Old literature: Never lost or forgotten, but can be tricky to find

Here is one happy experience I had which may lighten your day. The blog has technosavvy, points set aside in heaven, and profound gratitude. What comes to mind is the theory of six degrees of separation. I have changed the names and some details below, but I am sure you can relate to a similar situation to this – when you would like to track down some science but can’t find the full article.


Emails listed with oldest at the top, in storyline style.


Hi Dr Bob,

My name is Victoria Wickens and I am a current PhD researcher at the University of Reading in the UK. I recently discovered your fascinating 2011 paper titled: Excellent Research. Within your paper, I noticed you referenced F et al. (1983) and I have had absolutely no luck tracking it down. I wondered if you could help me locate a copy?

Kind regards,




Hello Victoria

I had no trouble finding the article on the Web of Science, which your university may have.  Failing that, try google scholar and again you will be directed to the article only this time you (or I) would have to pay a fee to gain access to the paper.  I would make a copy of the paper from the Web if I could but unfortunately I do not know how to manage this.  Let me know if neither of these options will work and I will try to contact a colleague to see if he can help me help you.

Best of luck


Hello Bob,

Thank you for such a quick reply! I have looked on the web of science, science direct and scholar and found my university does not seem to have access and paying for it is unfortunately not an option. The closest I managed was to see read the exciting abstract from the Canadian Entomologist site here: Exciting.Research.Link

However, I did not have access. I would be ever so grateful if you could ask your colleague for me?

Many thanks,



Hi John,

I believe you once told me how to make a mailable copy of a journal article via the Web of Science.  A Victoria Wickens has asked me to help her get her hands on a paper and I told her to check out web of science etc and she says she has done so without success.  Sorry to bother you with this issue. If you can help, more points will be set aside for you in heaven.




Here is a way to do this.  You can go to the X Library web page and search for the journal.  If X has a subscription you can then surf around in the electronic version of the journal until you find the desired article in a downloadable pdf version.  Then download the pdf and send it as an attachment to Ms. Wickens.

So, I checked and X does have a subscription to this august journal.  In fact when I clicked on the link in Ms. Wickens’ email the article came right up.  This may not work for you unless your computer is hooked up to X through the X library.  In any event, I downloaded the pdf version and have attached it to this email so you can impress the enthusiastic Ms. Wickens with your technosavvy!

May the bobolinks be with you.

All the best,



Dear Victoria

My colleague John very very kindly told me how to do this AND he attached a pdf file of the paper you requested so that I do not have to test his wisdom.  You may wish to drop him a note of profound gratitude at John@place

Best wishes


# Post note: Are bobolinks something other than the bird (Dolichonyx Oryzivorus)? Did you understand this meaning from John? Or did it sounds like Star Wars talk to you too? Looking it up, maybe it was in fact a simile linking to the small bird which travels great distances, awwww


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