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Guide to current library services for students on short courses: Finding library resources online

Click & Collect and finding online resources

Open access resources via SOLO and other online catalogues

What is an open access resource?

We refer to an open access resource as an academic online resource that you can access from any internet connection, regardless as to whether or not you are affiliated to an academic institution. Open access resources differ (in access terms) from ‘subscription resources’. Subscription resources are academic online resources for which a University or other institution has paid an access fee to a publisher, and to which full online access is therefore generally restricted to members of that institution. Oxford University subscribes to a large number of these subscription resources, and, as a student on one of the Department for Continuing Education’s short courses, you can access these subscription resources from an Oxford University -networked computer, such as those in the Continuing Education Library or in the Student Resource Room at Ewert House. However, unless you are a member of Oxford University, you cannot access these subscription resources in full from a computer outside of the Oxford University network, e.g. from home. This is where open access resources come in! There are a number of online ‘open access’ resources which you can connect to for free from any internet connection.

Finding free and open access resources

You can find open access resources in a number of places including:

  • Open Access resources on SOLO, the library catalogue
  • Free/Open Access databases in the Databases A-Z collection on SOLO
  • Subject Based Repositories
  • Institutional Repositories
  • Search engines which search across repositories

Open access resources on SOLO

SOLO is Oxford University’s library catalogue. SOLO brings together:

  • print and other physical resources
  • subscription electronic resources such as e-books, e-journal articles and databases
  • open access e-resources such as open access articles, chapters, books and theses

When you search SOLO you can filter your results lists so that you only see open access resources

  1. Enter your search term in SOLO. The search will return physical resources, electronic subscription resources and open access resources 


2.Use the show only option to the left of your results so that you only see open access resources in your results

Your open access results will often include a large number of theses and other specialist resource types which may not be useful for your purposes. Therefore refine your results further by choosing Resource Type on the left hand side. You can either choose to:

  1. exclude a particular resource type (e.g. theses) by clicking on the exclude icon
  2. limit your search to one particular resource type only (e.g. articles, book chapters) by clicking on the resource type


Free databases in Databases A-Z

Most of the databases listed in the Databases A-Z feature on SOLO are subscription services. As noted above, as a student on a short course with the Department for Continuing Education (such as the weekly class programme), you can access these from computers in the Rewley House Library or in the Student Resource Room at Ewert House. However, there are a number of significant free and/or open access databases listed which you can access from home. You can identify free/open access databases by looking for the icon.

Databases A-Z is a collection of resources which bring together large numbers of papers and books and primary resources such as historical documents, images, newspapers, statistics. It does not list individual book or journal titles.

Finding free/open access databases in the A-Z list

1.Go to Databases A-Z at

2.Open the All Subjects drop down menu and choose a subject of your choice

3.Browse the list of databases. Any that have the icon are freely available online. To see more information about a database click more...

Click on the database and, once connected, use its search facilities to find items of interest. Once you have identified useful articles, look out for links to Stable URL/Permalink/Reference URL/DOI (or any links to” cite this resource”, as these citations will also include URL). This will give you a URL that you can keep for future reference to link you back to the resource.

Open Access repositories

Open Access repositories are large collections of freely available scholarly materials. They normally include

  • Journal articles
  • Conference papers
  • Dissertations and theses
  • Book chapters and occasionally whole books (but not often)
  • Other materials such as conference posters, book reviews etc

Some open access repositories specialise in a particular subject area (for example PubMed for medicine, SSRN for Social Sciences) whereas others bring together papers from a particular institution (e.g. the Oxford Research Archive brings together open access publications from Oxford University). Open Access search engines search across a wide range of open access repositories simultaneously and can save you the trouble of searching several different sources individually.

Subject based repositories

If there is a good subject based repository then that would be a good place to start. Go to to see if there is a repository for your discipline. If so, try out some searches to see if you can find useful items.

Institution based repositories and the Oxford Research Archive

Most Universities and other scholarly institutions have a repository of open access materials contributed by members of the organisation. Searching multiple institutions is tedious and you would probably be better off using an open access search engine which will search across multiple repositories (see below).However, if there is an institution which specialises in your field then it might be worth searching that repository directly. You can view and connect to a list of institutional repositories at

You may also want to search Oxford’s own Open Access repository, ORA (Oxford Research Archive) Items in ORA will appear within your SOLO results and will be listed as Open Access. However, if you want to search ORA on its own (outside of SOLO) you can do so at

Use the options on the left to narrow down your results to particular document types (for example you may want to look at articles, books and book sections rather than theses).

Search engines which search across institutional repositories

There are a number of search engines which search across repositories. The following are


Base -

  1. Connect to
  2. Use the Advanced Search and enter your keywords
  3. Under Access check the option for Open Access (uncheck Non-Open Access)
  4. Under Document type consider unchecking some categories of document which may be less useful in particular theses and book reviews
  5. On the results page: Click on the title to link to the full text.

Core - Core is very straightforward to use though it lacks the useful refinements available in Base. Link to Core and try out some searches.

Fully Open Access Journals

Some journals are fully open access (meaning that every article in them is open access). These journals have a different funding model from traditional journals.

You can search for fully open access journals in your subject area by consulting the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

  1. Link to
  2. Enter keywords in the search box (remember at this stage that you are looking for whole journals not articles and so you will probably want to put in a broad topic e.g. History of Art rather than Van Gogh). Limit your search to journals using the tick box beneath the search box

JSTOR – sign up for a free account and receive free journal articles

JSTOR is an online database providing access to academic journal articles, e-books and primary resources in a variety of disciplines. Although much of its content is only available via institutional subscriptions, it also offers some open and free resources

In addition, you can register for a free account and access a quota of journal articles every month, for free  

Free E-books and Journal Articles

Journal articles

JSTOR free online access  Sign up for a free account with JSTOR and access a selection of journal articles.


Many out-of-copyright titles are freely available. Explore the sites below: 

Public Library Resources

Reference material

Most public library authorities give members access to a range of online reference material. You can access much of this at home using your public library card.

Oxfordshire's Reference Online resources include:

  • British Library Newspapers Collection (Nineteenth Century Britain)
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Oxford Reference Online (a collection of OUP reference works)
  • Times Digital Archive 1785-1985

Other public library services will provide similar resources. Find your local library service on the UK.Gov website

Journal articles

Access to Research logoAccess to Research is an initiative which provides free access to academic e-journals in public libraries. Note that you cannot access them at home, only in libraries. You can find a full list of participating libraries as well as information about the journals included on the Access to Research website




OUDCE Open Resources

OUDCE Open Resources is a collection of freely available resources created or collected by OUDCE tutors. Your tutor may have created an area for your course and given you the link to it. If s/he hasn't, you can still use the collection to browse or search by subject or keyword for material on your topic.

Don't just Google It!

If you are looking for information on the internet, don't just Google it! Whilst Google has its uses, you can end up with vast numbers of results, many of which are irrelevant. It can also be quite difficult to judge the quality of the information.

This page introduces some alternative ways of finding good quality, freely available information.

If you are interested in finding out more about searching and evaluating information on the internet in general, try:

Further Tips and Resources


  • Digital.Bodleian A portal giving free access to the Bodleian Library's digitised collections covering all subjects and types of material.


  • Instead of Google, try Google Scholar. This will help you to find academic material, and reduce the amount of irrelevant results. If you use Google Scholar in the Library via SOLO, results will be linked to Oxford University full text holdings where available.


  • Try websites of organisations or societies connected to your subject. Many may give access to their own publications and other useful information


  • Try the websites of relevant museums or art galleries. As well as images, many will give detailed information on collections, access to research reports and publications etc