Free Scholarly Resources Online

No budget for databases?

Are you in a school that struggles to find the money for quality, college-preparatory research databases? A recent discussion on a librarian Facebook group sent me on a quest for free scholarly resources online. When one begins such a search, it is hard to finally stop looking and to share the findings. No matter how many times I begin a search like this, I am always surprised at the sheer volume of information available online. And I am especially surprised by the amount of information that is completely free online.

Facebook Group Screenshot free resource discussion

Facebook Group Screenshot – Future Ready Schools [Librarians]  – Thanks to Faye Richards for the Facebook thread

Why not use the Internet?

When you cannot afford databases students will search with Google Scholar or perform a simple web search. Occasionally, students find articles that require a fee ranging from $6.99 to $39.99 for just one article. Often the one article that has a high fee seems to be “the perfect article” for the student’s paper or project. When this happens it can make a librarian quite frustrated at not being able to afford the research materials to meet a student’s needs. Some libraries have created custom Google searches to help students focus their efforts. However, these can have ads that are distracting and somewhat defeat the purpose of selecting resources and customizing a search in the first place.

So here is some of the free stuff!

This past week I tested a number of free and open-access resources and search tools. First, if your state has a virtual library with research journals use this resource to the fullest. I am fortunate to be in Tennessee where we have a robust electronic library.  When you are looking for full-text journals online, try some of the following:

JURN finds arts and humanities journals, book chapters, and theses.

DATABASE at Postmasters

DATABASE at Postmasters, March 2009 – Michael Mandiberg

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) searches more than 7,000 open-access journals, which are searchable at the article level.

Ebsco offers some free and open-access resources.

JSTOR has a number of open-access books, and it is my understanding that you can download 3 free articles per month.

For research in science classes try Wiley free and open-access journals.

HighWire Press boasts that it provides “the largest archive of free full-text science on Earth!” Look for journals marked “free site.”

Also in science, the Science Direct site has 250,000 open-access articles.

Primo Central searches the Library of Congress’s journal article and e-book databases.

The Digital Public Library offers online access to 17 million items from libraries, archives, and museums.

In the many government sites available, the National Institutes of Health offers some of the most extensive access to health research.

There is so much scholarly information available that it is simply overwhelming. In fact, I am certain that this small list will require a follow-up list in a couple of months. Think about where you may have information gaps in your physical and online collection and focus your efforts in that direction.  All of the “free” information is of course not truly free. The resources are a result of the tireless work of the librarians and technologists at the database companies and of course generous donations of both money and intellect from writers, researchers, donors, and foundations.


Author: Hannah Byrd Little

Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, STEM/STEAM, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Technology

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3 replies

  1. I would love a similar list for K-8. PebbleGo is wonderful but so expensive. Other databases, as listed above, are advanced and the interface is not great for young researchers. Input, ideas?

  2. Sasha, I also teach 6-8 grades and find these resources good for basic topical research.

    CIA World Factbook –
    Information about countries across the world including maps and flags.

    National Geographic Interactive Mapmaker –
    These are interactive, but they also have great printable maps.

    National Geographic Kids –

    Smithsonian History Explorer –

    Digital History –

    I also used FactMonster before I had a good encyclopedia through my State Library

  3. Texas stuff:

    Digital Sanborn Maps –

    Texas Time Travel –

    Southwest Collections –

    Handbook of Texas –


    UNESCO World Heritage sites –

    Occupational Outlook Handbook –

    Lacus Curtius –

    Internet Archive –

    Internet History Sourcebook –

    Congressional Research Service –

    CLEP –

    Colonial Film –

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