What are article indexes?
Article indexes are a type of bibliography. The purpose of bibliography is to list documents, usually published documents like books and articles. This type of bibliography is more accurately called "enumerative bibliography". An enumerative bibliography will attempt to be as comprehensive as possible, within whatever parameters established by the bibliographer.
Think of a bibliography as a guide to the source base for a specific field of inquiry. A high quality bibliography will help you understand what kinds of sources are available, but also what kinds of sources are not available (either because they were never preserved, or because they were never created in the first place).
For more information on the role of bibliography in historical research, see our guide to Bibliography and Historical Research.
Bibliographies can be as short as a few pages, or as long as several hundred volumes. Bibliographies can also be published as databases, and these are the bibliographies that are often called "article indexes" or "indexing and abstracting services" because they index the contents of journals:
Because article indexes are a form of bibliography, and not a catalog, you can use them to discover articles from journals the Library doesn't even own. An article index, therefore, enables you to cast the widest possible net within whatever field the article index covers. If you discover an article from a journal that the Library does not own, you can request a copy of the article through interlibrary loan. Most online article indexes include links to interlibrary loan, but you can also go directly to interlibrary loan if you have a complete citation (see below).
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. Most of the journals in the following collections are scholarly journals:
If you have a citation for a journal article (for example, from a footnote in another article), and you want to obtain a copy of that article, you can start by searching to see if we have online access to the article. You will need information from the citation, including the title of the journal in which the article is published, the title of the article, and the author's name, to search in:
If this fails, you will next need to determine whether the Library owns a copy of the specific issue of the journal in which the article appears. Therefore, the most important piece of information at this stage is the title of the journal, not the title of the article.
To determine whether the Library owns the journal, you will search the regular Library Catalog:
If the Library does not have a print copy of the journal, then you will use your complete citation to request a copy through interlibrary loan:
Interlibrary loan can usually obtain a journal article for you very quickly (much faster than for books), sometimes within one day.