The main article database for American history is America: History & Life. This is usually the best starting place to search for scholarly articles in English on topics in American 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. To search this databases, link from here, or start at the Library Gateway, choose Online Research Resources, and type “America History and Life” in the search box, or you can use the Quick Link on the History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library web site.
If you select “Easy Search” from the Library Gateway, there is an option to search for materials on historical topics. This feature searches across several databases, including America: History and Life.
Searching America: History and Life directly, rather than through Search Assistant, 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, select “travel” as a subject term using the Subject Browser, then narrow your search with a keyword. 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. If a particular article is linked to full text, the link is highlighted.
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 excluded per agreement with each publisher). To get to JSTOR, link here or go to the Quick Links on the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library web site. Several major historical journals are included in JSTOR, such as Journal of American History, Western Historical Quarterly, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, American Indian Quarterly, Journal of Modern History, Oral History Review, Past and Present, and Hispanic American Historical Review.
Because JSTOR is a collection of digitized texts rather than an abstracting/indexing service (and does not employ subject descriptors), careful selection of search terms and fields is essential. In the absence of subject headings, subject searches are built on keywords, so it is prudent to try several different approaches 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 occuring within 10 or 25 words of one another.
For the full text of over 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 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, Victorian Studies, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, Journal of Cold War Studies, and several other titles of interest. To get to Project Muse, link here or go to the "Quick Links" on the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library web site.
An important collection of 1,100 periodicals, published between 1741 and 1900, entitled American Periodical Series, is available as American Periodical Series Online. The collection includes some newspapers as well as other periodical publications. The articles in all 1,100 periodicals in the database are fully searchable by keyword, but there is no subject indexing, so you have to be careful to construct your searches using the language of the original articles (e.g., terms in use in the 19th and early 20th centuries, rather than contemporary terms and concepts). To get to American Periodical Series Online, link here or go to “Quick Links” on the History and Philosophy Library web site or type the title in the search box on the Online Research Resources page.
The full text of Harper’s Weekly is available online starting with the issues for 1857 (and continuing through 1912). Go to the Library’s Online Research Resources page and type “Harper’s Weekly” or “HarpWeek” in the search box. A few other nineteenth-century periodicals are available online through the Making of America web site.