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USSY 250 - Medical Narratives

Created for course taught by Prof. Athena Vrettos in Fall 2017

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Research databases and online archives

This page describes two different kinds of research tools: research databases and online collections of primary documents.

Research Databases

These resources allow you to find articles that have been written about your topic in academic journals, magazines, and newspapers.

The generalist database Academic Search Complete is an excellent place to start. It indexes materials from many disciplines, and, while it's not exhaustive, you will likely find at least something on your topic here.

We also have hundreds of discipline-specific databases, so depending on the focus of your paper, one or more of these might be useful.

For digging into the literary end of things, the MLA International Bibliography is an excellent resource. Keep in mind that using MLA's list of subject headings, tags, or what is called the thesaurus, can be extremely useful. Note for example that the MLA has a thesaurus term for medical prose, which will bring back a list of articles dealing with that topic.

Similarly, if you are particularly interested in the history of your topic, you might consider the database America: History and Life.


Online Primary Source collections

You have access to many, many online collections of primary sources. Here are a few examples:

New York Times Historical archive: Perhaps you would like to look at advertisements for x-ray machines from the early 20th Century?  The New York Times historical archive allows you to search for display ads by keyword and displays full PDFs of the pages of the paper. How about an advertisement from Bloomingdales showing Santa Claus using an x-ray machine from 1897?

Similar to the New York Times collection is the American Periodical Series. This collection contains thousands of magazines and newspapers from the 19th and early 20th Centuries, searchable by full-text. How about this advertisement for Beecham's Pills for "bilious and nervous disorders"?

Early American Imprints: This impressive collection contains full text PDFs of hundreds of thousands of primary documents. Browsing through the subject categories for health, for example, you'll find the topic smallpox. Here you'll find 70 documents related to that disease, including a primer on inoculation for smallpox from 1759.

Empire Online: This collection also allows full text searching through a vast collection of primary documents. Searching for smallpox here returns, for example, a narrative by Joe Little Chief in which he discusses the disease.

Surgeons at Sea: This fascinating collection from the UK National Archives consists of journals and diaries compiled by Royal Navy surgeons and assistants who served on HM ships, hospitals, naval brigades, shore parties, and on emigrant and convict ships in the period 1793–1880.

The Wellcome Library Collection: One of the world's major resources for the study of medical history.

National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine Collections, including fascinating FDA "Notices of Judgment" from 1908–1966.

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