Open Access (OA) refers to works that are freely available without embargo (a waiting period) licensed with re-use rights, such as sharing, revising, and transforming. Most OA works are licensed under Creative Commons licenses.
For information seekers such as students and researchers, OA means unrestricted access to the research you need, without the use of a library proxy server or paying money to a publisher.
Many publishers will allow institutions to archive their faculty's and staff's works, making them open access. Swarthmore College is a part of the Digital Commons Network, a network of institutional repositories. Our repository is called Works.
Free access to research does not necessarily mean the research is of lesser quality, and not all journals (open access or not) are as scholarly have high standards for published research. Try the following sources to learn strategies and techniques for evaluating the open access material you find.
Selecting Publication Venues: Evaluating OA Journals
Guide by University of Illinois at Chicago librarians
Scholarly Communication: Evaluating Journals
Guide by Ryerson University Library and Archives librarians
Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD Comics). "Open Access Explained!" Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 25 October 2012. Web. April 20, 2016.