Contact Information
  • Librarian: Celestina Savonius-Wroth
  • Location: Herman B Wells Library E560
  • Phone: (812) 855-1336
Libraries & Subjects
last updated: 8/14/2012

How to find review essays

Review essays are articles written by specialists in a given field, who've looked at some of the most important recent work on an issue, period, topic or theme and have attempted to summarize and assess it. Sounds useful, right? So how do you find these time-saving treasures of scholarship?


A good starting place is the online journal, History Compass, which consists entirely of review-essay-like articles.


Another form of review essay appears in standard reference works such as Mary Beth Norton and Pamela Gerardi, ed.s, The American Historical Association's guide to historical literature. New York : Oxford University Press, 1995. Each section (geographical, chronological and thematic) begins with a short historiographic essay. Although the essay were written in the 1990s and thus won't help with more recent trends in scholarship, they are wonderful nutshell versions of everything you feel you should already have known about your field.


Similar historiographic essays can be found in print reference sources such as Kelly Boyd, ed., Encyclopedia of historians and historical writing. London; Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, c1999 (Wells Library Reference Reading Room, D14 .E58 1999). Explore the D, E and F call number areas in the Reference Reading Room, and you'll find many other useful works of this nature.


If you still haven't found the silver bullet, try a carefully constructed search in Historical Abstracts, America: History & Life, JSTOR or the key bibliographic tool in the field you're researching. Here are some seach strategies and sample searches.


Finding review essays in JSTOR, Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life

This isn't infallible, but very often does work. Experiment with other keywords, historical time periods, etc, until you find something helpful.


  1. Use the advanced search options, and search for articles only (excluding book reviews because these are usually reviews of only a single book).
  2. In JSTOR, search for articles with the word "review" in the title.
  3. In Historical Abstracts, the subject term "literature review" should yield good results, but you can also try using the word "review" in the title. 
  4. If you want a recent review essay, limit your search by date of publication as well.


Here's a screen shot showing how to search for a review essay in JSTOR:




And here's what it looks like in Historical Abstracts (America: History and Life works the same way):




last updated: 8/14/2012