Primary Sources in History

Using Magazines as Historical Sources

Magazines can be primary sources as long as you are finding articles published in your time period.  Magazines can be helpful in determining what the public was reading about the event as magazines enjoy wide circulation. 

The UNF library has past issues of periodicals in 4 different formats; full text online, print, microfilm and microfiche. We may have a single periodical, I.e. Ebony, in all 4 formats. Your format type will typically be dependent on the publication date you are looking for.

UNF Databases

Finding Magazines

1900-1922: HathiTrust has full view of many early volumes, including cumulated and supplementary volumes, covering all years in some fashion up to 1922. Volumes past 1922 are currently not available in full text, but can be searched.

Why would I visit the Readers' Guide?

The Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature helps you find articles that were published in popular magazines.  Each volume is a subject based index that identifies all the articles written on a topic from a particular time frame from about 300 magazines.  For example, to find articles about the sinking of the Titanic, you can go to the Readers' Guide for 1912 and find a list:

Step 1: Find the index for your year of interest.

Step 2: Look for keywords that will capture the essence of your research interest.  Look for the name of an event, a person, a country, or anything you can think of.  The index includes "See" as way to guide you to the official keyword for a concept as well as related areas of interest.  

Step 3: Read the article titles to find articles pertaining to your interest.  

Step 4: Note the magazine name/abbreviation. There is not space for every periodical title to be written in full, so you can flip to one of the first few pages of the index to find the List of Periodicals Indexed to see what the shortened title refers to.  As an example: Harp. W. refers to Harpers Weekly.

Step 5: Jot down the date and the page numbers to help you find the article within the magazine.  Tip: take a picture of the page to help you remember all the details.  

Step 6: Look for full text of the article.  UNF has magazines in 4 different formats.  Click through the next 4 tabs to help you search for your magazine in the different formats.  


Check to see if we have full text online access to your periodical by using Publication Search (found on the library’s main page in the blue box)

  • Type the name of your periodical to see whether we have access to the full text in one of our library’s databases

Look through the full text access options to see if UNF has access to the date you need.  If we don't have the year you are looking for online, search in the library catalog to see if we have access in another format.  

If we don’t have the year you are looking for online, check our library’s catalog to see if we have it in print, microfilm or microfiche.  The catalog is linked from the blue box on the library's home page, then choose UNF Library Catalog. 

Library's Home Page

  • Type the name of your periodical.  We may have up to 3 separate entries, one labeled print, one for microfilm, one for microfiche.  Click on each one to find what our years of coverage are for the particular format.  


In general, we have older magazines in microfilm (rolls of film kept in cabinets along the wall), we switch to microfiche (index cards in filing cabinets in the center of the micro format area) in the 80s and 90s, and then we get online full text in the 90s and 2000s.  We rarely have magazines in print, save for some recent copies that are more for browsing.   There are always exceptions to these generalities though so it is always good to check for all 4 formats.  


Thomas G. Carpenter Library

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Jacksonville, FL 32224

Phone: 904-620-2615

Text: 904-507-4122

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