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Social Studies 98


Social Studies 98nq: Some Ways to Begin

1. Check to see if a good subject bibliography can direct your reading.


Oxford Bibliographies Online is the database that we recommend for this approach.

Often the issue in information-seeking isn't scarcity of material but overabundance. OBO entries can help you solve the problem of knowing what or who to read or which voices in the conversation you should give some fuller attention to. They aim to help you identify some of the most important and influential scholarship on a broad social, political, cultural or interdisciplinary disciplinary topic.

Example entries: Confucius Institutes (Chinese Studies) || Korea (Music) || Voluntary International Migration (International Relations)

2. Look for a more or less recent literature review on your topic or its broader dimensions.

Annual Reviews is the database we recommend with this approach.

Literature reviews 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.

Other Strategies for Locating Lit Reviews:

  • in subject databases, like those on this guide, you can often limit your search results this way. If the option exists, you'll probably find it under filters for "document type" or "methodology" filters. "Review essay" is also filter to try, when it appears.
  • In dissertations, lit reviews commonly appear as a preliminary chapter. Try ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

3. Build on what you have already: the "item in hand" approach.

You already know the value of examining footnotes and bibliographies for related scholarship or for identifying primary source material.  And you know that whenever you find material by these means, a quick HOLLIS search by book or article title will identify your access options.

Sometimes, though, you want to look beyond the item in hand -- not look at its antecedents but at its descendants -- the scholarship produced later, and cited your item in its bibliography and footnotes. Following citation trails is a common scholarly practice. 

For that strategy, Google Scholar is a great option. Enter the book or article title, and click on Cited By


Basic Search Techniques in HOLLIS

Widener Call number Chart  [PDF]

HOLLIS Searching FAQs




                image of 5 search techniques



Scholarly Journal Databases



Academic Search Premier (EBSCOhost)

Why: The advantages of Academic Search Premier are 1) its multidisciplinary; 2) its inclusion of very recent content; 3) its mix of scholarly, news, and magazine content.

When ASP results seem broader than they are deep, try one of the databases listed below instead. 


Why: This tried and true database is probably one of the first places you learned to search for scholarly literature. "Smallish" (in relative terms), it's also mighty because the journals it includes are those that, historically, have been considered the most important and most impactful in the fields they cover.  

One nice feature of JSTOR is the ability to zero in on a particular discipline. Scanning the left side limits after you run a straight keyword search might help you pinpoint  you "where" the scholarly conversation is clustering (history, Asian studies, urban studies, etc.). 

One downside of JSTOR: it typically excludes the most recent 1-5 years of the publications it includes (with some exceptions). That means you may want to supplement / update with  in HOLLIS,  Google Scholar, or one of the subject databases listed below.

Google Scholar

Why:  GS searches differently from most library databases, including HOLLIS. In addition to searching "metadata" (lots of descriptive info about a book or article, it also searches full-text . This can be an additional advantage when you've got a very narrow topic or are seeking a "nugget" that traditional database searching can't surface easily. 

Google Scholar incorporates more types of information -- not just books and journal contents-- and depending on your need, comfort level, and perspective, that eclecticism can be an advantage. 

It's also an excellent way to follow CITATION TRAILS. Enter the title of a book or journal article and then click on "Cited by" when the item appears. 


Anthropology Plus (EBSCOhost)

WHY: Two great databases of anthropology-related scholarship --one that is produced here at Harvard (originally at the Tozzer Library and now at the Peabody Museum) and one produced by the Royal Anthropological Institute in the UK -- are combined and made searchable here. AP includes journal articles, reports, commentaries, and edited works in such subfields as social, cultural, physical, biological, and linguistic anthropology, ethnology, archaeology, folklore, material culture. It's often a great place to find ethnographies, too.

Bibliography of Asian Studies (EBSCOhost)

Why: The most comprehensive western-language database of scholarship (particularly in the sciences and social sciences) on East, Southeast, and South Asia.

Sociological Abstracts (ProQuest)

Why: A core resource for Social Studies concentrators because of its concentrated access to research in sociology, social planning/policy, and related disciplines. Coverage is global. It includes citations and abstracts from over 1800 journals, relevant dissertations, selected books and book chapters, and association papers, as well as citations for book reviews and other media.

Worldwide Political Sciences Abstracts (ProQuest)

Why: WPSA provides citations to and summaries of journal literature in political science and related fields, including political sociology, political theory, economics, law, and public policy, perspectives that Social Studies students often need to access.



For topics that lean into popular culture, performing arts, cinema, music (etc.), also explore:

For topics that emphasize global business, innovation, or entrepreneurish, also explore:

For topics that are focused on religion, try:

Getting Around Paywalls on the Web

Your Options:


1. Change your Google Scholar Settings to reveal online journal access via Harvard.

2. Create a Library Bookmark for one-click access to our holdings information.

3.  Add a Lean Library extension to your browser for full-text notifications as you search.

4. Copy and paste the book or article title into HOLLIS.


Zotero: Looking Toward the Thesis



If you've used NoodleTools or EasyBib in a past academic life -- or even if you've figured out the the pin and cite options in HOLLIS -- Zotero will take you to a whole new level. 

This free, open source citation management tool makes the process of collecting and organizing citations, incorporating them into your paper, and creating a bibliography or works cited page stress-free and nearly effortless.

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




ZoteroBib, a free citation generator, may be the answer for your E-25 paper. It lets you build a bibliography instantly from any computer or device, without creating an account or installing any software.  Some of its handy features are described on this page.

Asian Language and Data Experts in the HL


Nancy Hearst, Librarian for the Fairbank Center (Fung Library, CGIS)

Xiao He-Ma Librarian for the China Collection, Yenching Library

Kuniko Yamada McVey, Librarian for the Japan Collection, Yenching Library

Mikyung Kang, Librarian for the Korean Collection, Yenching Library

Anna Assogba, Research Librarian (and Zotero Guru), Lamont Library

Diane Sredl, Data Services Librarian, Lamont Library