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Open Access: OA Discovery

“All researchers benefit from open access, as no library can afford to subscribe to every journal and most can only afford a small fraction of them.”

Finding an Open Version

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 OA publications easy to find:

Using the integrated Library Search interface, you can search across all the Library's 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 read online by anyone, whether or not they are a member of the University.

Screenshot of the Library Search interface illustrating the results of a search for "Covid 19", filtered by Open Access status.

CORE logo


Install the CORE Discovery browser extension (for Chrome, Firefox and Opera) to run a single-click search across scholarly repositories and open access journals worldwide.  CORE harvests full text files from repositories, which can be viewed online in the CORE Reader, or downloaded for offline use.

CORE's View Similar Papers feature highlights further reading from open access sources.

Formerly known as Kopernio, EndNote Click is a free plug-in for Chrome, developed by the people behind the Web of Science bibliographic database. 

EndNote Click helps you get to your full-text PDFs faster by securely connecting you to your Library's journal subscriptions and open access content.  Once you have the PDF, you can easily export it to your favourite reference management tool [e.g. EndNote, Mendeley, Dropbox] or download it to your desktop.

Register with your University email address.  After you have installed the plug-in, you'll see a pop-up View PDF in your search results on the Library Catalogue, bibliographic databases and other academic websites, whenever EndNote Click can find a subscription or open access copy.

Open Access Button logo


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.

Open Access Helper logoOpen Access Helper is a free browser extension for Safari and macOS, using data from Unpaywall, Core and the Open Access button to locate free-to-read versions of scholarly articles.

Danger iconSteer 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.

Unpaywall logo

Unpaywall is 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.  

cautionWith the exception of Sci-Hub, all of these search tools are designed to exclude 'pirate' (unlicensed) copies: material which has been made OA without the rights-holder's permission, or in breach of licence terms. 

(Readers should be aware that an author maintaining a profile on a scholarly networking service such as ResearchGate or may not have the rights to upload their published work, so these sites are not indexed).

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

Directories of OA Publications

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) : Developed by the not-for-profit OAPEN Foundation in the Netherlands, a catalogue of over 40 000 scholarly works from academic publishers and university presses.  Search or browse for e-books which can be incorporated into reading lists or course packs with no restrictions on reading, printing or downloading for private study.

JSTOR Open Access Books : More than 6,500 Open Access e-books from 85+ publishers, including Brill, Cornell University Press, De Gruyter, and University of California Press. Search the full text; results are presented as individual chapters which can be downloaded as a pdf or shared with a stable link.

OpenBook Publishers:  "...the leading independent Open Access publisher in the Humanities and Social Sciences in the UK: a not-for-profit Social Enterprise run by scholars who are committed to making high-quality research freely available to readers around the world. All our books are available to read online and download for free".  Paper copies are also offered for sale.

See also Open Educational Resources for collections of digitized out-of-copyright works from university libraries and scholarly foundations.

See the Library's guide to Copyright for Teachers for a locally-maintained selection of OER providers and directories, from the UK and USA.  These resources are not formally endorsed by the University of Hull.

Who Can Help?

Contact Library staff for help finding relevant open access reading material for your studies, research or teaching.