Doing research can be tedious, or it could be a fun exercise when the resources are easier to find, and that’s largely what Core tries to do at no cost.
Using a search engine, like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, or whatever else you prefer, is easy enough, but that’s not what Core is. It’s a not-for-profit that aggregates all open access research papers and offers them for free in a searchable database. You don’t necessarily have to be in an academic field to appreciate the pure depth of content available here. Whether you’re a student, journalist, academic, or working on a project in need of some information, this site is packing a lot of it.
Core says it has over 208 million research papers available. They span the globe, with a big share coming from the United States and United Kingdom. Canada is also pretty well represented with a number of institutions and researchers offering their work as well.
If you’re looking for different languages, there are dozens to choose from — all dependent on if a paper was published in that tongue or not. Search results typically stick within the 2001-2020 period, but not all of them were published within those years. For instance, if older research papers were digitized, they may show up here as well.
To do this, Core lays out papers in ways that are easy to search, though may not be the same. As an example, when you search for something on the site, you will see all relevant results below. To the left, there is a sub-menu separating journals and repositories.
What that means is the journals may provide open access to a paper or article, but may also come with a fee if you want to read it in full. Repositories are collections of documents that may have a large batch of documents unto themselves.
Core actually breaks this down, noting that it provides access to 75 million “free to read full text research papers.” That also includes free versions of papers that are otherwise behind a paywall. Up to 26 million of the total are hosted by the site itself, since it openly accepts documents from any provider willing to do so. It even offers tools for stats and metrics showing “maximum visibility to all research outposts.”
The idea is to ensure compliance with Open Access policies, meaning peer-reviewed papers and articles can be published openly to all recipients, including in a repository with others, if they so choose.
That’s just summing up the rules for providers, but as a site visitor, you don’t have to dig that deep. If you’re just looking for interesting research on any particular topic you have in mind, there’s a good chance you will find something on it in Core’s database.
It’s hard for me to quantify, or even qualify, exactly what you may find. This is very much unlike a typical Google search, where you might just need to know a basic point. Peer-reviewed and analytical research is deep by definition, so I can see how helpful it may be if you’re in a particular industry.
For me, when I searched for things like, “Facebook data privacy” or “autonomous vehicles”, a litany of material appeared. Even with others like, “mRNA vaccines” or “artificial intelligence health care”, the results were intriguing. The sheer breadth of research for any topic I threw at the search bar was truly impressive.
When I localized by typing in, “Canada telecom”, I found results weren’t as extensive. It can be hit or miss that way, unless you hone in on broader terminology or try different wording. As smart as the site’s crawler is in scraping the most relevant results, the magic isn’t the same as a standard search engine.
Use the slider on the side to specifically target a year, or bulk of years, to break it down further. And if you’re not open to other languages, you can select your choice in the sidebar as well.
When you find something you like, you can click on the link, but to see the full paper, you will probably have to download the PDF. That’s neat and convenient for the simple fact PDFs are pretty much readable everywhere. Computers, smartphones, tablets and even eReaders can open them. That gives you the chance to look at a paper on multiple platforms, especially if you save it to the cloud.
And since there’s so much Open Access content here, sharing it isn’t a problem. The files are often small enough to email or text, opening up collaborative opportunities. For students, that’s huge, especially when it’s a partner or group project. And the best part is you can copy and paste the URL for your search results to others, too.
The brief synopsis may not be enough to get a good sense of how valuable the information may be. To keep you on the right track, you can easily seek similar articles to see what else you can find. That’s the funny thing about Core; it seems barebones in its style, yet packed full of ways to dive into a topic.
That lack of style may make it hard to get into what Core is doing here, but it’s hard to find a resource quite as plentiful as this one is. If you were looking to beef up your knowledge on something — and without all the noise — this is a site worth a look.