Subject Databases: Why Use Them?

While the panoramic or "wide gaze" approach to research can be good ways to help generate an interest or area of exploration, research projects often require you to look close up at a body of research produced by scholars in a particular field.  

This research is typically collected, codified, and made image of camera with different colored lenses findable in a tool called a subject database.

Every academic discipline has at least one subject database that's considered the disciplinary gold standard -- a reliable, (relatively) comprehensive, and accurate record of the books that scholars are publishing, and the ideas they're debating and discussing in important and influential journals. 

Databases are like lenses: they change what you see and how you see it -- and they offer you easy and efficient ways to bring your questions into sharper focus.

Good Databases For ...


Arts and Humanities Database (ProQuest): If your primary source is a painting, photograph, sculpture, memorial, installation, etc., this database will be a great place to look for scholarly discussions in books and journals. Cultural studies are among its emphases, too. HARVARD KEY

Environmental Studies

Environment indexHARVARD KEY


MLA International Bibliography (EBSCOhost):  The most important academic database for deep searching of the scholarship produced about all periods of literature (and in all languages). It also has strong and substantial coverage of scholarship on film, popular culture, folklore, and film.  If a Literature Department teaches it, you'll find it covered here. HARVARD KEY

Screen Studies Collection (ProQuest) : A comprehensive survey of current publications related to film scholarship, theory, and criticism. This collection includes the specialist index FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals Database, a premier resource for film study globally.  HARVARD KEY


Music Periodicals Database (ProQuest):  Covers scholarship on all aspects of music, including music education, performance, ethnomusicology, musical theatre, theory, popular music forms and composition.  Recent scholarship is really well represented. HARVARD KEY

Performing Arts

Performing Arts Periodicals Database (ProQuest): Covers scholarship on a broad spectrum of the arts and entertainment industry -- including dance, drama, theater, stagecraft, musical theater, circus performance, opera, pantomime, puppetry, magic, performance art, and more. HARVARD KEY


America: History and Life (EBSCOhost): the premier database for historical scholarship on North American (what is now the United States and Canada), from prehistory to the present.  HARVARD KEY