Research School Network: How to Access Research for Free (or Not Very Much) There are different types of access available for research– some are free, others have a fee.


How to Access Research for Free (or Not Very Much)

There are different types of access available for research– some are free, others have a fee.

by Derby Research School
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BGG Headshot Beth Greville Giddings min

Beth Greville-Giddings

Art Lead/​Learning and Development Lead- Westbury Academy/​Raleigh Education Trust

Read more aboutBeth Greville-Giddings

There are lots of reasons why you might want to access academic research, but whether that’s formal study, such as a degree or NPQ, checking out what’s behind the headlines, like the EEF Guidance Reports or Teaching and Learning Toolkit (the EEF offers a technical appendix for each of the strands in the toolkit, detailing each of the studies included), or simply following an interest; unless you are studying at a university or work at one, it can be difficult to know where to start looking.

There are different types of access available – some are free, others have a fee. Many publishers have paywalls in place and individual papers can be expensive to get hold of. Fortunately, many papers are available with temporary free access, or open access as pre-published copies or via author and institution repositories. The non-exhaustive list below tries to offer some of the most cost-effective ways to access research.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is easily searchable for specific or general papers and books. If you’re after a free pdf version (and there’s one available) there will be a link on the right of the page. Sometimes these take you to a publisher’s site or it might be a repository copy.

Chartered College of Teaching

Members of the CCT have access to a series of research databases, research summaries and a termly print and online journal, Impact. There are a range of benefits to membership other than research access of course and there are different categories of membership depending on your role.

Publisher Free Access Articles

You can use the search feature on any journal or publisher website and there will be free access or open access papers there. It can be tricky to track down specific papers, but some journals have sample copies or online collections you can look at too.

Public Libraries

Access to Research

In 2014, thousands of free articles became available in public libraries across the UK. Whilst you can print articles out, the downside with this is that you can’t access anything outside the library and you aren’t allowed save anything. If your local library isn’t currently part of the scheme, you can ask them to apply.


CORE offers an index of global open-access repositories. This brings everything together and reduces the need to search through separate institutions’ offers. There is a lot of information available but it might not contain exactly what you’re after due to the limitations of Open Access. and and are a way for academics to share research papers online. It is free to sign up – you don’t have to be a researcher or employed at a university. Users can follow the research or a particular academic or institution, and if what you’re after isn’t there, you can often contact the researcher directly; think of it as social networking for sharing academic work.

Email Researchers Directly!

If there is a specific paper you require, it is a good idea to contact the author. Contact details are often available alongside the abstract of a paper. An advantage of contacting the researchers in person is that they may be able to provide further reading and up to date advice in the area you are researching.

Local University Library Membership

Universities often offer membership to their libraries to members of the public. For example, the University of Nottingham offers membership from around £50 a year to access their libraries. Offers vary depending on alumni status, and often include limited withdrawals and electronic resources, and you may not be able to print or save.

Alumni Benefits

Check out the Alumni pages of your old university. Not all universities offer this service, but more and more are. You probably have to register and might get a magazine every now and again for the privilege – but it’s a pretty good privilege. For example, the University of Essex has online access to JSTOR and a campus library access option for those closer by.

Society Membership

Societies and associations in more specialist areas of education often have their own academic journals. It may be more cost effective to join an association in order to access a journal than it is to purchase access to the journal directly. There are often different levels of membership available for different organisations, and some have special rates for students, TAs, whole schools etc. Examples include BELMAS and SEBDA.


EdCentral is an independent, not-for-profit social enterprise, with a series of resources available and it is free for people working in schools to use. They curate and signpost education news, policy and research (papers and books) and present it in an easily searchable format. Results are shown with a summary and indication of whether the resource is free. Links to further details/​full articles are given or you can save things to read later.


Finally, if you’re just looking for an overview of quick explanation of the key points in a piece of research, you may want to look at more accessible research summaries such as:

> Jamie Clark’s one-page posters
> Impact Wales’ sketchnotes
> David Goodwin and Tom Sherrington’s Five Ways To’ one-page summaries

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