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Skills at Library Essentials

Guides to search skills and using library research resources

Open Access resources

What is Open Access?

"Open access (OA) means making research publications freely available so anyone can benefit from reading and using research."

Jisc (2019) An introduction to open access. Available at: (Accessed: 28 January 2020).

To find out more about open access and the open research movement, head to our open research guide.

Finding Open Access resources

DOAJ Directory of Open Access Journals

DOAJ allows you to search for either articles or whole journals, or you can browse by subject. It contains around 10,000 open access journals, so hopefully you'll be able to find one for you! 


This is a quality-controlled directory of academic open access repositories.There are a few different options available for searching for repositories and within their contents. 

Many of the repositories in this directory are those of academic institutions, including our own Essex repository! This means that they should contain scholarly content, appropriate for use in academic work (but remember to always be critical and evaluate your sources before using!) 


CORE aggregates open access research papers, and allows you to search them. You can currently search over 100 million papers! 

As well as scholarly articles, research papers and so on, there are sources available online for open access books. 

Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB)

This site allows you to search or browse for open access books. The directory is open to all publishers who publish academic, peer reviewed books in Open Access and should contain as many books as possible, provided that these publications are in Open Access and meet academic standards.

Google Books

This is a source which you may have already used. Some books will have excerpts available, and some will be available full-text.

Whether or not you can find the full text of a book online will depend on its age, publisher and so on. Please remember to try and use reputable sources such as those above. Texts may be available elsewhere, but have not always been uploaded legally. 

There are a few tools out there that you can use to help you find open access material. This is useful if, for example, you are searching on Google Scholar and find an interesting article, but cannot access it as it is behind a paywall. 

Several browser add-ons are available, which will guide you to alternative, open access, sources of the article you are looking at. 

Remember: sometimes the open access versions you are guided to will be pre-publication versions of the same article, for example from an institutional repository. While they will largely be the same as the version behind the paywall, they will be unedited so may be slightly different. 

Open Access search tool options

Unpaywall is a browser plug-in that will search for open access, full text versions of what you are looking at, and will alert you if you can find them and where. 

Open access button again can be used either as a plug-in or you can use the search function to look for an article. If access isn't available, they can start a request for you to make it open access. 

Lazy scholar works in a similar way, as a browser plug-in searching for open access versions of articles. This also offers other functions, such as related paper recommendations and saving your search history. 

Kopernio is another option, working in a similar way to those above. You can also use it to save the articles you find. 

Note: Apart from Lean Library, these browser plugins are freely available tools that are not supported by University of Essex Library Services.

 Why not take a look at our list of open access resources for more information to help you improve your search skills!