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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 492C: Historiography and Methodology

A course guide. Describes library resources for conducting historical research.

1. Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life

The two main article databases for history are Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life.  One or the other of these databases is usually the best starting place to search for scholarly articles in English on topics in history.  America: History and Life covers articles, book reviews, and dissertations on all periods of North American history published since 1964, and in some cases it provides links to the full text of the articles online.  Historical Abstracts covers articles, book reviews, and dissertations published since 1954 on all aspects of world history, excluding North America, from 1450 to the present.  To search these databases, start at the Library Gateway, choose Online Research Resources, and type "America History and Life" or "Historical Abstracts" in the search box or use the Quick Links on the History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library web site.

If you select "Easy Searching" from the Library's top page (Gateway), there is an option to search for materials on historical topics.  This feature allows you to search across several databases, including America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts

Searching these databases directly, rather than through "Easy Search", offers you more search options.  Use the Subject Browser in these databases to select your subject term(s) by clicking on the open book icon to the right of the search box.  You can narrow your search by adding a keyword or using more than one subject term.  For example, in Historical Abstracts select "Cold War" as a subject term using the Subject Browser, then browse through the results, or try narrowing your search with a keyword (e.g., "music"). Your search results display as short records, which you can expand by clicking on "Expand Record" at the bottom of the record on the right.  The full entry shows you an abstract or summary of the article.  Click on the blue Discover icon to find out if the full text of the article is available online.  If it is not, you will need to search the title of the journal in the UIUC online catalog to learn where the print copy of the journal is located in the Library.

2. Multidisciplinary Article Databases

For medievalists, a good starting place is the International Medieval Bibliography, which indexes and abstracts articles published since 1968 on the history of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa from 400 to 1500).  Like America: History & Life and Historical Abstracts, IMB is available from the Library Gateway Online Research Resources.

In addition to these three key databases, there are several multidisciplinary online article databases that provide indexing of articles on historical topics:

3. Other Discipline-Specific Databases

4. Area Studies and Specialized Databases

5. Collections of Online Journals

There are several major collections of full-text electronic journals.  In these databases you can browse individual issues of journals, or you can do a search across the entire database. 

For older journals, use JSTOR ("journal storage").  This is a digitized, fully searchable version of the full content of more than 700 scholarly journals from their inception (sometimes as early as the 18th century) up to the last 1-5 years (recent issues are excluded).  To get to JSTOR, go to the "Quick Links" on the History and Philosophy Library web site, or go to Online Research Resources and type JSTOR in the search box.  Several key historical journals are included in JSTOR, such as

  • American Historical Review
  • French Historical Studies
  • Journal of Interdisciplinary History
  • English Historical Review
  • Journal of African History
  • Journal of Modern History
  • Past and Present           
  • Hispanic American Historical Review


Articles in these and other historical journals in JSTOR are linked directly from the citations found in Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life.  In addition, you can search JSTOR directly.  Because it is a collection of digitized texts rather than a periodical index, it does not use subject headings.  You can only search by keyword (i.e., the words used in the articles published in these journals), so it is prudent to try several synonyms for any given topic.  Note that only about 10% of the articles in JSTOR have abstracts, so limiting your search term to the abstracts might cause you to miss relevant material.  When a Boolean keyword search produces a large set of results, try using the proximity ("near") operator to limit the results to a combination of terms occurring within 10 or 25 words of one another.


For the full text of more than 300 recent scholarly journals, use Project Muse.  These too are fully searchable.  In most cases, only the issues from the last few years are available.  Here you will find, for example,

  • Journal of the History of Sexuality
  • Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
  • Journal of Interdisciplinary History            
  • Journal of Social History
  • Journal of Women's History
  • Radical History Review
  • Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
  • Journal of Cold War Studies


To get to Project Muse, go to the "Quick Links" on the History and Philosophy Library web site, or go to the Online Research Resources page on the Library web site and type Project Muse in the search box.