If you are on a college or university campus, you are able to access all the journals that your institution may have subscribed to. This has the advantage that for most of the material on your reading list, it is a matter of just getting the citation details and fire up your browser, go to your library online portal, search it, and voila you are in business!
But what do you do when you find yourself either off-campus or at an institution which did not subscribe to the journal you want?
In such cases, your best option would be to use a VPN and log into your institution’s library using the login details supplied by your institution’s I.T. department.
Or, give up?
You may be tempted to settle for just simple web searches, or bet on your stars and find alternate sources using Google Scholar.
However, it appears there is a growing movement towards creation of open access journals. These are high-quality journals that also publish peer-reviewed articles on a number of subjects.
The advantage with them is that for a researcher, there is no need to be subscribed to get them.
The idea was pioneered by Wikipedia, which is an open access encyclopaedia where anyone can access the information on any subject.
So MDPI, a Swiss-based academic publisher, produces over 200 open access journals on any field ranging from natural to social sciences. Authors are the ones who contribute to the publications, so as a scholar (be it a student or a researcher) you simply pick your area of interest, subscribe to any journal you like and access its articles.
The advantage with this approach is that information is freely available to anyone at no cost. So for students and professional researchers alike, there is no barrier created by a paywall approach.
The setback of course is the familiar one: Unreliability. In fact, Wikipedia is still considered as an unreliable source of information by some publishers and academics, as anyone can simply edit it. this is unlike traditional publishing platforms where an article goes through a rigorous vetting process before its release.
So expect to find attacks of open access journals by conventional publishers and researchers on related grounds. As long as there are journals that stick to convention and those that adopt new ways of production, such rivalry is bound to happen.
However, for any student, it is advisable that sometimes you have to pay attention to the research question you will be addressing. Even though taking part in these discussions is illuminating and offers new perspectives on what quality research ought to be, you have to take advantage of open access publishing to submit articles on any topic that interests you.
In conclusion, consider expansion of your research horizons by generally reading beyond your reading lists. Reading lists are only a starting point to your research, but they do not define the extent of your boundaries. Open Access research and publishing offer you as a researcher with new sources of information and opportunities to create knowledge by also publishing in them.