Common ‘how-to’ fixes for online resources

McGill Library maintains over 8 million links in the catalogue to online resources such as e-books, e-journals, databases and articles. Given the wealth of data available, sometimes things go awry with links or the way our browsers and content platforms communicate. Here are some of the common issues and steps you can take to work around them when they happen.

How do I open a private (incognito) browser window?

  • Sometimes it may be necessary to use a private window on your browser.
  • Instructions to browse in 'private' or 'incognito' can be found on the following pages for each of the main browsers Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge.


The catalogue says we have access to an online resource but I am being asked to pay to view. What can I do?

  • Publishers of online content usually need to see that you are affiliated with McGill to provide full text of articles or e-books. Our computer IP addresses are the most frequent means of verifying your eligibility. 
  • As so many of us are working from off-campus at the moment, it is important to use either the Library's EZproxy server or the McGill VPN to ensure the IP address is associated with McGill. Be sure to use a link from the Discovery (Sofia) catalogue or the Databases A-Z list when accessing a Library-subscribed resource. 


The link to the article I need gives a '404 page not found message'. How do I find my article?

  • The problem may be caused by an error in the article citation metadata. If you have landed on the correct publisher's site, look for a search box and copy in a few of the article keywords, then search anew. 
  • If this doesn't provide the correct article, look for a link on the journal homepage that may say something like "All issues" or "Archive", then drill down to the specific volume and issue that the article should be in. Sometimes, an article is no longer available; in this case, you can submit an interlibrary loan request for the article you require.
  • Another special case is when your citation is for a poster or presentation from a set of conference proceedings. Many conferences do not provide the full-text for presentations, and will provide the abstract only. Sometimes the individual abstract does not have its own page on the journal website; instead, if you use volume, issue, and page number information, you can find the abstract included along with a complete set of other abstracts as one full-text/PDF document. 


When I click on a link, I get the message "Bad request" or "Bad message 431" or "HTTP Error". How can I fix this?

  • Increasingly platforms are using browser cookies to provide a more seamless experience. Usually our browsers retain these cookies for the next time you visit a site. However, sometimes cookies can expire and then will give an error message similar to the ones here.
  • Usually clearing cookies and the browser cache will resolve the issue. Here are links to instructions for the main browsers that explain how to do this: ChromeFirefoxSafari (see "Remove stored cookies and data"), Microsoft Edge.
  • Alternatively, you can browse in 'private' or 'incognito' mode. Here are instructions for how to use this option: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge.


When I click on a link to Ebook Central (ProQuest) or other provider website, I get a browser warning telling me my connection is insecure. How can I fix this?

  • Ebook Central SSO login mechanism relies on McGill authentication cookies to permit access, as does EZproxy. Similar to the preceding question, sometimes these cookies expire, especially when your connection to Ebook Central, EZproxy, or other provider platforms times out.
  • You can follow the links in the preceding question to information on deleting cookies for your browser, but note that you will only need to search and remove cookies associated with '' to resolve this problem. You should not need to delete any other cookies or data.
  • Alternatively, you can browse in 'private' or 'incognito' mode. Here are instructions for how to use this option: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge.


The catalogue links to the e-book I need lead to a different book with the same or similar title. How do I find the right e-book?

  • Due to the volume of online resource availability, link matching sometimes pulls in titles that are a different edition or another title altogether. If there are several links available for your e-book, you can sometimes see which is correct from the "Database/Coverage" information (i.e. a modern book will not have been published in a database containing historical documents).
  • If no link leads to the book you need, please collections.library [at] (subject: Catalogue%20error%20report) (contact us) for assistance. 



Questions? Ask us!  Chat • Email • Text • Call            Send feedback    Report a problem

Back to top