Most of the digital news databases of periodical publications begin to be covered in the 1990s. And while some begin in the late 1980s, they are often not a complete representation of the print medium. Therefore, the only way to achieve full publication is through microfilm or the digitized version (.pdf) of the entire newspaper. However, the Google News Archive has been searching some newspapers since the early 1900s. Use keywords to search for a specific newspaper or magazine. In these cases, it is recommended to make use of advanced search.

It should be noted that newspapers usually publish different editions for different cities or regions of the country. Articles that appear in a regional edition do not appear in all of them. Some newspapers also publish separate geographic supplements with unique content. In addition, newspapers publish chronological editions; articles from the first editions may not appear in later editions and vice versa. Usually, only one edition is microfilmed.

Articles from some online news sources are serially updated and previous updates disappear. Likewise, articles in online editions may have different headlines/titles and publication dates than the equivalent print version.

What are periodicals?

Periodicals are continuous publications such as newspapers, newspapers or magazines.

They are published regularly (daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly).

What kind of periodicals are you looking for?

In this regard, we must consider exactly what type of publication we are looking for. They can be:

Academic journals

Newspapers and substantive news sources

Popular magazines

If you want an index of all three types of articles, you can use Academic Search Premier or ProQuest Research Library. To find older articles, try the Periodical Contents Index, which indexes periodicals from 1770 to 1993.

If you want to search multiple databases simultaneously, you can use Articles & Full Text, also linked from the Library’s home page.

What if we are not sure what type of publication it is?

If you’re not sure what type of periodical you want or aren’t sure which periodical index to use, or if you want help searching, ask a local librarian.

Depending on the number of records your search retrieves, you will see a list of entries or a single record for an individual periodical title. If there is a list of titles, scroll through it and click on the line that lists the title of the journal you want to view to get the signature and location information or the online link(s).

Tips for finding items

When beginning research from historical journals for a research paper, thesis, or dissertation:

Identify the time period you plan to investigate.

Use digital databases that index the journal you are researching.

If your research is recent (from the ’80s to the present), use libraries’ digital news databases.

Use online databases to find articles in newspapers, newspapers, and magazines. You can search for periodical articles by the author of the article, title, or keyword using the databases in your subject area.

Choose the database that best suits your topic.

Ask a Librarian to help you figure out which databases are best for your topic.

Searching the title of an article

If the full text of the article is not linked to the citation in the database you are using, search for the title of the periodical in the Catalog. The catalogue lists the printed, microform and electronic versions of the magazines and newspapers available in the library.

When you know the title of the magazine (Scientific American, The New York Times, Newsweek) look for the title of the magazine.

If you don’t have citations of newspaper articles in the specific publication, you’ll need to find an online version of the newspaper, use a newspaper index, or search for articles.

Click on the record and look at the dates in the “View” section to see if the time period you need is available for search.

Click on the link for the correct time period.

Enter the search terms. The results should include only the articles in the title of the newspaper you have chosen. If not, look for a publication title limit or database selection option to choose the necessary title.

If you don’t see an online version in the library catalog or it’s an incorrect time period, try to find digitized versions available for free through Williams WorldCat.

How to find items when you don’t have the appointment

When you don’t have the citation of a specific article, but want to find articles on a topic, by a specific author or authors, or with a known article title, you need to use one or more periodical databases.

Available formats

Newspapers and news are currently available in seven online plain text, online HTML, online PDF, online live, broadcast, streaming video/audio, microform, CD-ROM and paper formats. The News Formats webpage lists some of the uses and limitations of each format.

How to distinguish scientific journals from other periodicals

Magazines, news publications, and magazines are important sources of up-to-date information on a wide variety of topics. With such a large and diverse collection, it is often difficult to distinguish between the different levels of scholarship found in the collection.

Academic journals are also called scientific journals, they are peer-reviewed or peer-reviewed. Strictly speaking, peer-reviewed (also called peer-reviewed) journals refer only to those academic journals that submit articles for review and comments by other scholars, experts, or academics (peers) in the field. These reviewers must agree that the article represents properly conducted research or original writing before it can be published.

If you want articles from academic, research, peer-reviewed journals, you can ask a local librarian to recommend an index/database for your topic. Some databases exclusively index journals, such as America: History and Life, EconLit, Engineering Village, MLA Bibliography, PsycINFO, PubMed and Web of Science. Google Scholar searches all disciplines and academic subjects. You can also use the thematic menu of the databases linked to the library’s home page to locate the databases that index academic publications.

If you want popular journals, use Academic Search Premier or ProQuest Research Library. There are also printed indexes, such as the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature covering popular journals from 1890 to 2011 is in the Olin reference collection.

What to look for

The articles of academic journals usually have a summary, a descriptive synthesis of the content of the article, before the main text of the same.

Scientific journals usually have a sober and serious appearance. They usually contain many graphs and diagrams, but few bright pages or exciting images.

Scientific journals always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies. These bibliographies are usually extensive and cite other academic writings.

Articles are written by an expert in the field or by someone who has researched in it. The affiliations of the authors are usually listed at the end of the first page or at the end of the article: universities, research institutions, think tanks and the like.

In academic journals, the language is that of the discipline deal with. The reader is supposed to have a certain technical background.

The main purpose of a scientific journal is to report on original research or experiments to make that information available to the rest of the academic world.

Many, but not all, scientific journals are published by a specific professional organization.

Examples of scientific journals

American Economic Review

Applied Geography

Archives of Sexual Behavior

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association

Journal of Marriage and the Family (published by the National Council on Family Relations)

Journal of Theoretical Biology (Revista de Biología Teórica)

News of general interest

These periodicals can look quite attractive, although some are in newspaper format. The articles are usually very illustrated, usually with photographs.

What to look for

News and periodicals of general interest sometimes cite sources, although most often they do not.

Articles can be written by a member of the newsroom, an academic, or a freelance writer.

The language of these publications is aimed at any educated audience. No specialty is assumed, only interest and a certain level of intelligence.

They are usually published by commercial or private companies, although some emanate from specific professional organizations.

The main purpose of periodicals in this category is to provide information, in a general way, to a wide audience of interested citizens.

Examples of regular publications of substantive and general interest news

The Economist

National Geographic

The New York Times

Scientific American

Vital speeches of the day

Popular Publications

Popular periodicals have many formats, although they often look attractive with many color graphics (photographs, drawings, etc.).

These publications do not cite the sources in a bibliography. Information published in popular magazines is usually second- or third-hand and the original source is rarely mentioned.

The articles are usually very short and written in simple language.

In popular periodicals the main purpose is to entertain the reader, sell products (own or their advertisers’) or promote a point of view.

The Reader’s Guide Retrospective indexes popular journals from 1890 to 1982 online. Periodical Contents Index covers some popular journals for an even longer period of time: 1770 to 1993.

If the journal is available in electronic format, there will be one or more links in the “Availability” box of the catalogue register. Click on this link. In most cases, this will take you to the opening screen of the magazine and you will be able to choose the number you want from there.

If the journal is available in printed format, review the location information in the catalog record. Now you’re ready to find it on the shelf. Refer to the local directory of the stack for the location of the signature in the various libraries.

Examples of popular periodicals

People Weekly

Readers Digest

Sports Illustrated


Sensational or tabloid

Tabloid periodicals have a wide variety of styles, but often use a newspaper format.

Their language is elementary and sometimes incendiary. They assume a certain credulity in their audience.

The main goal of tabloid magazines seems to be to arouse curiosity and satisfy popular superstitions. They often do so with flashy headlines designed to amaze (e.g., “Half man, half woman, gets pregnant”).

Examples of sensational periodicals


National Examiner


Weekly World News

Databases of individual journals

Some newspapers are available as separate databases that allow you to search only the content of that newspaper. To find newspaper articles that are not on this list, especially current newspapers, search the library catalog for the title of the newspaper for links to the databases that contain the newspaper.

If an online searchable version of the newspaper is not available, an index may be available to help you identify articles on your topic. Some indexes are created by a public library for your local newspaper or by a company for larger regional/national newspapers. To find an index:

View the list of Newspaper Archives and Indexes in your country

Look in Williams WorldCat for the index of [nombre del periódico] (for example, the Boston Globe index)

Look for the journal/magazine or newspaper format. Be sure to look at what years the index was published. Most indexes are published annually, so you may have to search multiple volumes if your research topic spans several years.

If you find a printed index, you can try to apply for the year or years you need through interlibrary loan, but you may need to visit a library that has it or contact librarians at that institution for help.

If there is no online version or indexing available

In this case, you will need to check the journal (probably on microfilm) yourself to find the articles of interest. This process is easier if you search for articles about a particular event, so you can limit the search to a few numbers before and/or after the date. If you are looking for a general topic (for example, women during the civil rights movement), this search will take a long time. In this case, take advantage of the research that has already been done on the subject. Search for scholarly articles or books and examine your footnotes to find citations.

If the library does not own the newspaper

Search the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) journal catalog or Williams WorldCat to determine if it is available on microfilm.

Apply for the months and years you need.

Some newspaper databases available

Atlanta Journal and Constitution (ProQuest Historical Newspapers). Publication dates: 1868-1945

Boston Globe (ProQuest Historical Newspapers). Publication dates: 1872-1988

Chicago Defender (ProQuest Historical Newspapers). Publication dates: 1909-1975

Chicago Tribune (ProQuest Historical Newspapers). Publication dates: 1849-1996

Christian Science Monitor (ProQuest Historical Newspapers). Publication dates: 1908-2006

Detroit Free Press (ProQuest Historical Newspapers). Publication dates: 1831-1999

Guardian and Observer (ProQuest Historical Newspapers). Publication dates: 1791-2003 (The Observer) and 1821-2003 (The Guardian)

Harper’s Weekly. Publication dates: 1857-1912

Hartford Courant (ProQuest Historical Newspapers). Publication dates: 1764-1993

Illustrated London News Historical. Publication dates: 1842-2003

Japan Times Archive. Publication dates: 1897-2017

Jerusalem Post. Publication dates: 1932-2008

Los Angeles Sentinel. Publication dates: 1934-2005

Los Angeles Times. Publication dates: 1881-2010

New York Amsterdam News. Dates of publication: 1922-1993

New York Times. Publication dates: 1980-Present

Pittsburgh Courier. Publication dates: 1911-2002

San Francisco Chronicle. Publication dates: 1865-1922

Sunday Times. Publication dates: 1822-2006

Digital archive of the Times (London). Date of publication: 1785-2012

Times of India. Publication dates: 1838-2008

TLS (Times Literary Supplement). Publication dates: 1902-2019

Wall Street Journal. Publication dates: 1889-2002

Washington Post. Publication dates: 1877-2002

Beware of fake news

Fake news is not news that you disagree with, but is content generated by non-journalistic organizations to draw attention to ads (e.g., clickbait) or to spread false information (rumors, conspiracy theories, junk science, and propaganda, for example). Check the reliability of the news you receive on social media.

Data loss

Some of the news archived digitally or on film is irretrievably lost due to data corruption, orphaned data files, or physical and environmental damage to the archived medium (e.g. microfilm). Newsprint disintegrates. News content may become unavailable due to software or hardware obsolescence: the infrastructure for accessing data may become unavailable.

Likewise, the search for news can be complex and confusing. There is a wide variety of fonts, and you will use different fonts depending on the date of an event and the geographical location of the event, the desired perspective, the format of the content and the availability and format of the indexing or search capability. The public indexing of many newspapers is a relatively recent phenomenon, although retrospective indexing of major newspapers is underway.

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Sources Consulted

“Resonant Texts: S ounds of the Contemporary American Public Library,” The Senses & Society 2:3 (Fall 2007): 277-302.

Videos and Frameworks for ‘Tinkering’ in a Digital Age,” Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning (January 30, 2009).

Sherman, S.“The Hidden History of New York City’s Central Library Plan,” The Nation (August 28, 2013).

You might also be interested in: How to research in a film library

Periodical Research: Getting Started

Research in periodicals: How to get started. Photo: Unsplash. Credits: Praveen Gupta

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