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Social Sciences E-497A (Liazos)




This guide is meant to offer you a first point of entry into major resources for accessing scholarly sources in the Harvard research environment.  The intent is neither to be comprehensive nor finely grained -- we want to give you just enough to encourage exploration  and help your gain confidence, without overwhelming you with choices.

Research is about hypothesis-making and testing and for that reason, you'll find that it's more iterative than linear.  As your project develops and your thinking deepens and expands, other tools, other kinds of information, and other search techniques might need to be added  to this knowledge base.  Feel free to contact me, at any point in the process, whenever questions arise.  I may not have the answer myself, but I'll know which Harvard librarian has the expertise you're after and put you in touch with him or her. 

Enjoy your work! 

Sue Gilroy, Research Librarian, Lamont Library

Contextualizing Sources for IR Projects


Often the issue in information-seeking isn't scarcity of material but its overabundance. Annotated bibliographies that are created and curated by scholars aim to address the common problem of knowing what to read, who to read, or which voices in the conversation you should give some fuller attention to. For IR projects, we recommend starting resources like:


Oxford Bibliographies Online: International Relations Module

OBOs combine the best features of the annotated bibliography with an authoritative subject encyclopedia.

The default search is across all OBO modules. But the International Relations module, currently at 249 separate bibliographies, can be be browsed alphabetically by topic

IR content covers such categories as actors and international relations; conflict studies; diplomacy and foreign policy; international history; international law; international organizations; international politcal economy; international relations theory; research methods; security studies; and systems.  


Handbooks are a stock-in-trade for academic researchers. Typically, they're edited volumes, with chapters written by authorities -- or recognized experts, and they syntheize current "consensus" thinking around  a particular topic.  

HOLLIS is a good place to search for these tools -- one strategy is just to combine a broad keyword search with this format type (e.g., genocide AND handbook | "peace studies" AND handbook).Other terms to try (for rough eguivalents of the handbook) are companion or reader. 


Literature reviews are essays that help you easily understand—and contextualize—the principal contributions that have been made in your field. They not only track trends over time in the scholarly discussions of a topic, but also synthesize and connect related work. They cite the trailblazers and sometimes the outliers, and they even root out errors of fact or concept. Typically, they include a final section that identifies remaining questions or future directions research might take.

Among the databases for finding literature reviews, we recommend you start with:


Annual Reviews 

Since 1932,the Annual Reviews series has offered authoritative syntheses of the primary research literature in 46 academic fields, including many related to IR: economics, law, political science, and sociology.

Web of Science

In the question-making or "discovery" stage of research, Web of Science, described already on on the main page of this guide, can be a a powerful tool to uncovering literature reviews.

A keyword topic search in Web of Science, much like HOLLIS, will return results that you can then sift through using a variety of left-side filter categories.  

Under document type, look for the review option.

The Yearbook of the United Nations

This publication stands as the authoritative reference work on the activities and concerns of the Organization. Based on official UN documents, the Yearbook provides comprehensive coverage of political and security matters, human rights issues, economic and social questions, legal issues, and institutional, administrative and budgetary matters.

Each volume Yearbook, dating back to the 1946–47 edition, includes the texts of all major General Assembly, Security Council and Economic and Social Council resolutions and decisions and places them within a narrative context of UN consideration, deliberation and action. 



  • UN Yearbooks take time to produce: the latest publication v. 67, covers the work of the UN during 2013.  The 2014-2016 Yearbooks (v. 68-60) are available in pre-press format on the UN site; as chapters are drafted -- and awaiting an edited, official version --  they are posted online. 
  • For UN research guides, access to UN documents databases, and many related publications from member organizations, go here:






Sage Research Methods Online

The ultimate methods library, it has more than 1000 books, reference works, journal articles, case studies, and instructional videos by world-leading academics from across the social sciences. It also boasts the largest collection of qualitative methods books available online from any scholarly publisher. 

Users can browse content by topic, discipline, or format type (reference works, book chapters, definitions, etc.).  SRM offers several research tools as well: a methods map; a project plannervideo discussions of data collection and research methods; and more.


Searching for Books and Monographs


HOLLIS  combines the extensive contents of our library catalog with those of another, large and multidisciplinary database of journal, newspaper, and magazine articles.

Should you start here?  Normally, yes, because the "curated content" HOLLIS offers you  is specifically geared toward the Harvard community that you now belong to. That means it's  been chosen carefully and vetted in one way or another by other scholars, by the publishing houses from which it originates,  by the organizations and companies we purchase it from on your behalf, and by the specially trained library experts who are continually building up Harvard's collection. Some of it might appear in a Google Scholar search but a good portion of it is premium content that would never appear in search results on the free and open web. 




  • Use quotation marks for phrases:  "united states" 

  •  connect search terms and phrases explicitly with AND/OR and do so with capital letters:  

     migration AND law

  • truncate words with an asterisk to pick up alternatives ethic* will  also retrieve "ethics," "ethical," "ethically"
  •  indicate synonyms or interchangeable concepts by enclosing them in parentheses:

        migra* AND (law OR legal)

  • ​​​use the right side limit categories to sharpen up and whittle down your search results by date, language, resource type, and more.



Build up and out from what you know already:the "keyword" (Google search) approach.

Use the language that comes naturally to you to describe your topic.  Then mine your search results for verbal clues: other words (or word combinations) to substitute for the ones you've started with. Good searching is really about using language well and flexibly. Consciously look for ways to grow your searching vocabulary  as you go. 

Build from what you have already: the item in hand approach.

An author, a core text from a class, a title of a book that your instructor recommends may contain clues that can lead you to other items, available at one or more Harvard libraries that cover the same topic or some aspect of your topic.

  • Its CALL NUMBER can sometimes identify a "range" in the library's stacks where you'll find related information.
  • Its SUBJECT TERMS (also known as subject headings) will link to related information throughout the libraries. 


When you're far from Cambridge,  identifying books in print and on shelves in Harvard's library buildings can seem like a futile exercise. You can, however, often get your hands on items your find in HOLLIS even if you live many miles away from the Yard.



1. Search for the item in WorldCat.

WorldCat  is a database of library databases; using zipcodes, it can tell you which college and university libraries in the vicinity of where you live own the book.  

As long as any of the area libraries allow you in (often a phone call or a scan of the website will clarify policy), you'll be in luck!

2. Check the catalog of the large PUBLIC LIBRARY in your area.  Depending on the region, the size of the library, its mission, and its funding, a local public library may have a significant research component to its collection (The Boston Public Library at Copley Square is a prime example). 

3. Ask your local library about an INTERLIBRARY LOAN.  Libraries routinely borrow from each other on behalf of their patrons; if you have a library card, you should be able to request it (or have a librarian do so).  ILL can take a bit of time, however. You might wait a week or a bit more before the item arrives. Some places charge a small fee for the service. 


Project Muse's UPCC  (University Press Content Consortium) is an e-book initiative, launched in 2012. It provides thousands of peer-reviewed digital books from over 65 major university presses and scholarly publishers.  


University Press Scholarship Online (USPO) is a database created, maintained, and regularly updated by Oxford University Press.  It brings together in one convenient place, 23,000+  book-length studies, published by 23 of the most prestigious U.S. and U.K. academic presses.  Material can be searched broadly or limited to one of the 31 subject modules.

Books which are not "unlocked" will have detailed chapter-by-chapter descriptions. Search HOLLIS for the print copy.


Mulit-Disciplinary Databases for Journal Literature



  • When your assignment requires it, or when it helps you narrow down large result sets, limit your results to peer-reviewed articles.

  • Scour ARTICLE ABSTRACTS (summaries) and when available, take note of SUBJECT TERMS, which you can use to refine, refocus, sharpen, or streamline your search. 
  • When it's offered, look at the RELATED READING list (which displays to the right of an open item record). Like Amazon's recommendation feature, this list can help you discover similar materials serendipitously, almost "sideways," based on what other users have read. 
  • When offered, click on the CITATIONS link.  The impact of an article can be measured, at least in part, by how many other scholars chose to use it as a source for their own investigations. The more times cited, the more important and more influential a piece of scholarship is.


Academic Search Premier 

This database can be a good next step once you've explored content available in HOLLIS,  particularly if you feel overwhelmed -- or sometimes, underwhelmed -- by the journal and article search results you've uncovered there. 

While much of what ASP searches is from scholarly sources, generous amounts also come from newspaper and general interest magazines. Like HOLLIS, ASP casts a wide net, so you might  see your topic treated from a number of disciplinary angles or through a variety of theoretical lenses. 


Given what ASP includes in its database, result sets can sometimes have more breadth than scholarly depth.




One of the first, and still the best known of our full-text scholarly databases. JSTOR provides access to the contents of 2600 core academic journals, in 60 knowledge domains in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.  

Much of the journal content in JSTOR has a "moving wall," a set period of time in which the most current volumes, issues, and articles of a particular journal are not available online for reading and downloading. Depending on the journal title, the moving wall may be anywhere between 1 and 5 years).  In a few instances, the moving wall has been eliminated altogether.

SMART SEARCHING TIP: Articles  not (yet) available on JSTOR may be available to you another way. Try searching for the article title in HOLLIS

  • If another Harvard Library database has the full-text article, HOLLIS will identify that access point. 
  • If we only have it print, you can request a Scan and Deliver
  • On the rare occasions when we don't have the journal at Harvard, we'll get you a PDF copy of the article if you submit an Interlibrary Loan.


Social Sciences Premium Collection

With an aim to facilitate cross-disciplinary research, SSPC combines, in one place, the contents of several of the most important databases for of the social sciences, among them Sociological Abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts, and the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences

Journals, including non-English language ones, working papers and reports, dissertations, magazine and trade publications are among the types of documents you might turn up by searching SSPC.


Given its purpose, the SSPC, much like HOLLIS, can return result sets that seem enormous. But you have options to control what you see:

  • After running a search, you can always limit your results via left-side filters: publication date, source type, language, etc.  You can even drill deeper into the results in a particular database that SSPC includes.
  • Before running a search, you can make some decisions about what you want to see up front.  These categories appear right below the search boxes:

screenshot of pre-search limit options by source, document type, and language





Google Scholar 

Most of the research databases you use search for information differently than Google Scholar.  Most base their results lists on "metadata" -- the descriptive information about items that identifies features  in certain fields (title, author,  table of contents, subject terms, etc.). 

While Google Scholar's algorithms account for some of this same information, it adds full-text into the mix when it retrieves, sorts, and ranks search results.

What does this mean for you? Sometimes, better relevance, especially on the first page or so.  And sometimes, given that it searches full-text, Google Scholar might reveal more quickly than our databases where a hard-to-find nugget of scholarly information is hidden away in a published article.

So have it your repertoire: just be sure you maximize its utility to you by adjusting your Google Scholar settings, we describe below.

Google Scholar can also be a good place to do a "cited reference" search in order to trace scholarly reaction to/engagement a particular article forward in time. 

Tools for Managing Research


One simple change can turn Google Scholar into what's effectively a Harvard database -- with links to the full-text of articles that the library can provide. Here's what to do:  Look to the left of the GS screen and click on the "hamburger" (); then click on .  Look for "Library Links."  Then type Harvard University into the search box and save your choice.  As long as you allow cookies, the settings will keep.  

Zotero, a free, open source citation management tool will take the process of collecting and organizing citations, incorporating them into your paper, and creating a bibliography or works cited page to the next level.  

It's worth the small investment of time to learn Zotero.  A good guide, produced by Harvard librarians, is available here: