Searching for academic papers, peer reviewed journals and the latest scholarships are just some of the major occupations of every undergrad, graduate student, online degree business student, post doctoral fellows, academics, and any other person working on anything related to the world of academia. Every day, thousands of new research papers, journals and academic texts are written, published and archived somewhere on the internet. People who work at the cutting edge of their academic subjects have a dire need for these documents. It is here that multidisciplinary and selective academic search engines and databases become very useful.
There are two types of accesses available: free and subscription-based. Free resources usually do not have as much material as paid ones. Most paid ones offer access to abstracts for free, and usually have a free collection that gives you an idea of what is in the database.
Some of the top multidisciplinary databases are JSTOR and EBSCO. Both are subscription based; however, if you are attached to an academic institution, chances are they will provide free access to these channels.
Many universities offer good databases for free. The Arxiv database from Cornell University provides material on subjects ranging from physics and mathematics to biology and statistics. Harvard University has a free database for astrophysics and geophysics, called the Astrophysics Data System. Penn State University has a free database called ChemXSeer for chemistry related papers. Penn State also has databases for computer sciences, called citeseerx. The Lund University has the database of databases, called the directory of open access journals. The University of Michigan has a free multidisciplinary database called the OAIster. Stanford has a specialized free database for high energy physics known as the SPIRES-HEP.
Other well known names include Ingenta, Thomson Reuters, H.H. Wilson and company, Wiley publishers, Proquest, Springer-verlag and Elsevier which offer databases for literature, science, law, medicine and a host of other academic subjects.