Free Online Resources for Your Research

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It’s research time again! Using a database your school recommends is a smart idea, but there are also some great resources on the open web — just make sure you only use the credible sources. Sure, you have to sift through the bad to find the good, but the good ones are there and they can help you dig into your research topic and write a paper you can be proud of.

The best part: to access these sources you won’t need a password, won’t need to input your email address, and you won’t need to pay a dime. Let’s take a look at some of the best free research sources to be found on the online.

Government Websites

Government websites at all levels — city, state, and federal — are great for learning more about current events and finding basic information to start your research. Let’s look at a few notable government agencies and websites that provide great information on a national scale. For a full listing of government agencies, visit www.usa.gov/federal-agencies.

Science resources

Humanities resources

  • Library of Congress — As one of the largest libraries in the world, they offer an impressive number of digital collections you can access right from your own computer or mobile device.
  • U.S. Department of Commerce, Data and Reports  — In their own words, this department “collects, stores, and analyzes a wealth of information, including data on the Nation’s economy, population, and environment.” They pull together data from other related agencies, such as NOAA (mentioned above) and the Census Bureau.
  • National Archives — Discover and learn about the history of the United States of America through pictures, records, and images. You can even view and learn more about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center calls itself a “nonpartisan fact tank;” basically, it’s a think tank, which is a research organization. Some such organizations are meant to be ideological and can have political biases, but Pew is highly respected and viewed as being neutral. Pew’s research, broadly speaking, is sociological, on their website you’ll see studies, data, articles, survey reports, and a “Topics” link that’s a great starting point for exploring a topic.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a search engine that can help you find secondary sources. This won’t be as complete as the databases you can access through your school’s library, but it is a great starting point in researching applicable journal articles. If you find articles that give just the abstract instead of the full text, you can take down the bibliographic information and search for the full text of the article through your school’s library.

JSTOR 

Speaking of databases, JSTOR offers access to literally millions of sources. When you go to their homepage, you’ll see a login section. However, there’s a growing body of free content from JSTOR and Artstor that you can access at about.jstor.org/oa-and-free/. Additionally, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, JSTOR is making additional content temporarily available for free for students, teachers, and schools.

EBSCO

EBSCO also offers free access to some of its databases, which you can access at www.ebsco.com/products/research-databases/free-databases. Like JSTOR, EBSCO is expanding its free offerings to help students and schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smithsonian Institution Archives

Museums, specialized libraries, and research organizations offer a wealth of online information. One of the most well-known and largest of these is the Smithsonian. From their archives page, you can search tens of thousands of documents connected to their research and collections.

Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America is a great place for primary sources, especially for historical and cultural topics. The site has a “My Lists” feature that can help you organize your search results and research.

Cite and Keep Track of Any Sources You Use

Remembering all of the resources you looked at and end up using can be overwhelming. However, if you keep track of your sources as you research and write, you’ll save yourself a lot of work. You can do this by hand, but the Citation Machine citation generator can help you get the job done more easily. It works in different citation styles, so even if you need to use MLA for your English class and APA for your psychology class, you’ll still have all your bases covered.

Resources and features mentioned are accurate at the time this article was written, but are subject to change. Please see the official websites for the most up-to-date details.

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