My name is Matthew Von Hendy, and I am the founder and principal of Green Heron Information Services, which I founded in 2012. My professional background is as a research librarian and I have actively worked with AEA Independent Consulting TIG members for the past 7 years.
One of the major challenges for evaluators starting an independent consulting practice is the loss of access to academic research databases and full text journal articles. This blog post discusses some open access resources and tips which can help ease this transition.
Most evaluators are familiar with Google Scholar for finding full text and topical searching. If you are using Google Scholar, be sure to use the ‘Advanced Search’ features, which can be found by clicking on the three-line bar in the upper left-hand corner.
Recently, serious money has gone into both Semantic Scholar and Lens.org to build up their search capabilities. Both resources provide search results and full-text access equal to or better than Google Scholar. They offer more searching and output options as well.
- PubMed is an excellent resource and, while biomedically focused, it covers a surprising range of topics.
- ERIC is a key education research database, but the public interface is not super easy to use.
- TRID is an excellent, but under-utilized, tool that covers a range of community and transportation issues, including some that touch on social equity.
Many public and state library systems also offer access to some general research databases, such as Academic Search Premier or something equivalent.
Some major academic publishers offer seriously discounted rates to individual researchers. One example is the American Psychological Association (APA), which offers 24-hour access to PsycInfo and a few other resources for a small fee.
They don’t advertise this fact, but many colleges and universities offer in person/on site access to their research databases as well. There are usually limitations so it’s best to get in touch with the reference department beforehand to check.
Just a few thoughts about open access resources. They won’t really replace a major university library collection, but you can do a decent literature search using open access resources. Remember that quality open access resources are free to use but do cost money in terms of producing and disseminating—support these efforts where and when you can.
Lastly, when it comes to open access resources, your time is valuable. I once had an evaluator boast to me about spending 30 hours, eventually finding a ‘free’ copy of an article that cost $35 on a publisher’s website. While it resulted in a feeling of accomplishment, this time spent was certainly more than the cost to purchase the article.
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