If you have a citation for a journal article, and you want to obtain a copy of that article, you first need to determine whether the Library owns a copy of the journal issue. Therefore, the most important piece of information when beginning a search for a known journal article is the title of the journal, not the title of the article.
You will first check to see if we have online access to that journal. To do that, you will search for the journal (by title) using a catalog rather plainly named "Online Journals and Databases":
If the Library does not have online access to that journal issue, then you will check to see if we have it in print. To determine whether the Library owns the journal in print, 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.
The periodical evolved from the book, and the reason is that the periodical filled two main needs that the printed book could not:
There are dozens of types of periodicals. Four important types are described below:
These distinctions are simply a method for classifying sources; and, like all classification schemes, it provides a method for quickly completing a task, in this case the task is drawing certain conclusions about the nature of a source. The conclusions you draw should not be your final judgment on the question of the source's value. Classification schemes often obscure as much as they reveal about whatever they are attempting to describe.
Neither source type ("scholarly" or "popular") definitively indicates the value or reliability of a source, but recognizing the difference can sometimes make it easier to predict the probability of a source's value and reliability. You still need to evaluate each source critically.
There are many article databases for finding periodical articles. These databases are often called article indexes, but they are essentially searchable bibliographies of journal articles, with enhanced subject access. The reason they are called "indexes" is that they index the contents of journals.
Because the Library does not subscribe to every journal, and because not all journals are digitized, and because not all digitized journals are available in a single collection, the article indexes provide the only efficient means of identifying relevant articles from across the widest possible range of periodical publications.
Most of these article indexes include a mixture of academic and popular sources (and remember that sometimes the distinction is not clear).
The most important database for identifying journal articles in U.S. history is America: History and Life, and you should begin your literature review here:
Although America: History and Life is considered the most "important" article index for research in American history, there are several other very important article indexes, any of which might be crucial for research depending on the focus of your research:
The collections below consist mostly of scholarly journals:
1. D.E. Davinson, The Periodicals Collection: Its Purpose and Uses in Libraries (London: Andre Deutsch, 1969), 38.