

The full-text scanned version of a free journal article on JSTOR.

Accessing the “Register and Read” Content

Although the “Register and Read” program is not yet launched, JSTOR has already produced some help literature to guide users, including a PDF handout on the program (with a simple infographics description on how to access the free content),  a short YouTube video describing how to utilize the program (and using similar graphics to those in the handout), and a list of participating journal titles and publishers.  The JSTOR website also gives these instructions on how to access the “Register and Read” content:

  1. If you find an article that is part of the program, select the “Get Access” option.
  2. Register for a MyJSTOR account or log in to your current account.
  3. Add the article to your shelf to read the full-text online, and this content will be accessible for 14 days.
  4. After 14 days, remove the article from your shelf and add new content.
  5. Users may also purchase a PDF version of some articles.  If you purchase articles from your shelf, the PDF versions may be stored and accessed in your MyJSTOR account at any time.


The coverage of the open-access content currently available on JSTOR mostly includes only historical journal articles published prior to 1923, and even when the “Register and Read” program is launched, users will still have very limited access options to only a small section of JSTOR’s full archives.  The journals covered by JSTOR also seem to focus more on the humanities and social sciences than on scientific fields relevant to prior art searchers, such as engineering and chemistry.  Despite the limited access and coverage, I’d still recommend creating a free MyJSTOR account to test the “Register and Read” program when it is finally launched.  Patent searchers may find relavent prior art in the most unlikely places, so it’s always helpful to have immediate access to all available resources.

What are your thoughts on using JSTOR as a source for non-patent literature?  What do you think of the “Register and Read” program soon to be launched on JSTOR?  Let us know in the comments!

Technical Translations from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

2 Responses

  1. […] Free Content on JSTOR: Accessing Journal Articles as Non-Patent Literature (The Intellogist Blog) […]

  2. […] in 1910, the same decade that aircraft was one of the most common words in patent literature (Wikimedia […]

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