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Paperless Research

Online Research: Where to Start


The New York Public Library has a huge selection of online content to help with your research, whether it's finding a single article, tracing a family tree, writing a dissertation, or anything in between. Our go-to starting point for online research is our Articles & Databases page. By "databases," we really mean any website where you can access information, be it data, books, articles, sheet music, songs, videos, even guided tutorials. Many of these are purchased by NYPL, giving you access to rich, well-described material that you couldn't find just by searching through Google.

But with over 400 subscription databases and even more courtesy links to freely-available websites, it can be hard to figure out where to start. So, what are some tricks to picking your research square one?

The book-projector
The Book-Projector, George Arents Collection. Image ID: 407647

For starters, which best describes your current research need?

I am looking for a specific newspaper/magazine/journal.

Do you have the citation for an article and want to locate a copy? Whether the source is a newspaper, magazine, scholarly journal, or trade publication, you can search for it by title on our Find e-Journals by Title page. You can tell us if you're here at the Library or working remotely, and we'll list any online holdings we have for that title, with the dates covered and links to their content. For example, if I'm looking for an issue of Rolling Stone, I see that I can read any issue since August 1990 on my home computer, using my library card number and PIN.

Screenshot of e-journal search for Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone issues available remotely online through NYPL

And remember, if we do not have the title or date range you need electronically, you can search our catalog by journal title to see if we have it in print or on microfilm. If we don't have it in any format, you have a few options for what to do next.

Clicking on a database link will take you to that publication's holdings in the database, where you can navigate to the specific issue and article you want.

Screenshot of issue list for publication Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone's publication page in Academic Search Premier, where you can browse by issue

I am just beginning my research, and I want to search EVERYTHING.

While we do not presently have a way to search every single database at once, you can get pretty close by searching our three biggest database vendors: ProQuest, EBSCO, and Gale. Each of these providers lets you search across all of their products, which will give you the biggest bang for your buck if you want to look broadly.

I have already done some research, and I want a more targeted search.

If you do not want to cast such a wide net, but would rather target a small number of databases that best fit your research interest, consider filtering by subject. Subjects (found in the first drop-down box at the top of the Articles & Databases page) relate to the topics covered by a database—like Fashion, United States History, and Religion—as well as the type of content included, like Biography, Historical Newspapers, Encyclopedias, and Maps/Atlases/Cartography. Plus, when you narrow your list of databases by subject, any Library-recommended databases (marked with a star) will automatically move to the top of the list.

Top results in Articles and Databases after filtering by the subject Biography
Top results in Articles and Databases after filtering by the subject Biography

You will see a description of each database below its name. If you are interested in content from a particular region or time period, or if you are trying to differentiate between two similar-sounding databases, this is a good place to look. You can also click on a database's "More info" link to learn further details.

Lion? House? What do those icons mean?

The icon to the left of each database name indicates where you can access it:

Lion icon Database can be accessed at any NYPL library location, or while using NYPL wifi. Some databases can only be used at certain libraries (for example, the research libraries). This is noted in the "More info" link.
House icon Database can be accessed from any computer or web-enabled device in the world, using your NYPL library card number and PIN.
Globe icon This is a freely-available website that requires no authentication or library privileges to use. Its link is provided as a courtesy.

Full text vs. indexes, or, why is my article not there?

Most of the databases we provide contain the full text of books, articles, and other kinds of documents. Some are provided as plain HTML text, while others are images that more faithfully reproduce the print original (if there is one).

One thing to be on the lookout for is a database with "index" in the title. This usually means that the database includes references to documents only—their citations plus added summaries or subjects to make them easier to find. These resources work a lot like the index in the back of a book: you search to find a person, place, or topic of interest, and then use the citation provided by the index to locate the source.

If we have the document referenced in an index, even if it's in another database, we try to include a link to make it easier to track down. Look for these links below an index's citation, like in these two search results:

Search results in Biography Index Past and Present showing links to full text content
Search results in Biography Index Past and Present showing links to full-text content

If the citation has no link, or if "Check 360 Link for Full Text" finds no full-text results, you can search the Library catalog to see if we have the publication in print or on microfilm. If NYPL does not own a copy, you can:


If you have any questions about the collections, resources, and services we offer at NYPL, speak to a librarian! Visit a reference desk at any NYPL location, or make an appointment in advance.

If you are having trouble connecting to a database, or if it does not seem to be working properly, please let us know.


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Very nice blog. Nice job!

Meredith Mann research post

That's a very helpful and informative post, and I am always astounded by the scope and depth of the free resources one can have access to via the NYPL.

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