For this installment of Database Tips, we'll be going back to a time well before databases, before computers, before the Auditorium Building was even built.
Before we used databases to index and collect articles from journals, magazines and newspapers, these kinds of materials were thoroughly indexed in printed indexes. These indexes kept track of what was published in numerous periodicals by sorting citations by major subjects, authors, and people, much like an index one would find at the end of a book, only in these books, the entire book is an index, and rather than pointing the reader to another page in the book, they point one to an article in a periodical.
The disadvantage of these print indexes compared to their database offspring is rather obvious: the databases are able to provide quick access to the actual articles they index. The advantage of print indexes are that they often go back farther than even the most comprehensive databases, in some cases back to the 19th century. Some purists might even say that they are easier to use in that they provide a single source for citations, and citations for numerous articles are easily found and listed under definitive subject headings.
The most well-known of these print indexes is
the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, which the Eugene P. Sheehy Guide to Reference Books calls "a modern index of the best type...its special features are...uniformity of entries, due to the fact that the work is done by a few professional indexers rather than by many voluntary collaborators...use of catalog subject headings instead of catchword subject...[and] full information in the references, i.e., exact date and inclusive paging." * Before there were databases such as Academic Search Premier, the Reader's Guide was often one's first stop for finding periodical articles. Here at Roosevelt University's Auditorium Library, we have the Guide going back to 1890. This is a useful resource if you are doing research of a historical nature, and it can be used to find articles in some of our older periodicals, such as Harper's, Atlantic Monthly, and Time.
Another print index that is extremely useful is the Book Review Digest. This resource indexes book reviews that have been published every year going back to 1905. Reviews are indexed by book title and book author. If you know what year a book was published, you can pull the appropriate index off of the shelf, find your title or author, and quickly see citations for all of the published reviews for that book.
Another notable print index is the New York Times Index. The downtown library has the entire run of the New York Times, from 1851 to the present,** available on microfilm, so if you are interested in researching news from before the Civil War on down to the Gulf War and beyond, you can find citations for articles in this index. The first volume of the index is interesting because the entries are written in the original indexer's handwriting as opposed to typeface.
Other notable print indexes at the downtown library include:
- Social Sciences and Humanities Index
- Index to Black Periodicals
- Business Periodicals Index
- The Education Index
Keep in mind that even if Roosevelt does not own a journal article found by searching one of these indexes, you can still get the article by filling out the interlibrary loan article request form with your contact information and the information about the article; be sure to mention which index in which you found your citation.
Because these indexes aren't used as often as they used to be, we do have them tucked away in the downtown library, but they are freely available to use. If you need help finding or using any of our print indexes, stop by the reference desk at the Auditorium library.
* Sheehy, E.P. (Ed.). (1986). Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. In Guide to Reference Books (10th ed.). Chicago: American Library Association.
** After December 2007, the New York Times will no longer be available on microfilm, but via a database.