Researching newspapers

There are few published subject indexes available to newspapers. The only UK newspaper with a published index covering its entire run is The Times. The full published index to The Times is available on the Newsroom reference shelves.

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Do you know which newspaper titles you want to see?

Newspapers are listed in our main catalogue, which offers both ‘simple’ and ‘advanced’ search functions. Newspaper records can be searched by title, word from title, place (e.g. the city/town, region or country of publication or distribution) or any word in the catalogue record or by shelfmark. The advanced search enables you to select and combine specific fields. For example, if you know the title and the place of publication of a newspaper, use the advanced search option of combining a search of the ‘Main title’ field and the 'Place Name' field. This will present a list of the newspaper titles. To make it easier to identify relevant titles, you can re-sort the list of titles into date order by choosing the sort options ‘date-newest’ or ‘date-oldest’. 

Most newspapers are held in store and will be delivered to you by staff. Print copies of the vast majority of newspapers are held in offsite stores and will take at least 48 hours to be delivered. Microfilms of newspapers are stored onsite and will be delivered within 70 minutes. A small number of high-use London national newspapers such as The Times, the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and several others are held in self-service cabinets in the Newsroom and are immediately available.

Have you got a list of newspaper articles to find?

Explore the British Library does not index newspaper articles. The vast majority of newspapers do not have published subject indexes, so you need a good idea of when and where the articles you want were published. It is fairly easy to trace reports of major historical events, but it can be difficult to study a large subject or a general theme through newspapers alone. In this case, it is advisable to do some preparatory work before visiting the Newsroom. For example, you may wish to consult books and subject bibliographies to prepare a set of dates or likely dates when newspapers may have covered the subject of interest. A good starting point into searching for specific articles is to use the word searchable online newspaper collections available such as the British Newspaper Archive (BNA). The Reading Room offers free access to the BNA, a partnership between the British Library and DC Thomson Family History to digitise up to 40 million newspaper pages over a 10-year period.

In addition, there are online newspaper resources available in the Newsroom, including both UK and international newspapers. Key online newspaper collections include the 17th- and 18th-Century Burney Newspapers, The Times Digital Archive 1785-1985, The Daily Mail Historical Archive 1896-2004, The Guardian Archive 1821-2003 , The Scotsman Digital Archive 1817-1950, The New York Times 1851-2006 and The Times of India 1838-2003.

What about subject indexes to newspapers?

There are few published subject indexes available to newspapers. The only UK newspaper with a published index covering its entire run is The Times. The full published index to The Times is available on the Newsroom reference shelves. There is also a full published index to the New York Times on the reference shelves. Other incomplete or short run indexes to UK and overseas newspaper titles can be found in the catalogue. There are also some online or CD indexes such as The British Newspaper Index which indexes the major UK broadsheet newspapers for the period 1990 to 2000.

Are you interested in very recent newspapers?

UK and Irish print newspaper titles are batched processed and boxed and so are not available completely up to date. They are usually available six months after publication date. Some UK titles are purchased on microfilm format and it usually takes between three and six months for these microfilm titles to become available. Likewise, overseas newspapers are generally purchased on microfilm and can take some time to arrive. The delay for overseas titles can vary from a few months to several years. The catalogue provides information on the latest issues which can be ordered. We do subscribe to some online newspaper collections which provide access to current news articles. For example, the database Access World News (NewsBank) provides text only, word searchable access to a range of UK and international newspaper content and UKpressonline provides access to recent full facsimile images of the popular papers: the Daily Mirror; the Daily Express; the Daily Star and the Sunday Express.

Are you researching the history of the newspaper press?

In the Newsroom you will find a wealth of information on the history of the newspaper press. The Newsroom collection includes: selected catalogues; newspaper bibliographies such as the Waterloo Directories and the Newsplan Reports; historic and current press directories such as Mitchell’s Newspaper Press Directory, Benns Media Guide and Willings Press Guide; newspaper indexes; and a collection of monographs on newspaper history and the newspaper industry such as the multi-volume The History of The Times. The Newsroom reference collection is shelved according to the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme and is listed in Explore the British Library.

A good starting point for research into the general history of the British newspaper press is our Concise History of the British Press. Our Reading Room leaflet 'Select bibliography of the history of the British newspaper press' may also be of interest.

Need further help and advice on newspaper research?

If you need help, just ask our staff at the Reference Enquiry Desk. If you are outside the Library, you can contact the News Reference Team via Ask the Reference Team

We also offer a series of workshops to help you make the best use of our collections.

Newspaper Reference Service

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7377

E-mail: Ask the Reference Team