Chapter 2: Locating information

2.10 Subject-focused indexes

When you are doing in-depth research and need to find a comprehensive set of scholarly articles in a particular subject area, the best finding tool will almost always be an index focused on that subject. Here are a few examples of subject-focused indexes to give you a better idea of what they can cover:

  • CAB Abstracts is one of the largest agricultural databases covering international research and development literature in the fields of agronomy, animal health, forestry, human health, nutrition, and management & conservation of natural resources.
  • Design & Applied Arts Index (DAAI) is an international index that provides resources on topics related to design and applied arts such as advertising, product design, and architecture. It contains citations and abstracts of articles, news items, and reviews created from 1973 to the present.
  • Compendex – Engineering Village is a highly comprehensive engineering database with over 14 million records from journals, conference proceedings and technical papers in all engineering disciplines. Coverage dates from 1884 to the present.
  • Food Science and Technology Abstracts is produced by the International Food Information Service (IFIS), and is the world’s leading database of information on food science, food technology and nutrition.
  • Sociological Abstracts provides full-text access to resources on topics related to sociology such as family and marriage, social change, and culture. This index covers thousands of journals dating back to 1952 and includes articles, book chapters, and conference papers.
  • ABI/INFORM Global searches worldwide business periodicals for in-depth coverage of business and economic conditions, management techniques, theory, and practice of business, advertising, marketing, economics, human resources, finance, taxation, computers, and more.
  • ERIC (Education Resource Information Center, EBSCOhost Access) is a comprehensive index of education literature and curriculum materials, containing more than 1.3 million records and links to more than 323,000 full-text documents dating back to 1966.
  • Communication & Mass Media Complete is a robust communication studies database. It provides full-text, indexing and abstracts for many top communication journals covering all related disciplines, including media studies, linguistics, rhetoric and discourse.

Subject-focused indexes like these offer discipline-specific tools to help you search, sort, and focus your results. For example, history databases let you search by the date an event occurred, whereas chemistry databases let you search by chemical compound. You will want to familiarize yourself with the indexes that relate to your classes so you can efficiently find the best sources for your projects.

Interdisciplinary topics

Depending on your topic, you may need to use more than one subject-focused index. Let’s say you want to learn more about marketing new products to college students and influencing their buying behavior. In this example, you’d probably want to search a business-focused index (such as ABI/INFORM) and maybe also an index focused on sociology or psychology (such as Sociological Abstracts or PsycInfo). Each index will retrieve articles with different viewpoints, keywords, or subject emphases. Talk with your course instructor or a subject librarian if you need help identifying the right indexes for your topic.


To find out which tools are the best for your needs, you will probably need to explore a few of them and compare your search results in each. In scholarly research, one-stop-shopping doesn’t happen very often. Instead, you need to use the right tools for the right job and be willing to experiment. In the next chapter, we will discuss how to use these finding tools effectively by implementing effective search strategies.


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