American Studies


memorial to Selena in a corner of El Barrio, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 License, via Flickr)


Welcome! This page highlights library resources for conducting effective  research in American Studies.

If you need assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation.


Personal Librarian:
Martha Tenney
019 Lehman Hall

Reference | Books and Media | Articles | Primary Sources


Background research, core concepts, getting a sense of foundational scholarship in a field.

Finding Books and Media

CLIO is the online catalog of all of the Columbia University Libraries, including Barnard but exclusing Teachers College (use Educat). Use CLIO for access to print books, ebooks, databases and articles (more on that below), media, and even Academic Commons. For more help on finding media items or for any assistance with CLIO, contact me for a research consultation.

The NYPL catalog searches the collections of the New York Public Library, including both circulating and non-circulating research collections.

Worldcat searches library catalogs worldwide (you can sort by libraries close to your location). You can request titles not available through Columbia Libraries via BorrowDirect or Interlibrary Loan

Scholarly Articles

Broad Databases

  • Start out in the CLIO articles tab to search across multiple databases, with limited options for faceting. Then move onto another broad database, or select a specialized database below.
  • America, History and Life - Large database indexing scholarly literature on American history and cultre of US and Canada, from prehistory to the present; enables searching by time period, with full text for selected items.
  • EBSCOhost Research Databases - Includes many databases (some of which are specified below), including both citations and full-text of scholarly literature.
  • Humanities Full Text - Full-text and abstracts/citations of "noted scholarly sources in the humanities, as well as lesser known specialized magazines."
  • JSTOR - Page images of issues of scholaraly journals in the humanities and social sciences. Go to Advanced Search and limit to "American Studies" to see results from journals in the subject area.
  • ProQuest - Includes many databases (some of which are specified below), including both citations and full-text of scholarly and popular literature.
  • Project Muse - Full-text versions of peer-reviewed journals (and thousands of books) from university presses and scholarly societies, with an emphasis on humanities and social sciences.
  • LexisNexis Academic - A full-text database especially good for government documents, case law, transcriptions of broadcasts, and business-related publications.

Specialized Databases

  • Alt-Press Watch - Full-text database of selected newspapers, magazines, and journals of the alternative and independent press.
  • Black Studies Center - Portal to Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience, International Index of Black Periodicals (IIBP), The HistoryMakers videos, 
  • Chicano Database - Bibliographic index covering scholarly resources for research on topics relating to Mexican-Americans.
  • Gender Studies Database - Gender-engaged scholarship, including journals, papers, books, book chapters, govt. reports, discussion and working papers, theses and disserations, and other sources.
  • Race Relations abstracts - Bibliographic index covering scholarly areas related to ethnic studies, discrimination, immigration studies, and other areas.

Primary Sources

New York Area Archives and Special Collections

This is a very short list of archival repositories that are close to Barnard's campus. For more help locating archival collections, navigating finding aids and scheduling research appointments with other archivists, or for an introduction to archival research, schedule a consultation with me. You can also use the ArchiveGrid to sarch across finding aids in over 1,000 archival repositories. ArchiveGrid doesn't include every finding aid from every institution in America, but it is the best search out there for searching on archival collections (many of which are not digitized and not online). 

Digitized Archival Materials

  • The Digital Public Library of America - A portal to the digitized collections of various instutitions across the nation, including millions of photographs, documents, books, audio materials, and moving images, which can be searched, browsed, or visualized on a timeline or map. Heavier on visual materials. 
  • Umbra -  A freely available portal that brings together the most extensive digital collection dedicated to African American history and culture from US archives, museums, and cultural heritage institutions.
  • Library of Congress Digital Collections - Access the online collections of the Library Congress, including maps, photographs, letters, diaries, newspapers, sound recordings, and films.
  • The New York Public Library Digital Collections - Digitized materials from NYPL's archival collections.
  • American Indian histories and cultures - Materials from the Newberry Library's Edward E. Ayer Collection. Includes manuscripts, artwork and rare printed books, photographs and newspapers. See also The American West database from the Graff Collection at the Newberry Library, which includes manuscripts, maps, ephemeral material, and publications about the American West, frontier life, Native Americans, and other topics. 
  • Popular culture in Britain and America - A curated collection of digitized popular culture collections across multiple archival institutions, categorized in topical collections.
  • ProQuest History Vault - Digitized archival records (including letters, financial records, diaries, legal records, photographs, and more) through ProQuest. Current databases include Slavery and the Law, Plantations Records, and Vietnam War and American Foreign Policy.
  • Ad*Access - Cataloged, digitized print advertisements from the first half of the 20th century.
  • Documenting the American South - Digitized texts, images, and audio files, primary from the University of North Carolina at Chapil HIll's holdings.
  • Gateway to North America: people, places, and organizations of 19th-century New York - Digitized holdings from the New-York Historical Society. 
  • Social and cultural history - Digitized letters, diaries, autobiographies, oral histories, and other personal narratives, some full-text searchable.

For more assistance finding digitized archival resources, contact me to schedule a research consultation.

Historical Newspapers and Other Published Primary Sources

You'll see some resources from the secondary sources databases repeated here. That's because they contain both current scholarly sources, which you would likely use as secondary sources, as well as other sources that you might use as primary sources (for example, scholarly articles and books from the turn of the century, business or governmental reports, legal proceedings, historical newspaper articles, and archival sources).

This is a short list of some of the databases that I use most frequently--if you don't see the type of material that you need, set up a research consultation with me and we'll track it down.

  • Accessible Archives - A collection of U.S. history resources, including the Pennsylvania Gazette, the Civil War coverage of three newspapers, Godey's Lady's Book, and a selection of African-American and abolitionist newspapers.
  • African American historical serials collection - African American periodicals, annuals and reports published from 1829-1922 including materials from African American religious organizations and social service agencies.
  • Alt-Press Watch - Full-text database of selected newspapers, magazines, and journals of the alternative and independent press.
  • American Periodicals Series Online, 1740-1900 - Over 1,000 full-text periodicals that began publishing between 1740 and 1900, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, and children's and women's magazines. A lot of niche publications.
  • Archive of Americana - Comprehensive, full-text collections of newspapers, broadsides, government documents, pamphlets, and more. Includes multiple databases that can be cross searched or searched individually: America's historical imprintsAfro-Americana imprints, America's historical newspapers, African-American newspapers, Ethnic American newspapers, Hispanic American Newspapers, African American periodicals, and more.
  • Chronicling America - Search on American historic newspaper pages from 1836-1922 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present.
  • Ethnic NewsWatch - Full-text articles from newspapers and periodicals published by ethnic, minority, and native prsesin the U.S., 1960-date.
  • Factiva - Global news and business information (good for finding company reports).
  • Gerritsen Collection: Women's History Online, 1543-1945 - A full-text collection of periodicals and books covering the history of women from 1543 to 1945.
  • HarpWeek - Searchable full text of Harper's Weekly, a popular illustrated 19th/early 20th century magazine.
  • JSTOR - Full-text articles from many scholarly journals, from the first issue of each journal (including some started in the nineteenth century) up to 3 to 5 years ago.
  • LexisNexis - Includes a database of primary sources in U.S. History, as well as full text newspapers, magazines and journals. Good for finding transcripts of broadcasts, company reports and SEC filings, case law, and government documents.
  • ProQuest Congressional - Contains materials produced by Congress from 1789 to the present, including bills, laws, committee reports, the Congressional Record, and more.
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers - Full-text and full-image articles from major American newspapers: Atlanta Constitution, Baltimore Sun (1837-1985), Boston Globe, Call and Post (1934-1991), Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor (1908-1997), Irish Times (1859-2009), Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Norfolk Journal and Guide (1921-2003), Philadelphia Tribune (1912-2001), San Francisco Chronicle (1865-1922), Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Scotsman (1817-1950) 

Other newspapers can be found through CLIO, although not all will be fully digitized (some may only be available in print or on microfilm). Try using the search terms "newspapers" or "periodicals" plus the name of the state or city which you're looking for in the subject search. You can narrow further by format--select Journal/Periodical or Newspaper. Not all newspapers are cataloged in the same way--let me know if you're having trouble finding the paper you need.

Additionally: I'm not clear on how often this is updated, but this list of newspapers by state from Columbia Libraries can start you off on a search. 

To find published primary sources (such as published collections of letters, diaries, or documents) in CLIO, use the following keywords along with keywords specifying place, people, or topic:



The Empirical Reasoning Lab can provide assistance with formulating empirical questions, finding appropriate data sets, and training for software to do data cleanup, analysis, and visualization. 

Even more resources can be found in the CUL Guide to American History and American Studies. See also my colleague's guides for Africana Studies; Women's, Sexuality, and Gender StudiesSociology; and more.

Last updated September 2016