There’s been a move in recent years to make sure universities’ research outputs are not hidden behind publisher paywalls. More and more academic content, especially journal articles, is available in Open Access versions. Sometimes that is the finished article published as Open Access, or a version that has the same content but not the layout of the final journal article (Author Accepted Manuscripts or pre-print versions).
There are also websites dedicated to making out of copyright content digitally available.
Finding them isn't always easy. The tools and websites below help you find academic content that’s free or Open Access.
Browser extensions – find free academic content while searching the internet
These easy-to-install tools show which scholarly articles are free for you to access as you search the internet. Each has access to slightly different content, so try them and see which one, or what combination, works best for you. Once you've got them installed in your browser they don't really get in the way, and you can easily remove any you don't find valuable.
How to use them
To find academic content, add “scholarly article” to your Google search keywords.
When you follow a link to an article, each tool will provide a visual clue and a download link if it can find an Open Access version of the article. These clues not only show that the article is free, but also that it is of high academic quality.
Open Access button
- Works with Chrome, Firefox, Opera - install Kopernio
- What makes it different?
- Claims to find the "best PDF" version of the article
- Kent staff and students: you can set this up so it first checks if the University has the article and only searches for an Open Access version if we don't subscribe to it
- You can save articles to your "Locker" (Kopernio cloud storage)
- More information: Kopernio get started in 2 minutes video
- Unpaywall: all the content covered by this is also covered by the Open Access button; you can switch to "Nerd Mode" and see if articles are Gold, Green or Bronze Open Access
- Google Scholar button: you can be link this to our Kent subscriptions, move your query from a web search into Google Scholar and export references
Search specific websites
The websites below are dedicated to listing high-quality academic content that is free for you to access.
- CORE: describes itself as "the world's largest collection of open access research papers"; it contains many millions of articles harvested from academic and subject repositories around the world
- DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals): provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals in all subject areas; it includes nearly 5 million articles
- DOAB (Directory of Open Access Books): includes over 27,000 academic peer-reviewed books in the humanities, sciences and social sciences
- Project Gutenberg: over 60,000 free e-books of mostly older literary works published before 1924; you can read them in a web browser or in epub or Kindle format
- OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks): contains over 10,000 freely accessible academic books, mainly in the area of humanities and social sciences
- EThOS (Electronic Theses Online): the British Library makes doctoral theses from UK universities available online; tick "Limit search to items available for immediate download" to see only Open Access items
Find out all the ways you can get in touch: