Open access guide for students, researchers, anyone

In a time when printed literature and materials are not available for studies and research, e-resources and especially open access resources become even more important. A central development is that some vendors have made additional e-materials (normally behind paywalls) available for participating institutions or even open access to the public.

Subscription databases open up due to the COVID-2019 crisis

  • Project MUSE is a subscription database which offers books and journals in humanities and social sciences from several distinguished university presses and scholarly societies. At the moment, some parts of the content has been made temporarily available for free, until the end of May/June.
  • Some e-resource vendors have made additional content available for university libraries. Read here the news from Åbo Akademi Library or check which conditions apply at your own research institution.

What does open access mean?

Open access articles are universally available on the Internet, free of charge. Gold open access refers to full open access publications where all articles are openly available, or hybrid publications, which are subscription journals in which some articles are made open for an extra fee paid by the researchers or research institution.Green open access (also called parallel publishing)means that the author makes a publication, originally published in a closed subscription journal, openly available in a repository or a publication archive. This guide gives some examples of how to find open access resources, both in general repositories, databases and indexes, and some particularly relevant in the study of religion and culture.

Although much of the materials you may need for studies or research are available as e-books and e-articles thanks to resources made accessible by your university library, some other materials you need might be behind paywalls. Check out FinElibs general guide for more information on alternative open access – how you can access articles behind paywalls in a legal way. The most central points are also summarized below in this open access guide. Also read our previous post about alternative open access (in Swedish only).

Where can I find open access resources?

Open access resources can be found in both general repositories, databases and indexes, which contain many subject fields, and subject-specific ones, which contain resources in a defined research field.

General repositories, databases, search engines and indexes

  • A way to find reliable open access journals is to search Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). DOAJ is an index of journals which meet certain criteria concerning openness and academic quality. The content is categorized according to subject.
  • Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) is a multidisciplinary search engine for scholarly e-resources, maintained by Bielefeld University Library. About 60 % of the content is open access. Use the search function to filter the results.
  • CORE, maintained by The Open University (UK) and JISC, provides e-resources in a variety of fields. All content is open access.
  • Publication Forum (also called Jufo from the Finnish name Julkaisufoorumi), maintained by the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies, is a reliable source for checking journals in the field you are interested in. The Jufo database rates journals according to the scale 1­–3 (1= basic, 2=leading, 3=top). The journals included in the database are assessed by expert panels regularly. Searches can be filtered according to DOAJ inclusion and parallel publishing policy.
  • Zenodo is a European all-purpose open research repository, maintained by OpenAire, which contains parallel published papers, data sets, posters and presentations, and other research outputs.

Open access books

  • For many researchers in the humanities and social sciences, monographs are still central. Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), is the most extensive discovery service for open access books which includes many titles in the study of religion, from publishers such as De Gruyter, Brill, transcript Verlag and many more. Browse the content according to subject.
  • OAPEN is an online library and publication forum for open access books, mainly in the area of humanities and social sciences.
  • OpenEdition hosts open access books and journals in humanities and social sciences.
  • Open Book Publishers provides open access books in a variety of fields, especially in humanities and social sciences.
  • Open Humanities Press published books and journals in humanities.
  • Also check individual publishers’ web sites for information about open access monographs. Many commercial publishers provide full open access to some contents.

Subject-specific repositories, databases and indexes

Universities’ publication archives and research databases

Do you know what your fellow students or colleagues have published? What kind of research is conducted at other universities?

  • In Åbo Akademi University’s publication archive Doria master’s, licentiate’s and doctoral theses are shared.
  • In Åbo Akademi University’s research database Artur, researchers share information about their projects and publications. Some of the publications are available as full text via Artur.
  • The Juuli-portal, maintained by the National Library, contains publications produced at Finnish research institutions.
  • DiVa-portal (Digitala Vetenskapliga Arkivet) is a search service and open repository for research publications and students’ papers at universities and other institutions of higher education in Sweden.

Other resources

  • Journal.fi is a portal which hosts about 80 Finnish scientific journals, maintained by Delegation of Finnish Learned Societies. Several journals in the study of religions and cultures are available in the portal.
  • Finna.fi is a search service of libraries, archives and museums in Finland. Please see the list of participating organizations. Participating organizations (such as Åbo Akademi University Library) also provide individual Finna-pages. Click on the tab “unrestricted collections” to filter the search results.
  • Project Gutenberg is a non-profit project which makes books openly available when their copyright has expired. About 60 000 e-books are available.
  • In Internet Archive more than 20 million e-books and other e-materials are openly available.

Please note that a bibliography or index typically lets you search for bibliographic citations on a topic. The full-text of the material is not included in the index itself, but a link may be provided.

The contents of some of the above mentioned directories, databases and indexes overlap. Some directories, such as DOAJ and DOAB, are integrated into many universities’ library databases (for example in Åbo Akademi University Library/Alma, University of Turku/Utu-volter etc.).

Most universities also provide guidance for how to find open access resources. Please see the section on open access in Libguides at Åbo Akademi University.

Other access to full-text sources

Large amounts of academic literature can be found by searching in so called academic social networks (ASNs) such as ResearchGate, LinkedIn, Academia.edu and HumanitiesCommons. These can be useful, but please check carefully which version of the papers have been distributed in the service (for example they may include non-peer reviewed versions of papers which later have been published as peer reviewed articles, in another channel). Please also note that copyright infringement is a serious problem in many ASNs. In case you want to share your own article in these services, please check the licensing and copyright agreement with the publisher. A general problem in these services is that permanent access cannot be guaranteed.

Last but not least, also Google Scholar is a useful resource, since it indexes information from various other databases, indexes, and repositories.

Please contact malin.fredriksson(at)abo.fi if you have questions, feedback or suggestions

Updated 2.4.2020

How do I know which sources are reliable?

  • Is information about the journal found in reliable directories such as DOAJ or Publication Forum (Jufo)?

  • Is the journal indexed in central databases in its field of research (such as Web of Science or Scopus)?

  • Is the publisher’s contact information on the website clear and up-to-date?

  • Does the journal have an ISSN-number?

  • Are previously published articles of good scientific quality?

  • Have other researchers in your field published with this publisher?

  • Have other researchers in your field referred to articles or books published by the publisher?

  • Is the peer review process clearly described?

Tools to find open access materials

Install a browser extension or a plug-in which makes it easier to find open access articles: