4.4 Want a Scholarly Resource? Use an Index!

Now that you understand some of the basics about articles and other scholarly publications, let’s discuss some of the tools that help you find them. When you are doing research and need to make sure you’re finding the best, most comprehensive group of articles on your topic, the most efficient finding tool to use is an index. Article indexes will help you identify and find articles on your topic. Some indexes also cover magazines, newspapers, book chapters, conference presentations, dissertations, or other materials.

You may be familiar with using the word “index” for a list of topics and page numbers in the back of a book, but in this class, “index” refers to an article finding tool.

It’s difficult to know how many journals exist in the world, but it’s safe to say that millions of articles are published each year. The ISU Library alone currently subscribes to more than 110,000 journals, and more than 100,000 of those journals are online. An article index allows you to search for your topic in hundreds of journals at once, so using an index is a huge time saver when you don’t have one specific journal in mind.

Which index should you choose?

The ISU Library subscribes to hundreds of article indexes providing access to articles from the past to the present. Each index is different in terms of:

  • types of materials covered
  • subject(s) covered
  • dates included
  • how information is presented
  • languages included
  • whether abstracts or full text materials are provided
What are abstracts? Abstracts are brief summaries of articles, books, and other published materials. These help you decide whether you want to read the full item.

Indexes provide a variety of flexible and robust advanced search features to help researchers and scholars focus and redirect their searches efficiently. You can typically select, sort, and download citations and often entire articles. For scholarly research, indexes tend to be either multidisciplinary general purpose indexes or subject-focused indexes.


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