Access to Research

Unless you are studying at a university or work at one, it can be very difficult to access academic research. It’s all very well encouraging people to become critical thinkers and take their CPD into their own hands, but if you are relying on the information provided by others it can be restrictive.

You don’t have to use academic journals for your Journal Club reading – anything expressing an opinion or idea is good for analysing and can be useful for working up to the more formal writing. You don’t even have to use text – there are groups taking inspiration from podcasts and videos.

This is a list of just some of the ways to access research with examples. Some methods may not be available outside the UK.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is easily searchable for specific or general papers. 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 pre-published copy.

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. They can be tricky to track down individually but some have sample copies or online collections you can look at too.

Taylor and Francis Online/Routledge @educationarena have a selection of articles available to access for free. There are monthly collections available around a certain topic (cyberbullying, autism awareness month, leadership etc), and topic selections available for a longer period of time. This is fantastic but does limit it to what someone else has decided and there isn’t always the ability to read around a subject

Public library access

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 aims to facilitate free access to content stored across Open Access repositories’. 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 it a little tricky to navigate.

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.

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. Think of it as social networking for sharing academic work.

Research libraries

Many educational organisations have online collections of research or links to research.

CfBT – Research Library

Curee – Links to research


Education Endowment Foundation

The EEF funds a huge amount of research. The website has summaries of research findings and descriptions of what is underway. You can download the full reports of completed projects. A good starting point is their Toolkit.

This is a small, searchable database which is Ontario based. The focus is on day-to-day practical challenges in schools and there are a limited number of papers. This might be a good source of articles for use in journal clubs and as starting points for further research.

Self-Published Work

A small search online reveals several easy ways to publish your research online and Open Access. This has the benefit of being low cost and reaching a wide audience but the downside of lacking peer review and regulation. As a starting point, self-published articles can be brilliant to start off a debate or as a journal club article for picking to pieces. That’s not to say what you find won’t be worthwhile, but critical analysis is key.

An example of where self-published work can be valuable to both producers and consumers of research is the Sandringham Learning Journal ( An annual, anthology of research and reflective practice from Sandringham School. A valuable piece of internal and external CPD.

Local university library membership

Universities often offer membership to their libraries to members of the public. Birmingham ( and Nottingham ( offer membership for around £50 a year to access their libraries. Again, great, but this includes limited electronic resources and you can’t print or save any of them.


The ‘leading aggregator of online resources’. Familiar if you have used online access at university and with the OU, they’re fairly comprehensive. They have education specific collections for institutions to purchase membership. If you are lucky enough to be registered with The General Teaching Council for Scotland you will have free access to journals through EBSCO (, but if you aren’t, these are some options.

All figures are from May 2014.

A subscription to Education Research Complete ( would be £995 + VAT.

They provide a smaller version of Education Research Complete called Professional Development Collection which is £250 + VAT. ( This also includes free access to Teacher Reference Centre. (

You can coordinate with a number of institutions to allow them to also have access to Professional Development Collection or Education Research Complete, then they offer a buying group discount of 3% for two Schools purchasing, 5% for three, 10% for four and 15% for five Schools all purchasing their own version of PDC or ERC.


E.g. Taylor Francis publish a large number of academic journals. Their prices for each journal are available here –

They list for individual and also for institution. For all their educational journals, online only access would probably be around £2million per year which is quite a lot, but you may be willing to subscribe to key publications.

Societies – BELMAS, SEBDA, Nasen etc.

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 different levels of membership available for different organisations. Some have special rates for students, TAs, whole schools etc.

BELMAS offer your first year’s membership free and this includes access to journals.

E.g. SEBDA produce the journal ‘Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties’ on a quarterly basis. Taylor Francis list this for £79 a year (individual use, hard copy). Membership of SEBDA is £55pa (individual member, online access to current and back issues), and of course that comes with other benefits of being a member.

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 get a magazine every now and again for the privilege – but it’s a pretty good privilege.

E.g. University of Essex

Online access:

Campus library access:


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 and indication of whether the resource is free. Links to further details/full articles are given or you can save things to read later.

Chartered College of Teaching

Members of the Chartered College have access to a research database, 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 position. Membership and Affiliateship cost £45 a year.

CollectivED Working Paper Series

This working paper series from Leeds Beckett University is a wealth of material for discussion. ‘The theme of these papers is the value of collaboration and professional dialogue for individuals, the institutions they work in and consequently their pupils and students’.