Accessing Academic Research as a Consultant by Matthew Von Hendy

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. 

Rad Resources

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. 

Hot Tips

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.


Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

3 thoughts on “Accessing Academic Research as a Consultant by Matthew Von Hendy”

  1. Don’t forget to check your public library – San Francisco Public Library has access to many academic journal sources (https://sfpl.org/articles-databases), and you can get a card there if you can get there in person. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that many other major city public libraries do as well. I have found a lot at SFPL!

    1. Matthew Von Hendy

      Thanks much for the comment. The blog piece was edited for length and did mention the public library as a potential source for databases. Major cities like San Francisco are blessed with great public library systems. In many places where evaluators live/work , the public systems don’t offer access to any research databases.

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