Start with secondary sources:
Start your historical research in secondary sources such as books, journal articles and newspapers.
Find primary sources:
Use primary sources to dig deeper into your topic and find accounts and artifacts of events as they occured.
Special collection libraries and archival repositories here at Harvard and elsewhere are a great source of unique and rare books, historical manuscripts, documents, photographs, maps, artifacts, and numeric data.
Who else cares?
What other organizations might care about your topic, or about law schools and legal education? Professional organizations, policy groups and accrediting bodies all produce reports, publications and directories that may give insight into the people and issues you are researching and document historical changes.
Go by the numbers:
For some topics you may want to explore statistics and demographics related to law schools and law school faculty and students.
Focus on a place:
There is a body of scholarship examining the history of specific law schools. Use these sources to focus your research on a particular place.
Don't waste time. Ask Us!
Librarians are here to help. Schedule a research appointment, ask a question or chat with us.
Reading books and articles early in a project provides an overview of the times, the issues, and the names of people and organizations associated with your topic.
The footnotes and bibliographies in secondary sources can also be a valuable shortcut to identifying the principle primary sources in your area of research.
Student studying in Langdell, olvwork432233
Search WorldCat to find books in other libraries
Law -- Study and Teaching --United States -- History
Law schools --United States -- History
Law students --United States -- History
HeinOnline offers the most depth of coverage, with most journals going back to the first published issue.
LexisNexis and Westlaw offer the best search tools and currency, but their journal coverage generally does not begin until the 1980s.
Harvard Law Review 1990/91, olvwork365353
Explore working papers and sources for prepublication articles to find current scholarship.
Full text databases allow you to dig into the details of an article and find specific terms and citations. They can also lead to false hits and too many results.
Indexes use subject terms and abstracts to focus search results on articles directly related to a subject. Use them to narrow and focus your search.
Use both as needed to get the most complete results.
Each database will use its own language. If you aren't sure what subject terms to use, try running a general keyword search, or searching for a known article. Use the subject terms you find to construct your new searches.
You could also try some of these suggested search terms:
Law School - Law School Faculty - Law Students - Legal Education - Law - Study & Teaching
Accreditation (Education) - Case Teaching Method - Clinical Legal Education - Law School Admissions -Minority Law Students
Law school name - Professor or Dean's name
Combine your search with "history" to narrow further.
Finding Primary Source Material in Harvard's Archives and Libraries
Primary sources available at Harvard include both published source material, such as correspondence and diaries, and archival materials.
Harvard's special collection libraries and archival repositories are a great source of unique and rare books, historical manuscripts, documents, photographs, maps, artifacts, and numeric data.
Start in HOLLIS
The HOLLIS Catalog contains the records of published sources and of many of the manuscript and document collections located in Harvard's libraries and archives.
Note: Not everything is included in HOLLIS, so in addition to searching HOLLIS, we recommend that you contact the individual repositories for additional holdings information.
HOLLIS Advanced Search Strategies:
Use both Author and Subject searches to find the papers of an individual.
Search by Author or using Author Keywords to find annual reports, proceedings, minutes, etc. produced by an organization.
Add the term "sources" to a subject word search.
Limit by Resource Type such as Archives/Manuscripts
How can you locate specific documents within an archival collection?
Most manuscript and archival collections have a finding aid that provides detailed information about the collection.
Use HOLLIS for Archival Discovery to locate finding aids which describe the contents of faculty papers and other manuscript collections at Harvard.
Compare the HOLLIS record and the finding aid for the Law Library's collection of Joseph Story's papers:
If you are planning a visit to an archive or special collection, make sure to contact them directly before visiting. Many items are stored off site or need special arrangements for use, so give as much lead time as possible.
To schedule a research visit in the Root Room, create a HOLLIS Special Request account which will allow you to place requests to view HSC's material from within HOLLIS.
Next, fill out an appointment request form at least 1 business day in advance and tell us when you would like to visit.
Note that two days advance notice are required for visual materials and modern manuscripts (e.g. faculty papers) as they are stored offsite.
The following collections of papers related to the history of the Harvard Law School have been digitized.
To find other collections, search HOLLIS for Archival Discovery.
If you are planning to do a survey or other empirical research, see Harvard Law School's Empirical Legal Services pages for guidance on study design, data collection, analyzing and presenting data and other general statistical advice.
Several AALS titles, including annual meeting proceedings are available online via HeinOnline.
We also have many print resources. A HOLLIS search using Association of American Law Schools as an author or as a subject leads to many resources, divided by subheadings. Use Expanded Search to combine American Law Schools as an Author Phrase with keywords, format, or date limitations to target relevant materials .
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center concerned with improving teaching and learning. It has produced an number of publications on law teaching methods.
Try using the expanded search in HOLLIS Classic to combine Carnegie Foundation as an author with keywords like law.
Some representative publications are listed below:
As the accrediting organization for American law schools, the ABA publishes extensively on legal education. HeinOnline has many of the ABA's publications related to law schools and legal education.
We also have many print ABA resources.
Use Expanded search in HOLLIS Classic to combine American Bar Association as an author with keywords such as law schools, curricula or education to target relevant material.
Some representative publications are listed below.
The Harvard Law School Catalogs provide information about faculty, curriculum and policies for 170 years. Catalogs published before World War II also contain student lists. Course catalogs for recent years are only available online.
Try these selected sources, or search HOLLIS or HOLLIS Classic for the subject heading Harvard Law School -- History
Plan of the Treasure Room (now the Casperson Room), Langdell Hall, 1948, olvwork432238
Many collections that illustrate life at the Harvard Law School, such as Law School records, student organization materials and student class notes are located in either the Harvard Law School Historical & Special Collections department or in the main Harvard University Archives.
HOLLIS Search Strategies
Use Advanced Search to combine Harvard Law School as an author with keywords such as class notes, records or the name of a person, office or organization.
Images from Harvard Law School Historical & Special Collections. Explore more of Harvard's visual collections in HOLLIS Images.
This guide was originally created by Janet C. Katz, Senior Research Librarian. Guide updated by Mindy Kent, Manager of Research Services
Portrait of C.C. Langdell, olvwork129054
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