This is a set of resources and tips for researching Appalachia curated by Dr. Chris Green and Christopher Miller. Be sure to scroll all the way down! If you still need advice, use the link to request additional help. Also, Hutchins Library Reference Desk has a live chat available in the lower right corner.
This page was developed for Berea College students. Access for students from other institution will depend on the subscriptions owned by your institution. Berea College students who are off campus will need to authenticate with your Berea account to gain access to these materials.
Dr. Green’s Tips for Appalachian Research
Think about what part of Appalachia you are researching:
- Appalachia is a large region, and most often only those areas closer to the center of the region (eastern KY and TN, WV, western VA and NC, and recently southern Ohio) are identified as “Appalachian” in subject searches, and often not even then. Nevertheless, articles about most places in Pennsylvania, northern Alabama (i.e., Birmingham northward), etc., are Appalachian.
- One important definition of Appalachia is that of the Appalachian Regional Commission, a Federal agency. Look the ARC’s maps of Appalachia to get a sense of how large and diverse the region can be. The ARC defines Appalachia as a list of counties. Find the list here: http://www.arc.gov/counties.
- Figure out what sub-region or portion of Appalachia you are researching and use that information to narrow your searches.
- Search for sources using other geographic terms, such as the name of the state, counties, cities, geographic sub-regions (e.g., eastern Kentucky or East Tennessee).
- Often times “Appalachian” topics are not labelled as Appalachian. For instance, if you are researching the Shawnee people (a Native-American tribe who inhabited the Ohio Valley, West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, etc.), you are researching a deeply Appalachian topic, although it is not identified as such.
And here are a few starting points:
- High Mountains Rising is a good collection of informed introductory essays. It is available in Project Muse.
- Many Appalachian states have excellent online state encyclopedias including Alabama, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia. Unfortunately, the Kentucky Encyclopedia was created decades ago, is not updated, and (as a result) is mediocre.
- Consult the Appalachian Studies Bibliography, which is maintained by West Virginia University libraries. https://www.libraries.wvu.edu/collections/bibliography/. This crucial resource catalogs a wide range of research on Appalachia across all disciplines from 1994 to 2016. Note: not all sources on this bibliography are secondary, so be mindful.
- The two scholarly journals specifically dedicated to Appalachian studies are the Appalachian Journal and the Journal of Appalachian Studies. Appalachian Studies is a discipline whose scholarship is cross- and inter-disciplinary. Scholars in this field are informed by debates, questions, and scholarship specific to the study of Appalachia as a cultural-social region. These journals are fully accessible via Academic Search Complete (which many people also call EBSCOhost).
- Consult Hutchins library’s online Appalachian Studies guide, but also consult other guides and databases appropriate to your question. For instance, if you issue is about health, you would want to consult the nursing guide. Similarly, if researching a topic such as slavery in eastern Kentucky, you might consult state specific books (such as A History of Blacks in Kentucky: From Slavery to Segregation, 1760-1891) and journals (such as the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society).
- The Appalachian Regional Commission has a wide set of research reports available as well as some important data about education and economics. However, the reports can be broad and do not include information about race. See their section called Research, Maps, and Data. You can also google “Appalachian Regional Commission Research and Data.”
Next, explore the detailed sections below.
Use the link below to submit a request for help from the faculty and staff of the Appalachian Center. Before requesting help, PLEASE read the information and advice below. We may have already answered your question.
Students off campus you will need to authenticate with your Berea account to gain access to these journals.
Tips for Finding Journal Articles Related to Your Appalachian Topic
- This search will show you over 450 full-text articles with “Appalachia” in the article title, published in peer-reviewed journals between 2013 and 2020, and available in Academic Search Complete.
Hint: Use the Page Options to open and adjust the limiters applied. Add your own search terms to narrow the search.
- Journal of Appalachian Studies is a refereed, multidisciplinary publication, which seeks to provide a written forum for quality scholarship on Appalachian history, culture, and society.
Hint: The link above takes you to JSTOR. Use advance search, put in your search terms, scroll down, put “Journal of Appalachian Studies” in the Journal or Book Title box to search for your topic only in this journal.
- Appalachian Journal is an “interdisciplinary journal featuring field research, interviews, and other scholarly studies of history, politics, economics, culture, folklore, literature, music, ecology, and a variety of other topics, as well as reviews of books, films, and recordings.
Hint: The link above takes you to JSTOR. Use advance search, put in your search terms, scroll down, put “Appalachian Journal” in the Journal or Book Title box to search for your topic only in this journal.
- Journal of Appalachian Health is a new journal focused on public health issues in the region.
More Info about Important Appalachian Studies Journals
Journal of Appalachian Studies – The Journal of Appalachian Studies (JAS) is a refereed, multidisciplinary publication, which seeks to provide a written forum for quality scholarship on Appalachian history, culture, and society. It is the official journal of the Appalachian Studies Association (ASA). It is actually published by The University of Illinois Press publishes for the ASA with financial support from Marshall University. There are two issues per year. The Journal of Appalachian Studies supersedes earlier publications of the Appalachian Studies Association, including Proceedings and the Journal of the Appalachian Studies Association (JASA). *Index and full-text are available through ECSCOhost: Education Research Complete and JSTOR*
Appalachian Journal – This publication is from Appalachian State University. This journal is an “interdisciplinary journal featuring field research, interviews, and other scholarly studies of history, politics, economics, culture, folklore, literature, music, ecology, and a variety of other topics, as well as reviews of books, films, and recordings – all dealing with the region of the Appalachian Mountains”. It is geared towards being accessible for scholars, educators, and researchers and stands at the center of Appalachian Studies. *Index and full-text available in JSTOR*
Here are some sources for finding Appalachian Literature online:
- High Mountains Rising has a good chapter on Appalachian literature It is available in Project Muse.
- The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 9: Literature includes a chapter on Appalachian Literature and contextualizes it within Southern literature.
- Appalachian Heritage – This magazine is a constantly evolving, modern quarterly literary publication out of Berea College. Look here for current Appalachian literature pieces. They look into Appalachian diversity, cultural evolution, and how traditions have been transformed through the generations. You will find poetry, fiction, non-fiction, craft essays, and book reviews included here. Folks published in Appalachian Heritage do not need degrees or previous publications. Issues from 1973-2002 often published short essays about Appalachia. This is an easily accessible collection of literature for a common reader, not just scholars. *Index and full-text available in Project Muse*
E-books Available to Berea College Students
The leading Appalachian scholarship is often available in books, rather than journals. Be prepared to look at some books. Many important books, but not all, are available as full-text e-books.
- You don’t have to read the whole book! Look at the table of contents and the index to quickly determine which portions of the book may be applicable to your research.
- Look at the footnotes or citations in applicable sections to find other books and articles that may be useful.
Students off campus you will need to authenticate with your Berea account to gain access to these e-books.
- A list of all e-books related to Appalachia available through EBSCOhost eBook Collection
This list returns more than 330 e-books
Hint#1: Click this link, then add your own search specialized search terms after the “AND”
Hint#2: Change the sort to “Date Newest” to see the most recently published materials
- A list of all e-books and chapters of e-books related to Appalachia available through JSTOR
This list returns over 1,800 items
Hint: Use “Refine Results” to narrow the list for your own research
- Several major university presses routinely publish important books in Appalachian studies. E-books from several of these presses are available in the EBSCOhost eBook Collection.
Click this link to see a list of over 80 worthwhile e-books.
Hint: Click this link, then add your own search specialized search terms after the “AND”
Data is raw information curated or organized for researchers to use. It will tell you facts, such as rates of poverty, health measures, etc, but does not tell you what those facts mean or how to interpret them. It is up to you to interpret them! Reports, typically by government agencies, organizations, or educational units, summarize the data and begin and suggest some interpretation. These data are typically primary sources for student papers.
- The Appalachian Regional Commission has raw data and research reports available about education, employment, and economics in Appalachian counties. ARC data does not include social factors like race. See their section called Research, Maps, and Data.
- The Kentucky State Data Center provided by the University of Louisville Department of Urban and Public Affairs has a large variety of data and research reports about the Appalachian counties in Kentucky.
- Use census.gov to find access data about counties and cities. You can also get Census data by congressional district, just google “census congressional district.”
- Use various state government departments of health and education (and so forth) to access much more detailed data about communities. You can also access details about crime via searching the internet for “[your state’s name] state police data.”
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) maintains a CDC Data Catalogue.