Academic Angling

The more hours I put into the Information Services Desk at Cooper-Siegel, the more requests for academic information I field. One particular challenge spawned a wild-goose chase for a specific article from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). The article, Atrial Fibrillation by Gregory F. Michaud, M.D., et al., published in 2021, was a specific request from a patron looking for medical advice. So, I cracked my knuckles and dove into the obvious ACLA resources.

My first stop was the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Research Resources page. Full of research materials, I narrowed my search to medical, specifically searching for NEJM. No dice! At this point, I knew searching for a specific and recent article from a major medical journal was going to take some serious Google Fu (desperate, skilled, and persistent online searching).

The next platform of discovery was PubMed. A long-standing, government-run database of over 34 million citations of biomedical literature. PubMed is a great resource for academic, peer-reviewed medical information, albeit anything beyond abstracts (and still, most of those…) are beyond my reckoning. Alas, another roll of the dice and coming up snake eyes on NEJM.

The third stop on this runaway academic search took me to NEJM’s website. Perhaps, beyond logic, I would be gifted with a free preview or something of the like. Unfortunately, like most academic journals, all recent publications were wrapped up tight behind a paywall or sign-up-to-get-X-articles-free account creation. Growing desperate, I turned to an old friend.

The saving grace of many an ill-fated undergraduate research paper, Google Scholar has been there to coddle the most wretched of researchers since 2004. A helpful index of millions of academic articles, Scholar also features a terribly beneficial “cited by” metric, which measures the article’s popularity and usefulness to other academics. I started with the obvious search: “Atrial Fibrillation.” Turns out, this condition is a popular research topic. Then, I tightened my search using the author’s full name and narrowing the date to 2021.


By the grace of the Israeli Association of Emergency Medicine, a file appeared. The full pdf of Atrial Fibrillation (2021)! Breathing a sigh of relief, I downloaded it and swiftly sent it off to the inquiring patron, my quest finished at last.

I wish I had some sort of explanation as to why in the world this specific article was available through this specific organization, and why it popped up on Google Scholar, but, as with all research, it is good to keep in mind: sometimes, you just get lucky.

Happy hunting.

Cameron R.S. Smith | Cooper-Siegel Community Library

P.S. If anyone has any suggestions, recommendations, or advice on how else to tackle the above conundrum or other, similar requests, I am all ears! Don’t hesitate to contact me at: