Online databases are invaluable resources for the historian. They make discovering and locating relevant scholarly material much more efficient. At the same time, it is important to understand that there are different kinds of databases, and scholars need to be able to distinguish between these different types and to select the appropriate databases for their research needs. Here are some brief overviews of different types of databases.
Subject databases cover a specific discipline or sub-discipline or a specific interdisciplinary area. For example, America: History and Life indexes scholarly materials covering all aspects of United States and Canadian history, from prehistoric times to the the present. Most subject databases are citation indexes; this means that they provide citations to the scholarly material, and you then need to go to Primo to find out how to obtain the item. Subject databases will help you access the broadest range of materials and typically should be your first choice.
Full-text databases, sometimes called "e-journal collections," provide access to the actual texts of the scholarly materials themselves. JSTOR and Project Muse are examples of e-journal collections. While convenient, these databases provide access to a more limited selection of scholarship. In most cases, searching subject databases instead will be a better option for you. The one exception is when your research topic has a strong multidisciplinary flavor; in this case, searching JSTOR or Project Muse may help you identify articles that the subject databases may miss.
There are several databases from which to choose when you are seeking scholarly work. Most databases for historians focus on a particular geographical and/or chronological period. Always make sure that you've selected the most appropriate database to search!
These e-journal collections provide access to many journals in the field of History, but they are more limited in coverage compared to subject databases. In most cases, it's better to search subject databases to identify articles.