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Open Access: Finding and Accessing Open Access Resources: Overview

A guide on how to find and access Open Access resources.

What is Open Access?

  • Open Access means making digital research publications freely available so anyone can benefit from reading and using research.
  • Open Access can be more than making research available to read, but also allowing others to re-use that research. For example, allowing the content to be analysed using text mining or reused for commercial purposes. 
  • Open Access publishing is part of a broader movement referred to as Open Research. Open Research is an interchangeable term with ‘Open Science’ or ‘Open Scholarship’. Open Research refers to extending the principles of openness to all aspects of the research lifecycle, including project proposals, open research data, open source software, open source hardware, open peer review, open notebooks, open educational resources and citizen science.
  • The principles of Open Research apply across all disciplines. The key concept is that the underlying data, processes and outputs of research should be made as open and transparent as possible. Open Research supports reproducibility and can also boost the impact and visibility of research.
  • The principles of Open Research are supported by many funding agencies such as the Wellcome Trust. Developments in Open Research are also being driven by the needs of researchers as well as other stakeholders including the public, industry and policy-makers.

Open Scholarship Umbrella

Image: Robinson, D. and Champiueux, R. (2018) ‘What is open?’ Available at: (Accessed 12 July 2021)

Are Open Access Research Publications Appropriate for Me to Use in My Academic Work?

  • Yes, they are. As you would when using any scholarly sources, it is important to consider the quality and reliability of Open Access publications. Reputable publishers of Open Access outputs will make clear the processes they use to ensure the quality and rigour of their scholarly work. Check information available via publisher websites regarding the quality-control processes they employ, such as peer review.
  • The CRAAP Test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose) is a useful tool you can use to evaluate the reliability of research publications. You may find it helpful to apply the CRAAP test when using Open Access resources.
  • There are a number of other tools you can use to use to evaluate sources. These include: 
    • The CARS checklist (Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness, Support)
    • The 5 Ws of website evaluation (Who, What, When, Where, Why)
    • The Prompt Checklist (Presentation, Relevance, Objectivity, Method, Provenance, Timeliness)
  • To learn more about techniques for evaluating sources, you can complete the Academic library skills: Evaluation MyPlace module

Meriam Library (2010) Evaluating Information - Applying the CRAAP Test. Available at: (Accessed 23 July 2021).

What Types of Open Access Resources Are There?

  • Open Access resources include journals, journal articles, subject repositories, preprint servers, data repositories, books, theses, software and Open Educational Resources (OER).

Can I Use Open Access Resources in my Own Research Projects?

  • Many Open Access resources are made available under a Creative Commons licence, which allows users to re-distribute, reuse and adapt content in new works. Check which licence applies and what this allows you to do before making use of Open Access resources, such as images or datasets, in your own research projects.

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