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A Guide to American Culture Studies

This page brings together various information resources on the subject of American Culture Studies

Reference Works - A Place to Begin

Reference works - such as encyclopedia, handbooks, bibliographies, or companions - are often a good place to start your research. Not only will entries give you a broad overview of a subject, they may, depending the depth of the entry, provide some outlines of the academic discussion on the topic and frequently provide a bibliography, which can lead you to more sources. While Wikipedia is fairly accurate and contains citations as well, the encyclopedia listed below and others you can find through the WUSTL Libraries' catalog are written by academic professionals and point to the most important works in the field. 

U.S. History

Oxford Companion to United States History - With over 1,400 entries written by some 900 historians and other scholars, it illuminates not only America's political, diplomatic, and military history, but also social, cultural, and intellectual trends; science, technology, and medicine; the arts; and religion. It covers everything from Jamestown and the Puritans to the Human Genome Project and the Internet—from Columbus to Clinton. Written in clear, graceful prose for researchers, browsers, and general readers alike, this is the volume that addresses the totality of the American experience, its triumphs and heroes as well as its tragedies and darker moments.

Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Culture - over 1,200 alphabetically-arranged entries - spanning 'the American century' from the end of World War II to the present day - the Encyclopedia provides a one-stop source for insightful and stimulating coverage of all aspects of that culture. Entries range from short definitions to longer overview essays and with full cross-referencing, extensive indexing, and a thematic contents list, this volume provides an essential cultural context for both teachers and students of American studies, as well as providing fascinating insights into American culture for the general reader. The suggestions for further reading, which follows most entries, are also invaluable guides to more specialized sources.


Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions - a reference book first published in 1978, it is currently in its ninth edition and has become a standard reference work in the study of religion in the United States. Includes coverage of more than 2,300 North American religious groups in the U.S. and Canada -- from Adventists to Zen Buddhists. Each chapter includes an overview of the family's history, followed by directory entries on specific groups within that family. The directory entries provide factual information including, when available, rubrics for membership figures, educational facilities, and periodicals.

additional U.S. history encyclopedias  


Oxford Bibliographies - provides faculty and students alike with a seamless pathway to the most accurate and reliable resources for a variety of academic topics. Written and reviewed by academic experts, every article in our database is an authoritative guide to the current scholarship, containing original commentary and annotations.


"Bibliography" is also a Library of Congress subject subheading that occurs at the end of a subject string (e.g., "Catholic Church -- United States -- History -- Bibliography").



Academic Journal Databases

Subject-specific databases

American Theological Library Association (ATLA) - the premier index of articles, reviews, and essays in all fields of religion and theology

America: History & Life - provides historical coverage of the United States and Canada from prehistory to the present.

Film and Television Literature Index a comprehensive bibliographic database covering the entire spectrum of television and film writing. It has been designed for use by a diverse audience that includes film scholars, college students, and general viewers. Subject coverage includes film and television theory, preservation and restoration, writing, production, cinematography, technical aspects, and reviews.

Performing Arts Periodical Database a performing arts journal resource with nearly 300,000 indexed articles, plus detailed abstracts and full text from 1864 to current, covering film, theatre and dance.


Multi-disciplinary Databases

JSTOR - popular humanities and social science databases with extensive holdings of full text journal articles and book chapters

Google Scholar - the world's largest indexer of academic journal articles


Primary Sources

Primary Source Collections in Print

Library catalogers use the subheading "Sources" at the end of a string of subheadings to indicate anthologies of primary sources. However, cataloging is not a perfect science, so not every collection of primary sources has this subheading. For example, a search for the keyword phrase "documentary sourcebook" in the WU Libraries' catalog produces seven titles, only three of which have "sources" as a subheading. In other words, performing a subject search will not produce a complete list of all primary source collections. Sometimes the source one wants to find is not in an anthology but cited in a bibliography of another work. You might want to try an advanced search with a combination of subject headings and keywords like “sources,” "sourcebook," "primary sources," "primary documents," etc.  Other subheadings which indicate bound, primary source collections include personal narrativescorrespondencemanuscriptsmapsliterary collectionsbiography, et. al. 

Guide to all U.S. History Primary Source Databases

Primary Source Databases <-- link to primary source database list in the American History LibGuide

Newspapers & Magazines


American Periodicals: Newspapers & Magazines <-- link to the LibGuide to American History "Periodicals: Journals, Newspapers & Magazines" box

Chronicling America - over 1000 full-text U.S. newspaper titles from 46 states & Puerto Rico; open access

The subject headings of most U.S. newspapers take the form of "City (state abbreviation) -- newspapers" such as Saint Louis (Mo.) -- Newspapers. However, that's not always the case. For example, the St. Louis Argus had been categorized as African Americans -- Missouri -- Newspapers and was not discoverable under Saint Louis (Mo.) -- Newspapers until I suggested the change to WUSTL Libraries catalogers. 

MAS Ultra - full text for more than 700 popular magazines, plus biographies, primary source documents, pamphlets, and reference books published between 1975 to present. 


PressReader - full-color, full-page collection of today's newspapers from around the world, providing instant access to 1000+ newspapers from 82 countries in 39 languages. For most papers, only the most current 60 days are available.


Enterntainment industry trade publications

Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive an archival research resource containing the essential primary sources for studying the history of the film and entertainment industries, from the era of vaudeville and silent movies through to 2000. The core US and UK trade magazines covering film, music, broadcasting and theater are all included, together with film fan magazines and music press titles. Magazines have been scanned cover-to-cover in high-resolution color, with granular indexing of all articles, covers, ads and reviews. 



Statistical Abstract of the United States the authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States.

Historical Statistics of the United States a standard source for quantitative facts of American history. Contains over 37,000 data series from over 1,000 sources.

Public Opinion Polls / Surveys

Polling the Nations (1986 - present) 500,000+ questions and responses, from 14,000+ surveys, conducted in the United States and more than 100 other countries around the world.

Roper Center (1930s - present) - one of the world's leading archives of social science data, specializing in data from public opinion surveys from the United States and abroad. Founded in 1947, the Roper Center holds polling data ranging from the 1930s, when survey research was in its infancy, to the present. Its collection now includes over 22,000 datasets and adds hundreds more each year. In total, the archive contains responses from millions of individuals on a vast range of topics.