Wednesday, August 12, 2009

History Question

English people: are history journals (not just literary history journals) collected in the MLA Bibliography and database? Or no?

History department people: is there a single centralized database that indexes most of your journals and is the "go-to" place for starting an article search, like English has the MLA?

I know I have some art history readers and would be interested to hear if they have a specific centralized search database too.


PS --- is it just not common to use the MLA database (whether through Lion or Siverplatter or CSA or whatever --- I know our library switches every couple years for some reason) for searches anymore? Is it now better or just totally normal to browse JSTOR instead? One of the grad students I know was watching me search on the MLA database and was totally intrigued "ooh what's that?" she asked. And had never heard of it's existence And she's ABD, so I look at her a little askance. She's the one who I had troubles with last year of not recognizing the values of discretion and repeating our conversations to our boss, so I was thinking it's another sign of her not being quite all there, but then, I've been totally disconnected from everything for a couple years now and it could just be that I am no longer cutting edge.


Sapience said...

I'm pretty sure most history journals aren't indexed in MLA unless they're explicitly interdisciplinary with an emphasis in history (or something like that).

And no, it is not common practice to skip the MLA. JSTOR doesn't have everything, not even close. Heck, even in undergrad I was always taught to start with the MLA. I suspect that people who use just JSTOR are those who only want full-text articles, rather than having to ILL stuff (which may or may not be your grad student directly, but whoever taught her how to use databases).

Tree of Knowledge said...

As for using MLA, I think it depends on the quality of your library. I use MLA, but since our library sucks (in terms of bound journals, microfilm, and databases), I have to ILL pretty much any article not available through Project Muse and JSTOR (and some of JSTOR too). For course papers, that meant I just started with Muse and JSTOR. I still looked at MLA though, just wistfully (ILL isn't great either here--our library is broke and dysfunctional). Of course, now that I'm done with coursework and have more time to wait, it's my first stop.

Feminist Avatar said...

The two major history databases I recommend are America: history and life and Historical abstracts. In the UK, we access them through EBSCOhost where you can search them both simultaneously. They are good for journal articles and some books.

I also like

which is a database of historical works published about the UK as it includes articles published in edited colllections.

My word verification is 'grunt'.

NewKidontheHallway said...

I'll just note that neither America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts include medieval European stuff, so medieval historians probably have a different set of go-to databases. I think we tend to go for more interdisciplinary ones. I liked Arts & Humanities Index and Expanded Academic ASAP (but I could be out of touch by now, too). (And Int'l Medieval Bibliography, which is interdisciplinary, but not useful to anyone *but* medievalists.)

I did actually often check MLA, but I was also often looking for book/manuscript history stuff, so that's why.

I always liked that MLA included essay collections, though - I don't know of any history equivalent to that.

Lucky Jane said...

I've always found it seriously weird that historians don't have a centralized database for publications, since the AHA/ give access to almost stalkerly stats on Ph.D. programs, including dissertations in progress and placement, if I remember correctly. As for the MLA Bibliography, every department I've ever taught in (that's four) has stressed that even undergrads start their research there. If I catch my students relying exclusively on, say, Google Scholar or JSTOR—which you know when you see a Works Cited page of totally weird shit—I have no compunction about throwing down the equivalent of a Harry Potteresque howler.

Susan said...

For British and Irish history, the Royal Historical society bibliography is the go-to starting point, and it's especially good because it includes articles in collections. It's free online through the end of the year. For journals outside of British history, I usually start with Academic Search Complete from EBSCO.

undine said...

Here is what you tell your friend:

Start with MLA.
Start with MLA.

Check JStor and the rest, but start with MLA.

Sisyphus said...

But Undine, what about meeee? How am I supposed to find out if any historians have written on my minor figure if I have to check 8 million different databases? Gah.

PS word verification: cranium. Perfect!

medieval woman said...

Dear god - I still use MLA for everything! So much of my medieval stuff isn't available on JSTOR (ahem, pre-2008 Studies in the Age of Chaucer, this means you!)

bitternsweet said...

My sense is that the MLA database fell out of favor for a while because it didn't provide links to pdfs of articles -- so, having found an item on MLA, you had to (gasp!) take the extra step of then locating it through JSTOR or another source. But, MLA is now providing some pdf links. I tend to search MLA and Academic Search Complete (or it is Premiere? I can't keep up.) to make sure I've caught as many sources as possible -- but I'm always amazed at how many things slip through the cracks.

Sounds like, for once, we lit folks have it better than you historians.

undine said...

I wish the history people would have one central database!

Dr. Virago said...

Bitternsweet, I think it depends on the hosting platform and the subscription level. But yes, in our EBSCO-hosted and regionally coordinated subscription to the MLA Bibliography, I've seen more and more direct links to electronic copies over the years. What's cool about our regionally coordinated version is that if there's not a direct link on the EBSCO/MLA entry, there's a tool that then finds you a copy in one of the hundreds of libraries and databases in this coordinated system, and odds are that that includes an electronic copy (JSTOR, Muse, or whatever). It is teh awesome. This massive system is one of the single best reasons for working at a university in my state. Woo-hoo!

Ahem. Anyway. I am *appalled* that this graduate student didn't know what the MLA bib was!!! Always, always, always start there. That said, it's not perfect, and needs to be supplemented.

Btw, I have no answers for you re: history. I've always done my historical research the old fashioned way: find books on my topic in the library catalog (and again, I have access to the whole damn state -- teh awesome!) and follow their footnotes. And ask historians.

Sisyphus said...

Yeah I'm trying to prove a negative, which is kinda impossible and pointless I know, but I really do think nobody has written on my printed thingy that I am currently studying --- I tried the history databases people suggested and found one article, total, and nothing in the MLA-lit side.

I just a) would really like to have some other people to cite and support my theories of why this printed thingy is insane b) know that if I claim no one has published on it before I will draw people out of the woodwork calling me an idiot and brandishing citations, and c) still want to find some sort of evidence of what my author was _thinking_ and can't find anything in the primary or secondary piles.

the rebel lettriste said...

I love WORLDCAT, too. It gives you everything, and there are applications (depending on your library) that will tell you where you can locate the text at a place near to you.

Usually, I hit up MLA, then hit WORLDCAT, then start browsing JSTOR, etc.

When I have required my students to do an MLA search, they all complain bitterly about the lack of embedded pdf's. But whatever. It's so hard to go LOOK UP a text? Lord.