New Experience

    Researching in the Periodical Index

    by Michael Robison, Church History Specialist

    One useful tool found in the Church History Catalog is the magazine index. This is a database maintained by Church history specialists who index select magazines and periodicals, looking for articles about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with an emphasis on Church history. The database was originally used only by library staff but is now available to all users of the Church History Catalog.

    The magazine index includes all the official Church publications indexed in their entirety: the Ensign, New Era, Friend, Church News, and conference reports. The Liahona, the Church’s magazine for international areas, contains articles from the Ensign, New Era, and Friend, so it is indexed with the other magazines. Just recently, we started indexing the Improvement Era, beginning with its last year of publication, 1970, and working backwards.

    The magazine index features many BYU publications, such as BYU speeches, BYU Studies, BYU Today, FARMS publications, BYU Law Review, and the Journal of Collegium Aesculapium.

    State historical society publications are indexed, including the Utah Historical Quarterly. Publications from other historical societies are indexed if they feature relevant Church historical information.

    Scholarly journals, such as the Journal of Mormon History, John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, Dialogue, and others are also indexed. Entries for scholarly articles often include an abstract or a summary of the indexed article.

    Articles from general interest magazines and professional journals are indexed if they are specifically about Church topics or Church history. In the past, articles have been indexed from American Historical Review, Sports Illustrated, Better Homes and Gardens, Newsweek, Time, the Wall Street Journal, and others.

    The magazine index of the Church History Catalog can be found here. Please note that this link takes you directly to the magazine index search box. When you return to perform another search, make sure you click the Magazine Index tab to search within it. The Entire Catalog tab does not currently search the magazine index.

    Searching is very simple—you can search by the title of a magazine or perhaps by the title of an article. You can also search by the name of someone you are trying to find, by subject, or using a combination of terms. For example, if you search for “Joseph Smith,” you will get about 6,000 results (please note that you do not need to capitalize search terms). But if you add “translator” to your search, you will get fewer than 300 results. The results show articles from the Ensign, Friend, Dialogue, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, BYU Studies, FARMS Review of Books, and other periodicals.

    What makes this index unique is that each entry is created by a Church history specialist or an indexing intern who has read the article and assigned subject headings to help guide researchers to these articles.

    The primary goal of catalogers is to craft index entries that will help researchers track down information for their projects. I was working the reference desk this past week when a brother came in looking for a story he had read in the New Era. By searching for “New Era” and one of the terms from his description (I thought this term might have been one the indexer would have chosen), I was able to find the sought-for article.

    Does the index work? We hope so! We are always seeking feedback from our users. If you have any suggestions, please submit them here.

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