You’ll sometimes find it necessary and worthwhile to pay for documents required in your research. The following information isn’t meant to discourage that practice. Rather, it’s offered to help you locate free online resources to bolster your writing and to fascinate and inspire you.
The Directory of Open Access Journals links to free, full-text articles in more than 3,000 scientific and scholarly journals, approximately one-third of which are searchable.
The Library of Congress furnishes reference tools for researchers and makes certain digital collections, such as its exhibitions, available on the Web. Its American Memory collections include, for example, scanned images of the Walt Whitman Notebooks, which were recovered in 1995, more than half a century after vanishing from the library.
Another service provided by the Library of Congress is the Virtual Reference Shelf, a directory of external links for researchers, writers, and students.
The Internet Public Library (IPL) is currently hosted by Drexel University’s College of Information Science and Technology and maintained by a consortium of colleges and universities. The information in this blogpost was requested by a writer who will appreciate the IPL’s history collections.
You can obtain a free trial membership to Footnote, an appealing social networking site for those who want to make original documents available on the Web. Footnote has partnered with the National Archives, which provides free access to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s digitized government and historical records.
Noesis is a “limited area search engine for open access, academic philosophy.”
Intute: Social Sciences, which links to online resources evaluated for quality and reliability, is a service provided by a group of UK universities and partners.
Moving Image Collections offers a catalog of titles and a directory of collections of moving images and supports preservation, education, and research.
[Updated on April 5, 2009] The World Digital Library is a free, multilingual resource for significant primary sources, including manuscripts, rare books, music, maps, recordings, films, and photographs.
[Updated on November 25, 2009] Central and Eastern European Library Online (CEEOL) is an archive of full-text articles from 340 journals in humanities and social sciences, including literary and cultural journals, from Central and Eastern Europe.
[Updated on January 30, 2010] “OpenSky is an open access repository of scholarly works published by scientists, researchers, and other staff at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).”
[Updated on June 10, 2010] PLoS ONE is an interactive open-access journal of peer-reviewed scientific and medical research.
[Updated on June 22, 2010] Tufts Published Scholarship consists of scholarly articles written by members of the university community.
[Updated on July 23, 2010] Hindawi Publishing Corporation publishes more than 200 journals, all open access and distributed with a Creative Commons Attribution license. The range of academic disciplines covered includes:
[Updated on August 9, 2010] Wiley Online Library hosts more than four million articles from books, journals, reference works, and other sources covering life, health and physical sciences, social science, and the humanities.
[Updated on September 7, 2011] “[J]ournal content in JSTOR published prior to 1923 in the United States and prior to 1870 elsewhere [is] freely available to anyone, anywhere in the world.”
[Updated on October 27, 2011] The archive of Royal Society Publishing “comprising more than 69,000 articles” is available online, and articles more than 70 years old are free.
Examples don’t adequately describe the variety of records and documents you can obtain, mostly without charge, through these sources. If the list looks intimidating, don’t forget that you pay taxes so you’ll have a talented librarian available to answer questions at your local public library. I hope you don’t have any overdue library books or unpaid fines.
Inevitably, some journal articles will be found only in databases that require a subscription or charge a fee for individual downloads. Your local public library probably has a subscription to the database service and may offer library cardholders free access through the library’s website as well as in person.
Wikipedia links to a number of directories that can help you find the library best suited to your research. You need not apply for membership to the library near your home. The New York Public Library, for example, currently charges a $100 annual fee to issue nonresident library cards to adults who do not live in New York State.