It has become common practice for researchers to make a copy of their research articles available for free online. Many of these ‘Open Access’ papers are held in institutional or subject repositories – which can make them challenging to find. However, there are several useful tools designed to make this a lot easier.
Useful Open Access Resources
CORE aggregates the Open Access full text content of many Open Access repositories, including PubMed Central, so that you can search and read it all in one place.
Searching here will help you find many articles that you can open and read for free. CORE also contains electronic PhD theses and other works that are hard to find elsewhere.
EndNote Click is an extension for your internet browser that quickly tells you if you have access to a version of a journal article that you are looking at. It detects when you are looking at an article’s page and if you have access, either through your library’s subscriptions or through an Open Access version, it will provide a link to the document.
This is generally the most convenient way to find Open Access work if you’re used to searching academic journals and databases. The extension will work in Google Chrome.
Unpaywall is another useful browser extension. It adds an icon to the right-hand side of any page where it detects an academic article. The icon indicates whether there is an Open Access version available and clicking it will take you to the appropriate document.
Unpaywall draws on slightly different sources to Kopernio, but does not check if you have access through your university. It may be helpful to install both. The extension will work in Google Chrome and Firefox.
Open Access DOIs
If you’re familiar with DOI numbers, then you know that you can use them to link to articles. (e.g. http://doi.org/10.1038/ng.3260 ) However, this will usually only link you to the publisher’s version, which might try to charge you for access. If you use the Open Access DOI format instead – (http://oadoi.org/10.1038/ng.3260) – you can create a link to an Open Access version of the article, if one is available.
This is a good way to find out if there is an Open Access version. It’s also a good way to share an Open Access paper with someone else who might not have access to the publisher’s version.
DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals)
DOAJ curates a list of Open Access journals across a range of subjects. If you want to find Open Access journals within your discipline, this is a good place to look. You can also use their search function to find resources from across their database of journals.
They provide criteria for good practice in Open Access journals and can be a useful place to check the quality of a new Open Access journal that you weren’t previously aware of. Inclusion in DOAJ implies that the journal follows their principles and is therefore likely to be a reputable source.
DOAB (Directory of Open Access Books)
DOAB is a collection of Open Access books from a range of subjects and publishers. It is a good place to search if you are looking for more in depth Open Access materials and is a useful companion to a DOAJ or CORE search.
The Electronic Theses Online project run by the British Library collects electronic theses from UK university and makes them available through Ethos. You can search Ethos to find results from a large collection of PhD theses. The search may also return works that are currently under an embargo, but you can limit your search to Open Access resources if necessary.