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Finding the right literature without access to a university

Finding the right literature without access to a university
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© University of Leicester

It can be challenging to gather academic literature without access to a university and its library. The main reason for this is that the private companies that have an effective oligopoly over academic publishing are very keen to protect the enormous revenues and profit margins that they make in publishing scholarly journals and books.*

If you do not have access to a university, the rate which publishers charge to view just an individual article is typically around £20. Getting hold of a sufficient number of articles to write a literature review through this route could cost several hundreds or even thousands of pounds… But things are gradually changing. ‘Open access publishing’ is now a growing trend in academic research, supported by government, research funding bodies and academics themselves. Most academic journals now give researchers the possibility to pay for their article to be made ‘open access’ – meaning that anyone can download a copy from the website of the journal. This is expensive, costing around £800 typically for ‘gold standard’ open access.

However many funding bodies now make it condition of funding research that the findings should be published open access, and so this may be built into the costs of doing research. When you are searching for articles, each journal should make it clear which articles are open access and which are not.

* To give one example, the Journal of International Management published by Elsevier costs £752 per year for each library which needs to stock it. It also charges individuals £86 per year if they wish to have a personal subscription. This money buys four issues in a given year, each around 100 pages, with an average of 6 articles. Each of these articles is provided, for free, by the authors, and has been rigorously peer reviewed by other academic, who have also worked for free, and edited by senior academics, who also – guess what! – supply their labour free of charge. The only cost to the publisher, beyond the pure print costs, usually takes the form of a small amount of money paid for a part-time editorial assistant. Moreover, publishers insist that authors sign over all copyright to their work on publication, which prohibits authors from publishing material elsewhere, and gives the publish rights to sell the material for their own profit as they see fit. Academic publishing is a very lucrative business indeed. If you want to know more about this, see the Related Links below for an article written by staff in the University of Leicester’s School of Management/Business.

© University of Leicester
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