A short guide to free academic search-engines and tools, for UK students in the arts and humanities
Last checked and updated: November 2013.
* “I want to search inside millions of modern non-fiction books”:
Hathi Trust Digital Library. (If you’re in the UK and Europe, and you find that the EU’s ridiculous copyright laws stop you from seeing Hathi materials that Americans can view freely, then simply use the TOR Browser to access)
* “I’m doing a historical topic, and I want to search out-of-copyright books and journals (generally pre-1926)”:
Internet Archive: Texts. Search scans of out-of-copyright books — 27,000 from Project Gutenberg, 300,000 titles from the Microsoft book-scanning project, and some from early results of the Million Book Project, among others.
JSTOR is now free for articles before 1923. No registration is required. You can also register with MyJSTOR to access a further 1,200 journal titles for free. See also the Library of Congress for American newspapers before 1922.
Google Book Search will also add out-of-copyright works to the results, depending on your search phrase.
Hathi Trust Digital Library includes Internet Archive books and newspapers in results. (If you’re in the UK and Europe, and you find that the EU’s ridiculous copyright laws stop you from seeing Hathi materials that Americans can view freely, then simply use the TOR browser or a proxy to access them: tutorial)
Hathi Trust search: full view + journals + arts will bring up arts journals from the 1880s-1920s.
* “I already have a fair grasp of the outlines of my topic, and I want to search and freely view the contents of over 4,000 hand-picked arts & humanities ejournals”:
* “I already have a fair grasp of the outlines of my topic, and I can obtain commercial academic papers and books once I know they exist”:
* “I want to search academic repository material, such as dissertations and theses”:
Note: in search results from repositories you’ll often find only an item’s record (title, author, short description, etc). There will often be no link to a full-text PDF. For some unknown reason repository search tools are deeply reluctant to allow users to limit search results to only free and full-text items such as PDFs.
Open DOAR repository search. Currently seems to be the best option for searching for Humanities dissertations and theses.
CORE searches across academic repositories.
The British Library service’s EThOS lets you search 250,000 PhD theses from the UK. Requires free registration.
DART Europe allows keyword searching of large numbers of academic repositories in the UK and Europe.
PQDT Open from ProQuest seems rather limited in scope, very slow in displaying PDFs, and experimental — but may be worth a look.
ROAR lists over 1,400 repositories around the world.
* “I want to find books specifically published as open access”:
aOpen is an excellent new resource that provides an online catalogue of free Open Access books produced in Europe.
* “I want to find out what current newspapers and magazines are saying about my topic”:
* “Where can I find images online, relevant to my topic?”:
Europeana, a 1-billion Euro project.
You can do “reverse image search” by clicking on the camera icon in the search-box at Google Image Search. You can also use TinEye to do the same. Upload an image to find out where it came from, and if it’s really what it’s claimed to be.
* “Where can I search Creative Commons -licensed images?”:
Search @ Creative Commons has a search-engine that allows you to limit searches to items that have a creative commons licence.
Google also has a deeply-buried option to search for Creative Commons images.
morgueFile — free stock photography from creatives to creatives.
Geograph UK — free-to-use StreetView-like pictures of places and roads.
Use xPert to create valid academic citations (references) for Creative Commons images.
You can also extract images from HD video. In that regard, Vimeo Creative Commons search might be useful.
* “Images are not enough for me. I want to see and perhaps even handle the actual artifacts / object collections — are there any in the UK?”:
Cornucopia. Searches the collections in UK museums, galleries, and libraries. Funding may be removed from this service in 2010/11, reportedly.
Those who might be satisfied with digital ‘virtual’ 3D objects might also look in the Google 3D Warehouse.
* “Are there any maintained full-text search-engines for specific arts and humanities disciplines?”:
In the years I’ve been building JURN, I’ve only found these few: Sisyphos searches in Egyptology / Ancient Near Eastern Studies; Theological Journals Search and Biblical Studies journals cover Christian scholarship; and the Alcuin Society’s Search indexes around 150 sources on fine printing and the book arts.
* “I’ve heard about these free ‘open’ courses that some major universities are starting to put online, is there a way to search them?”:
Open Content’s Open CourseWare Finder.
* “Is there a simple search-engine for all audio-books from all major vendors?”
* “I’m a student who needs high-quality audio and video to support my text reading, so where can I find this material?”:
* “The millions of personal lists of books and DVDs that people make on Amazon, is there a simple way to search them?”:
Search all Amazon Listmania lists. Indexing the U.K., U.S., and Canadian versions of Amazon. Using this search engine you can put in book titles (use quote marks) to discover lists of similar books, or use the standard Google search modifier intitle: to search page titles only.
* I think what I want may only have been published in very small numbers, perhaps even distributed informally?:
OpenSIGLE – System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe. Bibliographical references of reports and other “grey literature” produced in Europe until 2005.
Modernist Journals project. Large searchable library of art and intellectual journals in and around modernism. Mostly early 20th century.
* Are there search tools for finding open data sets and statistics?:
Databib is a searchable directory of research data repositories.
ZanRan is a search-engine for finding Big Data & statistics.
* “Large numbers of articles from commercial journal systems seem to have leaked out onto the open Web. Are there any methods for finding them?”:
JSTOR: Use Google with the following search modifiers, to search around 50,000 stray JSTOR articles:—
filetype:pdf “jstor transmission” “your key phrase”
Informaworld: Use Google with the following search modifiers, to search around 250,000 stray InformaWorld.com articles:—
”your key phrase” “Full terms and conditions of use: http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdf”
FindArticles.com: Use Google with the following search modifiers, to search for public FindArticles articles:—
”your key phrase” site:http://findarticles.com/p/articles/
* “I have access to the commercial service Web of Science or Scopus. Are there free tools I can use to find out which journal is held in which commercial journal database?”:
Cybergeo once had a free 720-page lookup table for those with access to both Web of Science and Scopus, but it was later placed behind a paywall. There is a handy free listing of all the open ejournals in Scopus, which might be useful to some. There’s a similar list for open titles in the Web of Science at the end of May 2011. Look at CUFTS for everything else.
* Is there a free tool which lets me search through the recent and current tables-of-contents of commercial journals?:
The UK service Journal TOCs lets you search by keyword through the tables-of-contents of “20,658 journals collected from 1,373 [commercial] publishers.”.
* Is there a free way of accessing and searching my nation’s newspaper archives?:
In the UK, simply by joining your local free public lending library, you should get free home access to ProQuest UK Newstand. UK Newstand allows you to search by keyword across the archives of national and regional newspapers, and retrieve full-text. Most archives seem to go back to about 1998-ish.
* “Are there free art history bibliographies I can use online, without having to register?”:
Arcade (search the holdings of New York’s major art libraries).
ARTicles Online (search the journal article catalogues of the European Art Libraries Network, inc. Florence, Munich, and Rome).
Once you have a title, Library Thing is useful for finding an online scan.
* “Is there a free software tool to help me to store and organise my references, as I find them?”:
Zotero Standalone is a free ‘citation capture’ software with a Firefox browser plugin. Useful for keeping track of your sources, but it only works automatically with the likes of Google Scholar and commercial journal databases.
* “I’ve downloaded lots of PDFs to my desktop PC for my research. Is there a way to search inside them all?”:
* “I want to convert PDF ejournal articles and book chapters to read on my Amazon Kindle ereader”:
The conversion software Mobipocket Creator 4.2 Publisher Edition works quickly and speedily, and produces a “good enough” .prc ebook file, of a type supported by the Kindle. Just copy the resulting .prc over to your Kindle. The MobiPocket Creator Software is wholly free software and is not timebombed, crippled, ad-supported, or subject to a “trial period”. In my experience the conversion is better than that done by the free Calibre conversion software. My conversion tutorial.
* “Is there a big list of all the open English language ejournals in the arts and humanities, one that links to the home pages?”:
Yes, the JURN Directory, which is link-checked and repaired regularly…
* Is there an up-to-date directory of highbrow literary “small magazines” in the English-speaking world?”:
* “I’m an overseas student who can read academic articles in my own language — is there a directory of academic journals in the arts and humanities, for my language?”:
Japanese: CiNii (includes the “NII Repository of Electronic Journals and Online Publications”) and Jairo for searching repositories for journals. Also look at the full-text ejournal archive at Journal @rchive.
Those who can read Welsh will also be interested in Welsh Journals Online.