Finding it in the Open - Searching for Free or Openly Licensed Content

Finding research articles

Sometimes you’re looking for peer-reviewed scholarly research, but don’t have access to a library subscription. Here are a few options to help connect you to the research you need:

1. Search in the ASU Library One Search and use the "Open Access" filter

You can either start at


Search box on library home page with Open Access drop-down selected

or directly within the Library One Search.


Open Access can be selected under

Open access resources are indicated with the Open Access label and logo.


Open Access Icon of unlocked orange lock signifying open access content

2. Install a browser extension like Unpaywall or Open Access Button

If you encounter articles that appear to be behind paywalls, a browser extension can help you check to see if an open access version is available somewhere else.

The Unpaywall browser extension places an open access icon beside any articles that you find that have a free version available to legally access elsewhere. Clicking on the open access icon will take you to the full-text of the article.*


Issue of Nature journal with small green lock icon in upper right corner of browser, indicating open access.

Open Access Button has a browser extension that works similarly to the Unpaywall extension. Simply install the extension and use the open access icon, located in the top navigation bar of your browser, to find out the open access version of the article you're viewing, if available.

You can also search for an article directly through the Open Access Button webpage.

3. Use the Digital Commons Network

The Digital Commons Network brings together a growing collection of peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, dissertations, working papers, conference proceedings, and other original scholarly work from 573 institutions.

4. Google it

Institutional repositories such as ASU's Digital Repository are crawled by Google, making the material available through a Google search.


Search in Google brings up item in ASU Digital Repository

For more ideas on finding open access articles, check out the Open Access Library Guide.

Finding open educational resources

If you’re looking for materials to use in courses or other educational situations, there is a bounty of open educational resources, open textbooks, and other learning objects that can help.

  1. Search OASIS, a meta search tool developed by SUNY Geneseo that searches across 52 different OER sources and includes a range of materials, including textbooks, courses and corresponding materials, interactive simulations, public domain books, audiobooks, modules, open access books, videos and podcasts on a variety of topics — from anthropology to zoology. OASIS also is the only tool that allows users to limit searches by creative commons licenses or by faculty review.

  2. Check out MERLOT, a free peer reviewed collection of educational materials meant for use in higher education. The collection consists of tens of thousands of discipline-specific resources, course assignments, and contributor comments to guide instruction.

  3. The OER Commons is a freely accessible online collection of open educational resources. This fully searchable catalog includes allows you to browse by subject area, grade level, and material type.

For more ideas, visit the Open Education Library Guide.

Finding books

Need some ebooks?

  1. Project Gutenburg is a library of over 60,000 free e-books with a focus on older works for which U.S. copyright has expired.

  2. Directory of Open Access Books focuses on academic titles and includes 27,588 academic peer-reviewed books from 377 publishers.

  3. Open Book Publishers publishes open access academic research in the humanities and social sciences. All books include a free online edition that can be read via the website, downloaded, reused, or embedded.

  4. Digital Public Library of America connects people to the riches held within America’s libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions. All of the materials found through DPLA—photographs, books, maps, news footage, oral histories, personal letters, museum objects, artwork, government documents, and so much more—are free and immediately available in digital format.

Finding data

If you need data sets, we have you covered:

  1. The Dryad Digital Repository is a curated resource that makes research data discoverable, freely reusable, and citable. Dryad provides a general-purpose home for a wide diversity of data types.

  2. Registry of Research Data Repositories (re3data) identifies a listing of 1,500 research data repositories, making it the largest and most comprehensive registry of data repositories available on the web.

  3. Data.Gov -The home of the U.S. Government’s open data. Here you will find data, tools, and resources to conduct research, develop web and mobile applications, design data visualizations, and more.

  4. Google Dataset Search searches datasets hosted in thousands of repositories across the Web, making these datasets universally accessible and useful.

Finding other resources

  1. The Internet Archive includes millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more.

  2. Creative Commons Search searches across more than 300 million images. It goes beyond simple search to aggregate results across multiple public repositories into a single catalog, and facilitates reuse through features like machine-generated tags and one-click attribution.

  3. The Open Video Project is  repository of open access digitized videos for education and learning purposes

  4. Selections from the National Film Registry Collection: Library of Congress includes a list of movies deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" that are earmarked for preservation by the Library of Congress. The majority of movies in Selections from the National Film Registry are freely available as both 5 mb MP4 and ProRes 422 MOV downloads.

  5. WikiMedia Commons includes over 60,004,172 freely usable media files.


For even more ideas, view the Finding Open Content library guide.

Please do not hesitate to use ASU Library's Ask a Librarian service if you need additional assistance.