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Open Access: OA Discovery

How do I know what's open?

You know what you want to read, but the Library doesn't subscribe?  Or you're looking for anything related to your research interests, and you keep hitting paywalls?  Perhaps you're an author who has chosen to publish your work on an open access platform, and you want to be sure that readers will discover it?

Publishers and scholarly information specialists have developed discovery tools to make open access publications easy to find:  see the tabbed box below.



In order to distinguish academically-robust open access publishing venues from speculative or predatory operators, an internationally-recognised system of accreditation has evolved. The titles and publishers are regularly assessed, so must continue to meet the criteria to remain in the directories.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ),

  • ‚ÄčThe definitive list of academically rigorous OA titles. Originating at Lund University, Sweden, DOAJ indexes over 12 000 journals which meet their Board's criteria for openness.  Free journals which require readers to register are excluded. 

Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), 

  • Over 20 000 peer-reviewed academic e-books which are free to read, primarily in humanities and social science disciplines.  Records are provided by publishers and research funders.  Full text is available to download for reading offline; to read in a browser you will need to follow the link to the publisher's platform.

Find an open version

summon screenshotUsing the integrated Library Search interface, you can search across all Library collections simultaneously: physical stock, subscribed e-journals and e-books, plus bibliographic records for unsubscribed publications.

Your search results will show which publications are open access.  You can choose to limit your search to open-access only, if you are looking for resources which can be accessed by people who aren't members of the University of Hull.



updateSome scientific publishers are offering open access to all journal articles related to the Covid 19 crisis.  Records for these publications can be found in Summon.


Developed by Jisc and the Open University, CORE provides a combined search interface for scholarly repositories and open access journals worldwide.  The full text file is harvested from each record and presented as a pdf in the CORE Reader.

You can also install the extension for Chrome, Firefox or Opera browsers, to search for a repository copy of any published paper ('green' open access).  The 'View Similar Papers' link directs you to further reading from open access sources.


A free plug-in for Chrome, developed by the people behind the Web of Science bibliographic database.  Users can set up their institutional login in order to get one-click access to Library subscriptions off-campus, as well as open access versions of scholarly publications.


A free extension for Chrome, developed in the UK with charitable funding, the OA Button searches across multiple databases of open access records simultaneously. When no open access version can be found,  the OA Button offers a Request service, to enable the reader to contact the author for a private copy.

For readers using a different browser, the developers provide a search form where you can simply paste the article details to run a search in the OA Button's database.

April 2020: independent developer Claus Wolf has released the latest version of his free app for iOS and macOS, using data from Unpaywall, Core and to identify OA versions of scholarly articles.


A free extension for Chrome and Firefox, developed by Open Science advocates in the USA.  Unpaywall searches Gold open access journals directly, as well as harvesting data from institutional and national repositories, matched by DOI.  

These search tools are designed to exclude 'pirate' (unlicensed) copies: published material which has been made open without the rights-holder's permission, or in breach of licence terms. 

(Readers should be aware that authors using scholarly networking services such as ResearchGate and may not have the rights to upload their published work, so these sites are not included).

See the Library's guide to Copyright for more information about rights and permissions for authors and readers of scholarly publications.

Steer clear of Sci-Hub, a notorious web server for pirate copies of paywalled scholarly papers, run from Kazakhstan.  An article in the Washington Post (Dec 19, 2019) reported evidence that institutional login credentials provided by Sci-Hub users and supporters are being utilized by Russian intelligence.