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Top 5 Online Libraries to Use When Searching for Sources

Jun 22, 2013 - Posted to  Writing in General
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. Each successive generation is supposed to benefit from the miracles of modern science. Such has been the case in the past, but whether that trend will continue is unclear. The problem is not the technology, which is progressing at a rapid pace, but rather the ever-rising costs of education.
At every level of schooling, from primary to postsecondary, it is more expensive than ever to teach anybody anything. College costs in particular have been increasing at an unsustainable rate. It is now nearly impossible for a student to work his/her way through school with a part-time job, as it was only a generation ago. But we can't blame technology for that!
The recent rise in college costs can be attributed almost entirely to tuition hikes. Other costs like housing, transportation, meals, and supplies haven't moved all that much in recent years. In fact, some of these costs have actually declined with the help of new technologies. Using books, for example, is cheaper and easier than ever with the help of online libraries.

What are they?

Instead of purchasing expensive textbooks from the university bookstore, you may now be able to locate required reading materials on the internet. This information may then be downloaded and printed out for free. These websites are virtual treasure troves of knowledge that can be accessed at any time. You don't have to worry about library hours, fines, or fees. Simply go online and research a wide range of topics, often for free. In this article we will discuss the five best virtual libraries for cash-strapped students.

1. The Free Library

Created in 2003, the Free Library is an invaluable resource tool for students of all ages. Full-text versions of literary classics, famous quotations, images, and biographies can be accessed for free. The site recently added an enormous collection of periodicals dating from 1984, making it a full-service research site. Whether your subject of interest or study is Communications, Law, the Humanities, or Medicines, odds are you can find the information you need on Unlike Wikipedia and other free information sites, most of the text that can be found on the Free Library is from the original, primary- source documents, which can be located with a simple keyword search.

2. Highwire Press

A division of the Stanford University Libraries, Highwire Press is purportedly the largest article resource in the world. The website offers users access to more than 6 million full-text articles from over 1000 respected journals and publications. About one-third of those articles, or two million of them, can be read and printed out for free. Most of these articles are health-related, making Hirewire Press an invaluable resource for students, writers, and researchers in the veterinary and medical fields.


A generation or so ago, any family who had the means and the space purchased a set of encyclopedias for their home library. Now they are relics of the past. The internet made owning encyclopedias unnecessary by storing huge amounts of information on easily accessible websites. In addition to articles from reputable encyclopedias like the Oxford's World Encyclopedia and the Columbia Encyclopedia, also features entries from numerous dictionaries and thesauruses. Students and researchers can easily locate facts, images, and articles on an expansive range of subjects. The site also provides recent and archived information from over 60 million web articles and 3000 published works. All of this data can be accessed for free at

4. Open Library

As easy and expeditious as adding information to the internet may be, there are limits...right? Open Library was founded with the stated goal of creating an original webpage for every book that has ever been published. Sounds crazy, right? That would be like counting all of the starts in the sky, right? Well, not exactly. According to a recent estimate, about 130 million books have been published in human history. While not an unimpressive number, it is now possible to archive each and every one of these works digitally, on the internet.
At last count, Open Library had gathered over 20 million records from various catalogues and individual contributions. With the help of their small but industrious staff, they may one day achieve their lofty goal. But they won't get their on their own. Because it is an open project, users are free to access and contribute material. From fixing a typo to adding a new book, Open Library welcomes and appreciates your contribution.

5. Questia

As every college student knows, academic articles and books are not only hard to find, they are also extremely expensive; and the more narrow or precise the field, the more expensive this information invariably is. Founded in 1998, Questia is the leading research paper writing resource on the internet. Their enormous virtual library contains journal articles and books on a wide range of subjects, including history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, political science, world literature, and philosophy. In other worlds, the website focuses on the social sciences and the humanities. So, if you are a medical or legal student, Questia probably isn't for you.
Unlike most of the other websites we have reviewed today, Questia is not free. They do charge a small monthly service fee. But for that negligible sum, students get access to over 75,000 online books and more than 9 million citable journal, magazine, and newspaper articles. With access to all that information, the average writer, researcher, or scholar can save untold hours and money on research. Not to mention the fact that your work should improve with unfettered access to an enormous digital library.
Last but not least, Questia features innovative organizational and paper-writing tools that help students keep track of and even automatically generate citations. This includes footnotes, bibliographies, and works cited pages. All of these added features and research tools are available at no additional charge to registered users.
By Martha Buckly. Martha is a good writer with relevant experience. She shares her knowledge in any way possible: shows her completed works and provides useful advice to students.
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