Scholarly Publishing and Open Access blog

The latest news and answers to your questions about scholarly publishing and open access.

Find it in the Open: Tips for searching for open access articles

Published by Ioana Liuta

Ever find the perfect article for your research, only to realize it's behind a subscription paywall? If you are doing research from outside of SFU or another institution, you may not have access to resources which require a subscription for access. Fortunately, the increase in open access publishing means that a great deal of scholarly information is available without journal subscriptions.

Even for those of us fortunate enough to have access to subscription-based materials through our library, locating open access resources is helpful for finding articles or books that are freely available. By doing so we can support this work and share and collaborate with others outside of our institutions. 

Here are four simple ways you can locate and access open access articles:

1. Search in the SFU library catalogue and use the "open access" filter

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

Open Access filter in SFU library catalogue
  Open Access indicator in SFU library catalogue



2. Search in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

DOAJ includes open access journals as well as articles published in these journals, and is fully searchable.

DOAJ search bar


If you're considering publishing with an open access journal, we recommend checking the DOAJ to select a high-quality publisher.

See Publishing Choices for more tips on selecting a publisher for your research.

3. Google it!

Institutional repositories such as SFU's Summit are crawled by Google, making the material available through Google Scholar. Items that are openly available are indicated with an [HTML] or [PDF] label, along with the website where they can be found.

Google scholar search result for item in Summit

While you're there, consider depositing your own research in Summit to make it openly available and help others find it through Google Scholar!

4. Install a browser extension through 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.*

*See also this recent news item from Nature: How Unpaywall is transforming open science

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

Happy searching!

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