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Social Studies 98


Social Studies 98vw: 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: Revolutions (Sociology) ||Conflict Theory (Sociology) || Mexican Revolution, 1910-1940 (Latin American Studies) || Fascism (Political Science)

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 ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global

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. 


Sociological Abstracts (ProQuest)

Why: A core resource for Social Studies students ecause 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.

Historical Abstracts (EBSCOhost)

Why: The premier database for deep access to scholarly books, journals, and dissertations on world history, 1450- present (excluding the United States and Canada. HA includes all the leading English-language historical journals as well as some international publications. Its companion database for U.S. and Canadian history, prehistory to present is America: History and Life.  

Pro Tips:  1) Historically-focused databases allow you to limit to scholarship about a particular time period.  You'll find that option by scrolling below the search boxes.  2) Try adding historiograph*  to a keyword search; you may pull up the history equivalent of a "literature review" that way. 

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.


Primary Source for Revolutions: Sample Collections

Revolution and Protest Online (Alexander Street Press)

Gathers  in one place comprehensive, comparative documentation, analysis, and interpretation of political processes through the lens of revolutions, protests, resistance and social movements. Focuses ons the most studied and important events and themes related to revolution and protest from the 18th century through the 21st century. This collection can be keyword searched, browsed by event/are, archival collection and more.hinese

Declassified Documents Online (Gale)


Chinese Film and Newsreel Scripts from the Cultural  Revolution, 1945-1985 (Brill)

In Chinese.Produced mostly by the Central Newsreel and Documentary Film Studio of China, documentary films and newsreels were two of the major mass media and communication channels in China from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. They covered all aspects of social activities, though the emphasis was on developments and achievements in the building of a socialist country. In order to reach even broader public audiences, government agents produced and printed the transcripts and shot lists for the films and sent them to cities and rural areas. The bulk of the items in the collection are transcripts for the documentary films and newsreels from the Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976.

World War I and Revolution in Russia, 1914-1918 (Gale, Archives Unbound)

This collection documents the Russian entrance into World War I and culminates in reporting on the Revolution in Russia in 1917 and 1918. The documents consist primarily of correspondence between the British Foreign Office, various British missions and consulates in the Russian Empire and the Tsarist government and later the Provisional Government.

Foreign Office Files for the Middle East, 1971-1981 (Archives Direct, UK)

This collection is an essential resource for understanding the events in the Middle East during the 1970s. It addresses the policies, economies, political relationships and significant events of every major Middle East power. Conflicts such as the Arab-Israeli War, the Lebanese Civil War and the Iranian Revolution are examined in detail, as are the military intervention.

India from Crown Rule to the Republic, 1945-1949: Records of the U.S. State Department (Archives Unbound)

 This collection of U.S. State Department Central Classified Files relating to the internal affairs of India and U.S. relations with India, contain a wide range of materials, including:special reports on political and military affairs;studies and statistics on socioeconomic matters;interviews and minutes of meetings with foreign government officials; full texts of important letters, instructions, and cables sent and received by U.S. diplomatic personnel; voluminous reports and translations from foreign journals and newspapers; countless translations of high-level foreign government documents, including speeches, memoranda, official reports, and transcripts of political meetings and assemblies.

Digital National Security Archive

Expertly curated, and meticulously indexed, declassified government documents covering U.S. policy toward critical world events – including their military, intelligence, diplomatic and human rights dimensions – from 1945 to the present. Each collection is assembled by foreign policy experts and features chronologies, glossaries, bibliographies, and scholarly overviews to provide unparalleled access to the defining international issues of our time.

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.