Guide to Open Access Journals

Traditionally, college students have spent long nights in campus libraries thumbing through leather bound volumes of academic journals and research reports. The importance of these publications has remained intact over the years, but most of today’s tech-savvy students opt to access this information using online databases.

These sites generally fall into two categories. Some databases require a paid subscription in order to access materials. In many cases, students who enroll at brick-and-mortar institutions are granted complimentary access to these sites while enrolled. Other sites, known as “open-access” databases, allow users to delve into journal entries free-of-charge. These sites are ideal for online students who would otherwise be required to foot the subscription bill themselves.

This guide looks at some of the most reputable open-access journal websites, as well as paid subscription databases that are still widely used by traditional college students.

The Core Open Access Journals

While they may not carry the same amount of recognition as their more expensive counterparts, the following open-access databases provide a comparable selection of journals that are highly useful to students across disciplines.

1. Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ): Originally established and maintained by Lund University in Sweden, the DOAJ features more than 8,500 open access journals, many of which are sourced from government, commercial, non-profit, and for-profit sources. Following the landmark Budapest Open Access Initiative of 2001 (which established standards for free journal access using online platforms), DOAJ received its initial funding from the Open Access Institute; it has since adopted a business model that relies heavily on donor contributions. An average of four journal entries are added to the database each day.

One major advantage of DOAJ is the site’s extensive search engine. A basic search allows users to separate journals from individual articles, while advanced options allow users to sort entries by title, author, keywords, abstract, International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), and other more specific criteria. DOAJ is also touted for its clean interface, detailed FAQ page, and other features designed to provide a positive user experience.

2. Oxford Open: Oxford University is one of the many brick-and-mortar institutions currently making an effort to provide open access to scholarly publications authored by both current students and alumni. While the school has also stated that the significant cost of publishing makes it all but impossible to provide open access to all journals and articles, Oxford Open’s database is comprised of archived content from more than 300 publications.

The majority of these journals are fully open access, and the site also provides an array of optional open access entries (articles with publication costs paid by the author) that users may also access free-of-charge. Journals that charge a fee will typically grant free access to journal abstracts, allowing students to make informed purchases. Oxford Open’s aggregation system is somewhat basic, but also user-friendly. All journals are listed alphabetically (regardless of their access status), and students may use seven filters (economics, humanities, law, life sciences, mathematical and physical sciences, medicine, and social sciences) to yield more subject-specific results.

3. Wiley Open Access: Articles that appear in the 30 journals hosted by Wiley Open Access database go through a stringent peer review and editorial process, ensuring the quality and longevity of the content.

These journals are concentrated in biology, chemistry, physics, health, and medicine. While the content of these publications is completely free for readers, authors who wish to publish their own work in these journals and provide open access to the public must pay a nominal fee (roughly $3,000) that is used to cover the costs of publication.

The site’s aggregator allows users to search for topics across all 30 publications, limit their findings to one specific journal, or browse results from other publications in the Wiley network. Wiley Online Library consists of more than 4 million journal articles and books that cover every conceivable academic topic; while the library is not exclusively open-access, much of the work found in the database is free to read.

4. OMICS Group: More than 300 open-access scientific journals are housed in this database, with a readership of roughly 3 million users. Much like Wiley Open Access, the entries made available by OMICS Group must undergo a rigorous peer-review process prior to their publication. Another similarity is the funding model, which relies on payment from authors who wish to publish their work and make it openly accessible to readers. However, the OMICS group structures its prices to accommodate writers across the globe; contributors from “low income countries” pay $900-$1,800 per article; individuals from “middle income countries” pay $1,300-$2,600 per submission; and authors from “high income countries” pay $1,800-$3,600.

Site visitors can browse journals alphabetically, or narrow their search using nine subject filters. While the majority of these journals focus on life and medical sciences, dozens of others are concentrated in fields like pharmacology, environmental science, management, and engineering. Additionally, the organization sponsors more than 100 international conferences on an annual basis; these gatherings allow students to meet leaders in the scientific and academic communities, as well as faculty members and fellow students.

5. AGRIS: While this site might not be useful for every student, it is an invaluable resource for those majoring in fields like resource management, public health, economics, forestry, and crop management. AGRIS is administered by the Food and Agriculture Organization, a branch of the United Nations committed to fighting world hunger. The site contains millions of published articles, as well as an extensive collection of ‘grey’ (or unpublished) literature from more than 100 different countries.

In response to widespread criticism of the site’s aggregating capabilities, AGRIS today allows users to perform highly customized searches. Basic keyword searches may be filtered by submission date or relevance, while advanced options sort findings by the country of origin, language, author, journal, and more than a dozen other qualifiers. Additionally, authors who register with the site can submit their own work using the AGRIMetaMaker tool.

Open Access Journals by Subject

The following list includes some of the most renowned, open-access journals for five specific academic fields: business, computer science, education, engineering, and psychology. However, their value is certainly not limited to students earning those specific degrees; each site features an archive of cross-disciplinary articles, research reports, literature reviews, and case studies ― all of which are free-of-charge for readers.


Accounting and Finance Research (AFR): This peer-reviewed journal (administered by Sciedu Press) features theoretical articles that cover various topics relating to the fields of accounting and corporate finance. The most recent issue (Fall 2013) addressed the efficacy of charitable donations and analyzed the role of foreign banks in the Chinese economy. Authors who contribute to AFR must pay a $300 processing fee.

American Journal of Economics and Business Administration: This quarterly journal has been part of the Science Publications (SCIPUB) canon since 2009. Articles from the most recent issue include ‘Retail Bankruptcy Prediction,’ ‘Achieving Business Sustainability Via I-Top Model,’ and ‘Single-Digit Inflation Targeting and Economic Growth.’ Contributing authors who are not registered with SCIPUB (the organization that oversees this journal, along with more than two dozen other publications) must pay $75 per page for the first eight pages of their submission, while SCIPUB members pay $40 per page for the same amount; after the eight-page benchmark has been reached, all authors must pay $100 for each subsequent page.

International Journal of Marketing Studies: Sponsored by the Canadian Center of Science and Education, this journal features hundreds of archived articles published between 2009 and 2012; IJSM initially appeared bi-annually, but is today published on a bi-monthly basis. The journal’s central focus is marketing management and strategy, but each volume contains a wide array of specialized analyses; the most recent issue explored sustainable business practices of Turkey, compared U.S. advertising students to their Korean counterparts, and examined the quality of air cargo services in the United Arab Emirates. Contributing authors must pay a fee of $300 for each article submission.

Journal of Entrepreneurship & Organization Management: This journal is still in its infancy; the inaugural issue first appeared in December 2012, and the site currently hosts five articles. However, the site features five additional “articles in press”; furthermore, nine forthcoming special issues will tackle topics like ‘Social Entrepreneurship,’ ‘Corporate Governance and Business Ethics,’ and ‘Multinational Business Policy.’ Contributing authors who wish to submit to either the standard publication or a special issue must pay a $700 for each draft.

Modern Economy (ME): Debuting as a quarterly journal in 2010, ME is currently published monthly; in addition, two special issues that tackled the recession and marketing management, respectively, appeared earlier this year. The journal covers a wide range of topics related to international economics, from agent-based models and exchange rates to sustainable development and trade patterns. Authors who wish to submit their work must pay $600 for the first 10 pages of their draft, with an additional $50 charge for each subsequent page.

Computer Science

Computational Intelligence in Neuroscience: This “forum for the interdisciplinary field of neural computing, neural engineering and artificial intelligence” features work from scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and other technology experts around the world. The journal’s archive features nearly 200 individual articles dating back to 2007. Unlike most peer-reviewed journals, the CIN does not charge authors any fees to publish their work.

Computer Science and Information Systems (ComSIS): This journal (with an archive dating back to 2004) features both theoretical analyses of computational foundations and articles that explore the economic and educational aspects of the modern tech industry. The most recent issue (June 2013) features a handful of papers covering various topics, as well as two special sections devoted to intelligent information processing and IT in medicine and rehabilitation. There is no limit to the number of articles one author may contribute, but submissions may not exceed 20 pages.

International Journal of Information Security Science (IJISS): “Security science, engineering, and technology” is the central focus of this journal that has been published quarterly since March 2012. The current archive features six issues; recent entries have discussed security concerns linked to cryptographic schemes, standards of information security risks, and ways to optimize intrusion detection systems. Each submission is reviewed by at least two editors, and the revision process may last up to two months.

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research: Considered one of the first exclusively electronic journals, JAIR first appeared in 1993. The site’s archive contains hundreds of articles (housed in 47 volumes) that explore various trends, theories, and innovations related to the global AI industry. Each submission must undergo a blind peer-review process that may last up to three months; however, contributing authors are not required to pay a fee.

Journal of Information Security (JIS): Published since 2010, the JIS examines the development, evaluation, and implementation of various online security models used to protect sensitive information and data. The most recent issue discussed security concerns related to mobile devices and identity authentication tools, as well as ‘2D Conjugate Maps of DNA Sequences.’ Authors must pay $500 for the first 10 pages of each draft, and $50 for each additional page. Discounts of 50% or 100% will be applied to contributors from certain ‘developing’ nations.


American Educator: One of the most extensive journals currently available to web users, American Educator’s archive contains more than 70 quarterly publications dating back to 1977. While the journal has historically covered a diverse range of topics, most articles are devoted to three central themes: technology and innovation in the classroom, evaluative methods used by educators, and student outcome trends and strategies. Contributing authors pay a fee that reflects the length of their submission; the minimum cost is $300 per draft.

Current Issues in Education: Three types of articles are published in this journal: research studies, literature reviews, and outcome-oriented analyses. The bulk of archived articles take an ethnographic approach by exploring the relationship between educational trends, strategies, policies and gender, race, and socioeconomic factors. Submissions are limited to 40 pages, and the blind peer-review process may last up to 10 months. But authors are not required to pay any sort of processing fee for their work to appear in the journal.

Early Childhood Research & Practice (ECRP): First established in 1999, the ECRP is today considered one of the Internet’s leading multilingual, education-based journals. Articles explore various strategies for teaching elementary school learners, as well as studies related to students belonging to specific demographics (such as special needs learners or low-income families). Authors may submit drafts in either English or Spanish; the journal’s blind peer-review process of a given article may take up to one year.

International Journal of Special Education (IJSE): Published exclusively online since 2002, the IJSE publishes three issues per calendar year. Articles cover both experimental and theoretical approaches to special education found across the globe, as well as trends associated with various demographics; the most recent issue explored ADHD statistics among Native American students, analyzed concerns faced by Korean-American families with deaf children, and evaluated the efficacy of sex education in Saudi Arabia. The site does not charge a processing fee for contributors, but authors are asked to submit anonymous manuscripts.

Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education (JLDHE): Administered by the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE), this journal seeks to examine the relationship between college curricula and student outcomes. One volume per year has been published since 2009; in addition, special issues have focused on writing skills in STEM-related courses and the practice of learning development planning. Authors are invited to submit four types of articles: research papers, case studies, editorial pieces, and literature reviews. There is currently no processing fee for contributing writers.


Advances in Chemical Engineering and Science (ACES): This journal features articles that address molecular assembly, nanotechnology, and other concerns related to the development, production, and evaluation of various chemicals. The archive contains quarterly volumes dating back to 2011, as well as special issues devoted to supramolecular chemistry, advances in environmental chemistry, and carbon chemicals. Contributors are required to pay a $600 fee for the first 10 pages of their submission, and $50 for each additional page; contributors who live outside the developed world may receive a discount of 50% or 100% on their submission fee.

Circuits and Systems: Established in 2010, this journal focuses on two of the most fundamental aspects of modern technology as they relate to computer-aided design (CAD), nanoelectronics, telemedicine, and other disciplines; short reports and literature reviews are also published. Authors who wish to submit articles to the site must pay $600 for the first 10 pages of their draft, and $50 for each additional page; a discount of 50% or 100% will be awarded to contributors from most ‘developing’ countries.

Journal of Bioengineering & Biomedical Science: This journal specializes in reports and reviews that discuss disease pathology, medical treatments, and health management. The archive contains quarterly issues dating back to 2011, as well as special volumes that focus on topics like regenerative medicine and emerging technologies in the fields of bioengineering and rehabilitative therapy. Authors who wish to submit a report or review must pay a fee of $1,500.

The Open Electrical & Electronic Engineering Journal: The articles, reviews, and editorials published in this journal cover a wide swath of topics associated with electrical and electronic engineering. Recent issues have explored x-ray detection, cooperative communication systems, network coupling, and duty cycle division multiplexing; in addition, a special issue released in 2013 was devoted to trends in signal processing and electronics engineering. Authors are invited to submit letters, research articles, and product or literature reviews; the processing fee varies from $450 to $900 per draft (depending on the type of work submitted). Several e-books are also available for purchase on the site.

The Open Journal of Mechanical Engineering: Published since 2007, this journal explores various problems related to mechanical engineering, such as industrial carbon emission output, longitudinal residual stress during friction stir welding, and stress and fatigue of vehicular engine components. Contributing authors are required to pay a processing fee of $450-900; the price will depend on the type of work submitted (letter, research study, or review).


BMC Psychology: This all-encompassing journal publishes articles related to “developmental, clinical, cognitive, experimental, social, evolutionary and educational psychology, as well as personality and individual differences.” The archive features pieces that address topics like sex discrimination due to visual cues, culture-specific cognitive therapy techniques, and the short- and long-term effects of depressive symptoms. Contributing authors are required to pay a $2,000 processing fee; however, this cost is waived for citizens of many developing countries, as well as writers whose institution is registered with BioMed Central (the organization that oversees the site).

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health (CAPMH): The archive of this journal dates back to 2007, and contains more than 200 research reports, case reports, editorials, and letters. CAPMH is geared toward psychologists, pediatricians, neuroscientists, and other individuals in the field. Many articles focus on niche groups of children and adolescents; recently published pieces examined the role of psychiatry within youth welfare organizations, explored treatments for young people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome, and noted the ‘prevalence’ of ADD and ADHD among children in Turkey. Authors who wish to contribute to this journal must pay a fee of $1,730 per article.

Evolutionary Psychology: Dating back more than a decade, this extensive journal specializes in articles and case studies that either bolster previous findings related to evolutionary psychology or seek to inform the public about emerging technologies. Many entries explore contemporary trends, such as drinking games and blind dates, as they relate to society and human behavior. Authors who submit their work are not required to pay a processing fee, but all contributors must provide a statement of ‘ethical treatment’ for all participants in their respective study or report.

Journal of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence: Addiction treatment and management is one of today’s fastest growing psychology sub-fields. This journal (which debuted in January 2013) primarily explores various theories and strategies related to alcohol and drug dependence; recently covered topics include GHB addiction, ethanol consumption, and marijuana poisoning. Authors are invited to submit research studies, reports, literature reviews, and other articles for a processing fee of $900.

Mental Illness: This peer-reviewed journal publishes editorials, feature-length articles, and case reports that relate to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of mental illnesses. Topics covered in the inaugural 2013 volume include the link between schizophrenia and violent behavior in children, mental health of male Internet users actively seeking sexual partners, and the effects of severe depression. Archived content contains six full issues, and dates back to 2009; authors are invited to submit work to the site free-of-charge.

Subscription-Based Journals

The following two journal sites require a paid subscription to access the entries stored in their online databases. While neither of these will be a particularly suitable option for online students and other individuals on a budget, it should be noted that they each contain a vast library of valuable resources ― and for many of the articles, detailed abstracts (which may be used in citations) are available free-of-charge.

1. JSTOR: Short for Journal Storage, JSTOR has grown to become one of the most renowned subscription-based journal databases. The database gives users the ability to conduct full-text searches of more than 2,000 journals, and the site is currently used by roughly 8,000 institutions in 160 different countries. Full access to JSTOR’s online library requires a paid subscription or onetime payment (most individual articles cost between $10 and $50), but in the last two years, the site has made all public domain articles available at no charge to web users. Although only 6% of JSTOR’s content is classified as ‘public domain’, this still constitutes hundreds of thousands of entries from more than 200 journals worldwide.

For such an extensive database, JSTOR’s search functionality is fairly straightforward. Basic searches yield results based on keywords, while advanced options allow users to filter entries by date, language, publisher, International Standard Book Number (ISBN), format (article, book, pamphlet, or review), and more than 60 academic subjects. In addition, MyJSTOR archives past searches and allows users to save and share citations.

2. Project MUSE: This site contains roughly 550 academic journals and 20,000 electronic books that have been published across the globe. Project MUSE provides subscription access to libraries, which in turn allow card-carrying patrons to access the site’s materials free-of-charge (provided they use computers within the library’s network to do so). In addition, the site’s collection of open-access journals is continuing to grow.

Like JSTOR, search options on the Project MUSE site are somewhat minimalistic but nonetheless effective. Journals and books are both listed alphabetically on individual pages, but keyword searches that filter results based on title, author, or publisher cover the entire site. For users who are not accessing Project MUSE free-of-charge at their local library, another search option allows them to exclusively filter open-access journals and articles.

In the digital age, students have plenty of options when it comes to browsing academic publications. Brick-and-mortar students who are granted free access to sites like JSTOR and Project MUSE are arguably the most privileged, but the advent of open-access databases ensures that all students are able to use journals and articles to assist their studies.