Sources that Might Anchor, Orient, and Contextualize Your Work at the Start

Oxford Bibliographies Online (Harvard Key)

Oxford Bibliographies Online combine the best features of the annotated bibliography with an authoritative subject encyclopedia. Entries identify key contributions to a topic, idea, person, or event and indicate the value of the work.

Example entries

Literature Reviews

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. 

Annual Reviews is the best-known source for stand-along literature reviews (though not the only source of this important academic genre).

Some recent examples related to crime and policing can be browsed here. 

Research Handbooks

Handbooks and companions are typically edited volumes, with chapters written by authorities -- or recognized experts. They synthesize current "consensus" thinking around a particular topic or present the most widely accepted perspectives. They usually contain an extensive bibliography which you can mine as well.

HOLLIS is also a good place to search for these tools. One strategy is just to combine a broad keyword search with this format type (e.g., policing AND handbook.) 

Examples potentially relevant to class themes:

CRS Reports 

  • CRS reports: produced by expert researchers at the Library of Congress for House and Senate leaders, these are concise legislative and policy briefs, between 2 and 40 pages, distilling and explaining issues of political import. Updated frequently. 

Advocacy Organizations

The reports of advocacy organizations will often include, as evidence, profiles of individuals, case studies, stories, and statistics. They can be great sources for proposed solutions, too, if you're taking a normative approach.  

Some examples

  • ACLU Prisoner's Rights: notable features include news and commentary, court cases, podcasts, press releases
  • CSG Justice Centermaintained by the Center for State Governments; notable features  of this site include data tools, videos, some policy papers, and a state-by-state listing of criminal reform initiatives
  • Brennan Center for Justice: End Mass Incarceration: an initiative out of NYU; notable features are its focus on five main issue areas: reform, prison populations, crime reduction, incarceration's social and economic costs, and accurate data reporting. 
  • NPAP: National Police Accountability Projecta non-profit maintained by the National Lawyers Guild; notable features include its legislative advocacy resources (current and historical, themed) and information on court cases in whihc NPAP provides counsel, co-counsel, or has submitted an amicus brief. 
  • Prison Policy Initiative: non-profit that produces "cutting edge research" on a variety of issues and then uses it spark advocacy and justice campaigns. 
  • The Sentencing Project: notable feature are its focus on four main issue areas: racial justice, youth justice, sentencing reform, and voting rights; its links to state-level criminal justice data, and an extensive resource library of reports, policy briefs, recorded webinars, and more
  • Vera Institute of Justice: notable features are its mission is to end the overcriminalization and mass incarceration of people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty.  It provides a roadmap to those aims as well as library of research and policy solutions.


  • The Marshall Project: named for the path-breaking Supreme Court Justice, this is a nonprofit journalism site, devoted to issues around criminal justice. 
  • The Crime Report (TCR)a partnership between crime-beat journalists and the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College in New York, TCR is  "the nation’s only comprehensive news service covering the diverse challenges and issues of 21st century criminal justice in the U.S. and abroad."  
  • Prison Legal News: produced by the Human Rights Defense Council, this monthly publication "provides cutting edge review and analysis of prisoners' rights, court rulings and news concerning criminal justice-related issues." Many articles are written by formerly incarcerated persons;  authors and activists who have published in PLN include: Noam Chomsky, Dan Savage, William Kunstler and Ron Kuby, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Ken Silverstein, Jennifer Vogel, Adrian Lomax, Raymond Luc Levasseur, John Perotti, Willie Wisely, Christian Parenti, William Greider, Noelle Hanrahan and many others.  PLN also has an extensive list oLinks to Criminal Justice Organizations from Prison Legal News.
  • Criminal Legal Newsthe broader, "sister" publication to Prison Legal News, CLN is an independent, monthly magazine that "provides cutting edge review and analysis of individual rights, court rulings, and news concerning criminal justice-related issues." CLN has a national (U.S.) focus on both state and federal criminal justice issues.


  • NexisUni: news (including some broadcast transcripts) from ~1980 to present
  • Factiva: the competitor news product to Nexis Uni, produced by Dow Jones; coverage ~1980 -present
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers:  major  US, UK, and some international newspapers, from their first issue up through ~early 2000s. Database also includes an historically significant collection of Black newspapers.
  • Ethnic NewsWatch: newspapers, magazines, and journals of the ethnic, minority and native presses

Subject Databases: Researching Beyond HOLLIS and JSTOR

Among the hundreds of databases we offer you here you at Harvard, the titles listed below are probably some of your best bets for authoritative and "deep" access to research and scholarship directly on -- or "adjacent" to the themes of your junior tutorial. Be sure to use the search conventions you know from HOLLIS as you search these, for maximum precision and efficiency.  


Legislation: Federal and State


Data Librarian: Diane Sredl, Lamont Library 

Prison Writing

Related Guides at Harvard

Your Social Studies 98wa library research guide has been designed more or less as a kind intellectual tasting menu, given the interdisciplinary nature of the concentration and the many directions you can take with class projects. 

If you decide to focus deeply on the legal, gender, or polilcy implications of a crime-related topic, the additional guides, below,(and the people who have authored them), will also prove hellpful to you.