What Persistent Links Are, and Why You Should Use Them
Persistent links, as the name suggests, "persist" for a relatively useful time. In simpler terms, they are the link that gets you back to the resource you need or have previously used. It seems redundant, but some servers and resources (1) use temporary links, (2) embed session id codes or other data that breaks a link over time [with bits like big-important-resource.com/session-X9828289sh&ref-3929], and/or (3) have their pages' actual addresses masked under a more domain general page/resource. Because of these methods, knowing persistent links, and how to use them, are one of the best ways to access the resources you need.
Brief Note on "Permanent" vs. "Persistent": There are occasionally some technical differences in how the terms are used, but for the purpose of this guide, a permanent link is a persistent link is a permanent link. Some resources use one or the other. If there is ever a reason to favor one, I will point it out specifically.
What does your link need to be persistent?
See Table of Contents at Upper Left to see the various subsections, or just scroll down.
The Two Forms of Persistent Links to UAH Resources
Once you have confirmed that a link is persistent/permanent AND has to be linked through Salmon Library's systems, then there are two general forms that the link can take.
It probably does not much of an eagle eye to spot the similarities between the two, but just in case I have underlined the relevant sections. Which you use is up to you but the first is a little more explicit. All you have to do is add either version of the text to your link (both is not necessary, but will not interfere with theme) if they do not have it (and a lot of databases now add it for you when you copy from the address bar or click the "Permanent Link" button).
If the link gives you an error, then check out the Solutions to Common Errors down below to troubleshoot. If, for any reason, persistent links aren't working out for you, then Alternatives to Persistent Links has some other solutions.
How to determine if a link is persistent
For many websites, such as The New York Times, Wikipedia, and many popular blogs, the link in the address bar is the persistent link already. In these cases, you can use the link as you see it. As examples:
- http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/opinion/where-science-is-going.html (New York Times article: "Where Science is Going")
- http://felonyandmayhem.com/book/the-fashion-in-shrouds/ (publisher information on the book, Fashion in Shrouds)
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyarlathotep (Wikipedia article on the fictional entity, Nyarlathotep)
There are a few different shapes, but you can kind of compare them to this one, which is *not* a stable/persistent link, from Lexis-Nexis (the article on an anti-trust suit over food shipments in Illinois):
If you take a moment to click that link, it will will only take you back to the search page.
How can you tell the former from the latter? You'll notice they look kind of similar. There is no one good method, but here are some tips.
- Pay attention to the URL shown in the address bar, does it change as you migrate through the page? Persistent addresses change as you navigate around a site (though see #2).
- Does the URL include sections such as "sid=" or "session=" and/or long sections of random/meaningless text such as (actual example from OneSearch) "sid=d13d69e0-63b3-4bc9-b080-3a80a32b8dbc"? That can be a sign that the URL is specific to a given a session and that it can either cause issues on future sessions or possibly fail to work altogether.
- Is only a portion of the page updating as you migrate through the results (usually through HTML frames or by way of active content such as Flash)? Then the link is probably only referencing the document as a whole, and not the specific pages/results.
- Does the database/website/resource include a button or link that says something like "link to this" or "Permanent Link" or "Create Bookmark"? If so, that could be a warning sign that you need to use that to generate the links. See some samples of icons below:
When in doubt, you can test the persistance of a link by copying and pasting it into another browser. Though make sure you are actually pasting it into another browser (or device) and not simply another window of your current browser. If you get what you expect, then you are good to go. However, make sure you confirm that you get what you expect before closing down the browser you are using the search.
Using Persistent Link Features in the Databases
Databases sometimes have a link, button, or page for generating a link to a page or a bookmark to a page. These should be labeled as such. If you use this method, you should be given a link that you could treat as persistent. A few have a function to "share" the link. Share the link with yourself (input your own email address, usually), and then you can have a copy of the link sent to you. Note: The share feature can fail to embed the proxy-server data, so you might need to edit the link to put it back in.
Some databases have no good method for generating persistent links. In their case, you should try and use an alternative method to persistent links, such as a finding guide, full citation, or DOI number.
How to determine if it needs University access
If you got to the resource via one of our guides, especially http://libguides.uah.edu/databases, through Angel, through an email from a classmate/professor/coworker, then highlight over the link (or simply read it if it is apparent), and see if it contains a link through our proxy-server. In other words, does the link that you have to access to get the resource/article include elib.uah.edu somewhere in the link? If so, then yes it needs our access.
If you go to the link via Google or Bing, or through another Universities website, or from a government (etc) page of information, and you never had to go through a link with our proxy-server, then you probably do not have to access the link through UAH.
When in doubt, paste it into another browser session. If it works without the proxy-server (or already has the proxy-server embedded), then you shouldn't have to edit the link.
Solutions to Common Errors with Persistent Links
If the link gives you a mostly blank page with the text that says, simply, "Page not found Error":
The page is not recognize by our proxy-server. For obvious security reasons, we do not allow just any page to be re-routed through our server. In most cases, this means you do not need to add any sort of elib.uah.edu to the URL. Simply use the URL as is. If you do need it to go through our proxy-server, then the most likely cause of the error is that the domain the resource uses for most of its pages differs from the one to which you are trying to link. Send the link in question to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can take a look at it.
If the link gives you a 404 NOT FOUND error in big bold text on the top of a blank page:
A likely culpirt here is that you left out the http:// between the url= and the link. For instance, https://elib.uah.edu/login?url=http://www.sciencedirect.com will work while https://elib.uah.edu/login?url=www.sciencedirect.com will not (you can go ahead and click that to see if the error, if you want).
However, if the link takes you to the resource (e.g., ScienceDirect, OneSearch, Proquest, etc) but you get a 404 Page Not Found style error on their domain:
Double check your link and make sure you have not cut part of the link off. That is most likely the issue: the link is incomplete or was copied down wrong.
If you get a error such as "Sesssion Expired" or "Session Not Found":
The link has session id data. Look for a section like "sid=" or "session=". You are going to have to delete that whole section. If you are confused about what to delete, then contact us email@example.com and we can help you.
Alternatives to Persistent Links
There are ways to direct yourself and others to the resources/articles you have used without requiring persistent links. The two broadest forms are citations and finding paths.
A citation is a formatted collection of information that generally identifies a resource in a unique way. It is beyond the scope of this guide, but we have a guide on How to Cite Resources to which I would refer you. Author name, article title, journal/book title, volume number, issue number, date of issue, relevant pages, DOI/Accession Number: all of these can make up a citation. The way citations can work in this case is that by providing unique information back to the article, you know which journal to look up, which dates to look up, which pages to look up, and so forth. As for our resources, you can start with Find a Journal Title to retrace your steps.
A finding path can involve a citation, as well, but is giving yourself or someone else a step-by-step guide of how you go tthe article. In cases where you cannot link directly to the resource that you want (due to restrictions or a lack of permanent link), a finding path is a good alternative. They can be as broad or as simple as you want, but they should direct the seeker to the goal without confusion. You might be able to avoid intermediary steps, but you should explain how to get to a resource, how to navigate to the specific place in the resource to get whatever article you need them to get, and then possibly how to obtain the article if any special instructions are required.