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The Best Sites and Tools for Finding Free Scholarly Sources and Books

Updated on March 24, 2021

Nothing beats real paid university library access, which gives one such an incredible variety of scholarly sources that one can access. But what if one doesn't have access to that? Or what if it didn't work, and one needs to attempt to research through alternate methods? This is a list of various journals, databases, and search functions which can be used to find scholarly articles, free of charge, and is principally upon social sciences and humanities related topics, although there might be some hard science functions mixed in. Hopefully they can serve to provide journal articles, books, and thesis, for scholarly use. Each one has a hyperlink below which directs to their site.

The majority of these are intended principally for an English language audience. However, some are principally Francophone resources, even if they still contain English segments.

Some of these sites might depend on legal codes in your region. I'd advise being aware of this concerning that, and taking your own responsibility concerning it. Personally I have never had any problems.

I have not organized these volumes in any particular way, and they all have validity to bring with a unique mixture of available free resources.

Google Scholar

Of course, before anything else starts, the lion in the room has to be mentioned ; Google Scholar. Widely used to find scholarly sources, Google Scholar is of course imperfect and much isn't available with it. But it is a good place to start, being fast, free, and wide-ranging.

Journal of the Siam Society

More than a century old, the Siam Society has a quite intriguing range of journal articles available on Siam/Thailand. This is of course, an extremely precise field of search, but given how much depth and breadth it fields upon the issue, it makes for a good inclusion, especially since I am not sure if it is mentioned elsewhere.

United States Naval War College Review

Although it might sound like a specialized source, the Naval War College Review is free, accessible, high quality, and actually covers a very wide range of topics. Current affairs, military technology, naval doctrine, history, technology, etc. This makes for a very useful reading, especially for those interested in naval affairs and diplomacy, both past and present. There are after all, quite a number of editions about past naval affairs, but one can easily see modern happenings or their influences, such as with a focus upon China in recent issues...

Air University Muir S Fairchild Research Information Center

To avoid criticism of being biased by only including naval matters, here's the air force! It may seem strange that there are two military sites included, but both include a wide range of free articles, and in the case of the air force, also a host of free books. I would advise looking at them, and arguably this site might fit better under the header of a free book site than a free article source, as there are quite a substantial number. They are given in my second link, which refers specifically to the press section ; it is easy to select books on the right hand side from there.


For a long time, JSTOR as far as I know didn't let the general public access much of their content for free - well, one could access it, but only a rate of three articles per month from my recollection, in a free account, and without the option to easily download it. Thankfully, there have been some changes, and a small section of it can be accessed freely and downloaded - I'd guess only around 2%, after running free searches myself, but it does exist. Unfortunately these are older articles since newer ones are all to be paid for, but given how many journal articles there are on JSTOR, its still a profitable avenue of research. As a recommendation, in searching, make sure to select "Content I can access".


Persée is, perhaps sadly for Anglophone researchers, principally in French. If you speak French, that's great! I love Persée, completely free and with a huge amount of content. But if you don't, there might still be some English articles to check out. Maybe it would even give some motivation to learn French to access it.

Open Edition

Open Edition has access to a host of different journals, and a large number of books. Not all of them are accessible to the reader, and books in particular are ready only so far as I know. Furthermore, it is again a principally Francophone collection. Still, there aren't many other sites with such a great diversity and it has a wide variety of fascinating topics, and the fact that it is all free just makes it better! For a long time I had the French journal Revue historique des armées pinned, and that is just one example from its huge number.

University of Louisville Theses and Dissertations

Having such a large collection of online thesis can be of quite some use. Although not all thesis of the University of Louisville have been digitized, quite a few have to our benefit, covering a wide range of subjects.

University of Maryland, History Theses and Dissertations

A very similar collection to the University of Louisville, with a wide range of theses and dissertations over the past 70 or so years.


Gallica actually is far more than just journals, or articles, or books, as it is a digital library created by the French national library (Bibliothèque national de France) and its partners, and hence hosts a much wider range of material. Much, most I am certain; of this is rather old. However, this can be treated as a boon rather than a bust, especially if looking for primary sources in history. There are over 4 million documents online, and there will often be displayed new objects of interest or articles on the front page. It even contains historical films! Its well worth a look. Naturally, most documents are in French, but the language used can be selected and there are documents in English as well.


Cairn is principally with French journals, again sadly for anglophones, but it has a large variety of journals and these are very useful for those interested in humanities related research topics.

OMICS International Free Journals

Unlike the majority of sources which I have assembled here, this selection of journals principally concerns hard science sources rather than the humanities and the social sciences. But there are still a few useful journals for humanities researchers, such as some journals concerning political science.

TEL (thèses-EN-ligne)

Since I spend a lot of time looking up Francophone documents, inevitably many of the sites I visit have a Francophone bias! But for looking for French thesis, there are few better sites than this one, which has an astounding number of French scholarly thesis, principally dedicated to humanities subject. There do appear to be some in English.

Free Book Spot

Unlike the rest of material which I've listed, Free Book Spot is not specifically an academically site. However, it is one of the most useful which I have used for finding books, which it always has a surfeit of. Thus I felt that to not recommend it in a list of material which I use would be lacking on my part. As a note, it does have quite a number of ads, but the number of books available is astounding. Older books however, require a subscription to file sharing services.

Although requires signing up so far as I know, beyond that it is free. In addition to a wide variety of free articles, one can ask others for them if not available, and there are articles which are recommended to you. This combination gives a huge repository of knowledge.

The Online Books Page

As another book site, one I have mostly used for fiction, but which has a huge number of books available, is here.

Carl Beck Papers

The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies are a scholarly journal which is devoted to, as the title might indicate, Russia and Eastern Europe, with an emphasis certainly placed on Russia in this, perhaps inevitable given that it was developed during the Cold War. The Cold War also perhaps dictates when it places its time of emphasis, this being the period of the 20th century, although there is some occasional mention of the 19th and very rarely the 18th century. Mostly political, economic, and very rarely cultural in focus, for those interested in Eastern European studies its widespread collection of free scholarly articles can be of great use.

The Asia Pacific Journal

This journal has quite a wide range of articles upon the Pacific, from a decade and a half. While the journal focuses upon Japan, they come from across the Pacific, which makes it useful for anyone interested in East Asia or in trans-pacific studies. Most of the articles there are dedicated to modern subjects, but there are also quite a number of historical interest articles. They are all free, and can be accessed under the archive button, and downloaded there easily as well.

The Archaeological Journal of the Royal Archaeological Institute

For those interested in the subject of archaeology, the free available online Archaeological Journal contains quite a number of issues stretching over more than a century, although they seem to cease in 1963. Their focus is also so far as I know principally upon England. But still, it is a very large source for those intrigued by the subject of archaeology or English history. There are also alternate capacities to search located upon the site.

Cahiers Agricoles

Like many others, principally francophone, but for those interested in agricultural matters one can hardly hope for more! The Cahiers Agricultures constitutes the online archives of this journal, assembling a large number of articles upon the subject of agriculture from around the world since 1992.


One of the best sites which I have found for finding free books and journal articles, Z-library has a simply massive collection of books, with particularly good history sections. Furthermore it has a wide expanse of academic journal articles. It is easy to search through and free for all of the files, although you can only get 5 per day without an account -but a free account enables you to go up to 10. Easily one to recommend!


Some book sites are simply put a black home for your time, as downloading one book will lead to another and then another after that, as you trace through the recommendation lists and to connected books! EPDF is one of those sites, with a very nice collection of historical books particularly which can be freely downloaded, and if the search selection tends to turn up a lot of fluff, once one finds a book and starts leafing through to similar ones then there is a massive variety.

© 2018 Ryan Thomas


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