Academic literature makes up the core basis of most research projects. Without a full understanding of the key research to date, you cannot define your own research questions. Here, we provide some tips on how to access academic writing.

Why Academic Literature?

Academic literature makes up an important part of research and independent study. Accessing articles from around the world allows us to keep up-to-date with the newest research, and broad interpretations of data and phenomena which can be important to our work and study. Nowadays, pretty much all academic pieces can be accessed online, as well as in physical editions of the journal in question. Therefore, this is what makes up the majority of academic reading, to those of us who are not subscribed to individual journals. However, if you prefer to read in hard-copy, many large journals can be subscribed to or bought individually.


Online Searches

There are a number of ways of finding the academic literature that you need for your work or study. Online searches make up the vast majority of modern searches.

Google Scholar is perhaps the simplest engine for searches, and allows you access to hundreds of thousands of papers from worldwide, across various academic disciplines. You can hone your search by the year, or by relevance to your keywords. 

On top of this, you can search via direct searches of different publishing organisations, such as Elsevier's Science Direct or the Wiley Online Library, though this is dependent on the subject or publication that you are looking for.

Universities and other places of study also often have their own search engines for academic literature, which allow you immediate access to multitudes of academic papers. Check with your place of work or study to see whether this is a service that they provide.



Physical Searches

If you are unable to access online libraries, or you prefer physical copies, there a number of different actions you can take. If the pieces you require are in regular publications, you may find yourself needing to purchase a subscription or individual copies of the journal at hand. If they are in individual pieces, such as a book, you may have to refer to online searches to purchase the piece, or search libraries to find the piece you require. 

Libraries can often be searched online prior to a visit, and many will accept requests for individual books and will purchase or loan them on your behalf. Another benefit of this is that it is often also free, particularly if it is the library of your place of study.  


Getting Access

Though many papers are Open Access (i.e. they are free to read), many are not - particularly those featured in major publications. If you are studying at an organisation such as a school, college or university, it is often the case that they provide you with access to publications which would otherwise be hidden behind a paywall. Portals such as Shibboleth redirect you to your university sign-in page, and then redirect you back to your publication for access. If not, these individual articles are often required to be purchased temporarily for a premium price. 

If this is the case, and you cannot afford access to these publications, it may be worthwhile continuing your search to find if this piece can be accessed free elsewhere. Sites such as ResearchGate and Academia can provide an alternative, free location for academics to publish their research or interpretative-pieces.