Freely Available and Open Content : Overview
Many available resources
Access to many information resources, such as journal articles or videos, is limited to people who can afford it or who are associated with an institution that purchases access for its members. At the same time, a growing body of high quality information resources -- sometimes referred to as "open access" or "public access" -- are freely available to anyone online.
The same searching skills we use as researchers at a well-resourced institution such as UW-Madison will lead us to find and access freely available resources.
Google searches will occasionally lead to closed or fee-based resources, but are a great path to open materials too.
Communicating directly with colleagues can help you identify useful materials and, if a resource is only available in a closed or fee-based system, you can often obtain a copy by contacting the author directly.
Specialized search engines, many of which you may use to locate resources now, are more likely to be publicly available than the underlying full-text content. Once you have an author or citation in-hand, you'll be better able to locate a publicly available version.
As with all information resources, freely available material needs to be critically evaluated to determine its quality and credibility.