What Is A Periodical Index?

A periodical index is a type of reference source that lists periodical articles by subject or author. If you have a topic in mind, a periodical index can help you find articles about that topic. An index will point you to the right periodical, the specific date or issue copy, and even the pages for a specific article. A periodical index works like a subject catalog for the articles within a group of magazines and journals. The process of using an index is similar to the process of doing subject or keyword searches for items in a library catalog. Rasmuson Library has both print indexes in book form and computer-based indexes available on CD-ROM or through the Internet.

For more information on periodicals, see What is a Periodical?.

Parts of an Index

  1. Searching mechanism: In a print index, the searching mechanism is simply an alphabetical list of authors, titles, or subjects that refer to a master list of citations. On-line or CD-ROM indexes use software that search a database by author, title, subject, or keyword.
  2. Citations: brief descriptions of an item that identify specific articles. No matter what kind of index you use, citations follow a similar format and contain the same basic parts.

Parts of a Citation

The information appearing in an index about an article is called a citation. The citation usually includes:

  1. Title of the article
  2. Author's name or names if there is more than one author (sometimes a shorter article or news item has no named author)
  3. Title of the periodical. Some indexes label the periodical title as the "source" (abbreviated as "so") because the periodical is the source for the article.
  4. Volume and issue number of the periodical in which the article appears.
    A volume often covers one year of publication and an issue is an individual copy within a volume.
    A volume and/or issue may not be included.
  5. Date of the periodical issue in which the article appears.
  6. Pages on which the article appears.
  7. Additional information about the article such as illustrations, maps, charts that appear in the article.

Sample Citations:

Here's an example of a citation from ArticleFirst, an online index that includes periodicals covering a wide range of subjects. (ArticleFirst can be accessed through OCLC FirstSearch.)

Author(s): Keenan, Jeremy
Title: The theft of Saharan rock-art
Source: Antiquity. 74, no. 284, (2000): 287 (2 pages)

Additional Info: Antiquity Publications [etc.]
Alt Journal: Key Title: Antiquity
Standard No: ISSN: 0003-598X CODEN: ATQYAF
OCLC No: 1481624

The following citation labels the periodical as "SOURCE." TITLE refers to the actual article.

AUTHOR: Pennisi, E.
TITLE: Grasshoppers change coats to beat the heat.
SOURCE: Science, v. 140, n. 8, p. 119-120

The "source" of the article "Grasshoppers change coats to beat the heat" is the periodical Science. The article appears in volume 140, issue number 8 of Science and is on pages 119 through 120 of that issue.

This citation uses abbreviations for title (TI), author (AU) and source (SO):

TI: School literacy: the real ABC's. AU: Greenspan, A.C. SO: Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 72, no. 4, pp. 300-304, Dec. 1991.

The "source" of the article "School literacy: the real ABC's" is the periodical Phi Delta Kappan. The article appears in volume 72, issue number 4 which had the date December 1991. The article appears on pages 300 through 304 of Phi Delta Kappan.

Finally, here is an example of a typical citation from a printed index:

The sound and sense of poetry. M. Sagan. il. The Writer. 104 (9):23-26. Oct. 1991.

The title of the article is "The sound and sense of poetry", the author is M. Sagan, the article is illustrated (il.). The title of the periodical in which this article appears is The Writer, in volume 104, number 9, on pages 23 through 26, with the date of October, 1991.

Indexes will provide explanations of their formats and any abbreviations used. Check HELP screens in a computer-based index or in a printed index, look for help in the introduction, usually at the beginning of each volume.

Special features of some online indexes:

  • Abstracts: An abstract is simply a summary of the key points of an article. Skimming abstracts can save time in the search process and help you hone in on the most relevant articles.
  • Full-text: Many online indexes now provide the full-text of the article along with the citation. This feature can save hours of time searching the library for the article in the print copy of the periodical, or trying to obtain the periodical through interlibrary loan.
  • Hyperlinks: Some online citations include hyperlinks. If the author's name is hyperlinked, clicking the link will bring up citations to other articles by the same author. Hyperlinked subject headings can be especially helpful in finding similar articles on your topic.

Special tip for using print indexes:

Most print indexes use many abbreviations, especially of periodical titles. Fortunately, most indexes explain their abbreviations in the introductory pages. Many periodicals have similar titles which are easily confused. For example, does the abbreviation "Chem Ind" refer to the title Chemical Industries or to Chemical and Industry? If you don't look up the abbreviation, you will have difficulty searching for the periodical in the library catalog.

If you can't find a list of abbreviations in the index you are using, publications such as, Periodical Title Abbreviations: By Abbreviation (call number PN4832 P47 READY REF) can help.

Notice that READY REF (the location code) indicates that this book is located in the Ready Reference collection, adjacent to the Reference Desk on Level 4.

Steps in Finding a Periodical Article

  1. Choose and define a topic. Make a list of subjects or keywords that describe your topic.
  2. Choose an appropriate index (ask a reference librarian, get recommendations from professors or for more recent articles use online indexes listed on the library's  Resources by Subject page.)
  3. Find instructions for using the index. For online indexes, use HELP screens; for printed indexes, check the introduction.
  4. Search the index. Look up key words or subjects in the index. Make printouts of citations for the articles you like.
  5. Does the index contain full-text of the articles themselves?
    If yes, then select and read those most helpful for your topic.
    If no, then go to the Library home page and click on the link to the UAF Journals List. Search for the title of the periodical you need in this list. If it is there, follow the links.
  6. If the periodical is not in the UAF Journals List, go to Goldmine and search for the title of the periodical. Make a printout of the holdings screen (volume and years owned) at the bottom of the Goldmine screen.
  7. Find the right issue of the periodical which contains your article and note the call number and location code to locate the periodical on the shelf.

If our library does not own this periodical, request it through the Interlibrary Loan Service.

These same basic steps apply to both print and online indexes, with a few variations. Visit these links to examine these steps in the periodical search process in a print or online index.

Index Terms: