Contexts, Backgrounds, Consenus Views, Methods

Oxford Bibliographies Online Harvard Key

OBO entries combine the best features of the annotated bibliography with an authoritative subject encyclopedia  in order to help you identify some of the most important and influential scholarship on a broad topic.

Often the issue in information-seeking isn't scarcity of material butits sheer abundance. 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.

Entries potentially relevant  to SS 98lf course themes include:

Annual Reviews HARVARD KEY

This is a "classic" tool, the most famous example of the stand-alone literature review. For nearly 100 years, it's offered, each year ,authoritative syntheses of the primary research literature in 46 academic fields, including political sciencesociology, and anthropology -- just some of the fields that might take up questions related to race and ethnicity in the United States. 

A search of Annual Reviews can therefore help you easily identify—and contextualize—the principal contributions that have been made in your field.  The comprehensive critical review not only summarizes a topic but also roots out errors of fact or concept and provokes discussion that will lead to new research activity. 

Some fairly recent examples of literature reviews potentially related to class themes can be browsed here.

 Strategies for Locating Lit Reviews published elsewhere: 

  • In subject databases, like those on this guide, you can often limit your search results this way.If a literature review option exists, you'll probably find it under filters for document type or methodology.
  • Review essay is another filter to try, when it's offered. Typically, a review essay will take two or three recent publications as an occasion to discuss trends, approaches, and research directions more generally. 
  • In dissertations, lit reviews commonly appear as a preliminary chapter. Try ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

Special Note for Historical Approaches

  • The preferred term for "literature review" in this discipline is historiography.


Sage Research Methods Online

The ultimate methods library, it has more than 1000 books, reference works, journal articles, case studies, and instructional videos on topics 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 (book chapters, definitions, etc.). 

SRM offers several research tools as well: a methods map;  user- created readng lists; a project planner' and advice on choosing statistical tests.

Databases Beyond JSTOR and HOLLIS

Worldwide Political Science Abstracts HARVARD KEY

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. 

International Bibliography of the Social Sciences HARVARD KEY

IBSS is unique in its broad coverage of international material and incorporates over 100 languages and countries. It provides cross-disciplinary coverage across the social sciences, focused on four primary subject areas: anthropology, economics, political science and sociology.


Latin America

Middle East


Slavic Studies

  • ABSEES (American Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies)



The standard databases for accessing  law reviews, legal publications, and primary source case law. 

Remember to use all your HOLLIS search strategies here; good results depend on them -- and operators in all caps are obligatory. 

Social Science Premium Collection HARVARD KEY

A core resource for Social Studies concentrators, researchers, professionals, and students working in sociology, social planning and policy, and many related disciplines. It draws its contents from more than 1800 journals, relevant dissertations, selected books and book chapters, and association papers, as well as citations for book reviews and other media. It will also draw literature from such associated fields as education, politics and political theory, economics, law and justice studies. etc.>

Social Science Research Network

SSRN is a  worldwide collaborative devoted to the rapid worldwide dissemination of social science research. It's often an excellent place to check for papers that may have been presented in a pre-publication, "working form" or at conferences. Through a partnership with some major publishers, moreover, SSRN will sometimes identify new studies "in press" (i.e., slated for publication in an upcoming journal issue). Most documents are downloadable free of charge, in keeping with the site's emphasis on open access.


An extensive online portal, maintained by economic researchers themselves.


NGOs, IGOs, and Think Tanks

.Many of the documents produced by  NGOs are widely distributed on the web but not necessarily included in standard databases of published scholarly research. The custom search engine below is so spare it looks broken -- but it can be powerful. 

  • NGO Search Engine includes local, regional and international NGOs  and draws its materials from sources as diverse as AARP, Earth Watch Institute, International Crisis Group, OXFAM, the World Agricultural Forum. Sites were chosen based on their consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO).

word cloud  image of think tank key research areasThink Tank Search (Harvard Kennedy School)

Brings together the policy writings of 1200 think tanks, US and global, from across the ideological spectrum. Publications of think tanks, while often influential, are scattered across the web and thus difficult to canvass.  

Statistics, Public Opinion, Related HL Reserach Guides

Public Opinion in New Democracies and Developing Nations HARVARD KEY

This Oxford Bibliography identifies and differentiates many data sources, including the ICPRS and various "Barometer" series.

HL Guides to Statistics and Data

Browseable collection of guides on topics from on micro and macro-data  resources.

Harvard Kennedy School Research Guides

Search Conventions Cheat Sheet for HOLLIS


                image of 5 search techniques

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:

Getting Around Paywalls on the Web

Scholar Settings: 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 into the search box and save your choice.  As long as you allow cookies, the settings will keep.

Lean Library: a browser plugin that (nearly always) identifies digital availability of items at Harvard and runs automatically as you search books and articles.  This can sometimes seem intrusive, however.

If it is, another option is to set up a Check Harvard Library Bookmark. It works like a browser extension that you click on when you need it. Directions are available here:

And when all else fails, remember that you can cut and paste the title and put it into HOLLIS to double-check.  If we don't have it, you'll be prompted to request that we get it for you.

Searching Non-English and Non-Roman Materials in HOLLIS



There are times when you'll want to limit your search results in HOLLIS by languages.  If you feel most comfortable reading scholarship in English (or if you don't work in a  language other than English), the easiest way to eliminate foreign language results is simply by using the LANGUAGE FILTER, which displays on the right side of hour HOLLIS results screen. 

Sometimes  though, students want results in a language than HOLLIS. You can use the filter post-search, of course to drill a linguistic set. 

You can also rig up a search from the start that. Here's how: 

  • From the HOLLIS advanced search screen, change the field in the first box from keyword to CODE: Marc language
  • Enter the first 3 (English letters) of the language you want to search in -- e.g.,  spa  for Spanish language (not esp)
  • On the next line(s), add your keyword terms and run the search.

Click the image below to see this trick in action. 

image of the advanced search visualizing the code:marc language search combined with keywords.