Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Life Sciences - Personality development

Open source resources for ISSBD early career scholars

It is well known that scholars from developing countries often face financial restrictions in carrying out their research. Access to literature and software (such as SPSS or Microsoft Office) is often lacking. In addition, some scholars may lack experience in publishing in international journals and would like some assistance in writing a paper.

The following collection of links is intended to list some free, open-source resources that you could use to meet these needs. Even though these resources are free of charge, that does not mean that they are necessarily inferior in quality. As a matter of fact, many scholars from richer countries (including myself) are using them as first-choice options because of their superior quality.

As Internet links can become outdated and new and better resources may be developed that are not (yet) on this list, please feel free to contact me ( if you want to suggest any changes.

I. Accessing literature

a) Contact the authors of the publication if you cannot access it through your university library

Authors are almost always willing to send you their work. Just write a short request asking for the studies in question. For example, you can use this template:
Dear Dr. [name of author],
I am a scholar from [your country] and found out that you have written a number of papers on a topic that I am currently investigating. Unfortunately, my university library does not have access to the journals in which these papers were published. Would you be so kind to send me an electronic version instead? Many thanks in advance!
[your name]

[list the papers you want to read here:]

b) Use to search for studies

Google Scholar can be used free of charge and is very powerful. Many scientists use this search engine instead of expensive alternatives like PsycINFO. If a link exists to a free PDF of the article in question, Google Scholar will show you a link to access it.

c) If options A and B fail, post a request on the ISSBD online community

Some members may have access to the article on their university’s website and could communicate its contents via our messaging board.

II. Analyzing the data


This page includes a list of freeware statistical programs. The list may be a bit overwhelming, but it is updated frequently and I think the author sorts the links according to their usability (e.g., OpenStat is listed as #1, which also seems the best alternative to SPSS up to now). My suggestion for an easy SPSS alternative would be to use either OpenStat or PSPP.


The “r language” offers a very powerful tool for statistical analysis. It’s also free! Many researchers use R because they value its flexibility, even when they have a paid version of SPSS or SAS at their disposal. You can download R on any computer and start working. If you have no programming skills, working with R can be overwhelming at times. If you start with using the graphical user interface “R-Commander”, your first steps may be easier. There are also good online resources to learn R, such as: Finally, Jeroen Ooms (of UCLA) has implemented some R procedures using javascript web applications, that you can use with an Internet browser:


If you have questions or want tips regarding a statistical problem, you can consider posting a question of the site mentioned above. On this site, people volunteer to answer your questions, free of charge!

III. Writing up your paper


The online writing lab of Purdue university offers good resources on how to write an APA paper. Of you want a quick list of APA rules, visit a web site like:
Here, the most important formatting rules are listed, so you don’t have to buy the publication manual.


Zotero is a browser plugin that can be used to archive literature. You can thus create a database of the articles you have read and/or need for writing a paper. When you write your article, you can insert the references into your manuscript and automatically create a reference list. Even better: You can tell the program to format the results in APA-style.


OpenOffice is free of charge and as good as (if not better than) Microsoft Word. OpenOffice cooperates well with zotero via a special plugin that is easy to install.


If you cooperate with other scientists around the world, you can also create and share documents with Google docs. This way, you and your collaborators can work on a text at the same time without having the send email attachments back and forth.