Chapter 7. Serial Bibliographies, Indexes, and Abstracts

Table of Contents

Serial bibliographies, indexes, and abstracts (print and electronic) that are published or updated at regular intervals are important resources for literature and language scholars since they guide researchers to the most recent scholarship. At the first stage of a project, researchers should identify the pertinent serial bibliographies, indexes, and abstracts; become thoroughly familiar with their scope, limitations, taxonomy, and record structure; master the advanced search interface (especially any strategy that allows identification of records added since a previous search); and plan to search each at intervals. The best of the electronic resources allow users to save searches for running at regular intervals and offer an alert service that generates e-mail notices when new records related to a search are added. Unfortunately, many specialized serial bibliographies and indexes have been discontinued during the last decade because of financial constraints, the inability to move from print to electronic form, or the unfounded assumption that the presence of such electronic bibliographical behemoths as WorldCat (E225) or MLAIB (G335) and Internet search engines have rendered more specialized bibliographies obsolete.

This section includes works covering more than one national literature or discipline. Works devoted to a single national literature or subject appear in appropriate sections of the Guide. Although there is considerable overlapping among the following sources, each—because of its scope, organization, or indexing features—cites studies omitted from or not readily accessible in the others. (The extent of duplication in literature serial bibliographies has never been satisfactorily established. The existing studies are based on seriously flawed methodologies and an inadequate grasp of the scope, editorial principles, and taxonomies of the major bibliographies. See, for example, Lewis Sawin, “The Integrated Bibliography for English Studies: Plan and Project,” Pennsylvania Library Association Bulletin 19 [Feb. 1964]: 7–19; Abigail A. Loomis, “Dickens Duplications: A Study of Overlap in Serial Bibliographies in Literature,” RQ 25.3 [1986]: 348–55.)

Bibliographies of Bibliographies


Wortman, William A. A Guide to Serial Bibliographies for Modern Literatures. 2nd ed. New York: MLA, 1995. 333 pp. Z6519.W67 [PN695] 016.805.

A guide to serial bibliographies published separately or in journals (generally excluding those that ceased publication before c. 1960). Organized in divisions for comprehensive bibliographies and general indexes, literatures in English, non-English literatures, subjects, and authors, the 777 titles include bibliographies for periods, genres, subjects, themes, and literature-related topics (such as psychology, music, art, and religion). Many sections are preceded by a helpful evaluative overview. A typical annotation briefly describes basic organization and scope (users should note that Wortman uses the term comprehensive in reference to breadth of coverage rather than thoroughness [see p. 6]), but discontinued bibliographies are not always identified. Additions and corrections are no longer listed at, and the return of these updates is questionable. Wortman is the best source for identifying specialized serial bibliographies that are frequently more extensive in coverage than—or at least essential supplements to—comparable parts of standard general works such as MLAIB (G335) and ABELL (G340).

Bibliographic Index (D145) lists new serial bibliographies as well as a number of discontinued ones omitted by Wortman. Richard A. Gray, comp., Serial Bibliographies in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Ann Arbor: Pierian, 1969; 345 pp.), covers philosophy, religion, the social sciences, language, the arts, history, and literature, but is now outdated.


Balay, Robert. Early Periodical Indexes: Bibliographies and Indexes of Literature Published in Periodicals before 1900. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2000. 315 pp. Z6941.B35 [PN4801] 011′.34.

An annotated bibliography of approximately 400 indexes and bibliographies, print and electronic and dating from 1790 to 1999, that index periodicals published before 1900. The scope is international, but resources in Western European languages predominate. Entries are organized in six divisions: general works, humanities (with sections on language and literature), history and area studies, social and behavioral sciences, science and technology, and library and information sciences. Annotations fully describe scope, content, and organization; establish the relation to other resources; and are exacting in evaluations. Four indexes: authors; titles; subjects; dates of coverage. Drawing on the author’s extensive experience as a reference librarian who frequently dealt with the vexing question of how to identify the contents of periodicals before 1900, Early Periodical Indexes is an invaluable guide.