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American Women: Resources from the General Collections

Periodicals

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Items that are published periodically, such as serials, magazines, journals, annuals, and proceedings), are a marvelous source for history of any kind, and the Library of Congress holds thousands of serial titles of value to historians of women and gender.

Long runs of journals show changes in attitudes, in what was considered significant or marketable, and in styles of every kind—from hemlines to discourse—over an extended period. Studying many different serial titles for a given year or span of years can reveal much about the time period under examination. The span dates given for serial titles in this discussion of the General Collections indicate the holdings of the Library of Congress, not the full range of years in which the title was published.

Because many periodicals, especially older ones, lack good indexes, researchers must scan tables of contents or flip through pages of issues from an appropriate time period. This is time-consuming but sometimes it is the only way to find substantive evidence for many research topics. It is now possible to scan tables of contents of hundreds of American journals online through the Library's subscription to the database Periodicals Contents Index (see under the “Periodical Indexes” tab).

Search Tips

Primary custody of periodicals is shared between the General Collections and the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room, although some periodicals can be found in most reading rooms.The general rule is that periodicals published in the past eighteen to twenty-four months are housed in the stacks of the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room; older issues are bound and kept in the General Collections.

There are three major exceptions to this rule:

  • Serials published before 1801 are accessible through the Rare Book and Microform Reading Rooms
  • Law journals of all dates are held in the Law Library
  • Music journals of all dates are in the Performing Arts Reading Room.

Many older titles in all subjects are held only in microform and can be found through special guides in the Main Reading Room. Consult the online catalog and reference librarians to determine the locations of periodicals.

Visit the Newspapers and Current Periodicals Reading Room website for further advice on how to identify which periodicals exist and for assistance on the history of magazines.

Go to the "Periodical Indexes" tab here for suggestions on how to locate individual articles within periodicals. For information on "missionary journals" go to the Travel Accounts & Missionary Journals section of this guide.  For "household magazines" see Cookbooks & Home Economics section of this guide.

Unless otherwise indicated, all index titles in this section are available online or in print form in the Main Reading Room reference collection. The Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room holds many of the same periodical indexes in its reference collection, although not always the same run of years.The Library of Congress also subscribes to many full-text databases which include access to periodicals, but these must be used on-site only.

Browse the Library of Congress Online Catalog for print resources using this subject heading: 


Subscription Databases for Periodical Indexes

The subscription resources marked with a padlock  are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress.  If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Researchers know to find a good source and then scour its bibliography and notes for other helpful references, but few know to look in citation indexes to find where a specific book or journal article was later cited. This kind of search assumes that if a piece of research is subsequently cited, the citing article may be of interest to the scholar. For example, in your research on Cherokee women, you find an excellent book on your specific subject. Citation indexes identify which later articles cited the book that you have already found. Often these subsequent works, which list that known title in their notes or bibliography, may discuss the same topic. There are three citation indexes that may aid those researching women's history.


Subscription Databases for Citation Searching

The subscription resources marked with a padlock  are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress.  If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

The following selected print resources link to full bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog:

To find additional materials, search in the Library of Congress Online Catalog using these subject headings:

The subscription resources marked with a padlock  are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress.  If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

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