1. Mine the bibliography and footnotes of an item you have in hand.

Here's why:

Ideas always have origins and ancestors. They're generated by scholarly work that's already in circulation and out of primary evidence, data, or source materials that authors identify and acknowledge through notes and reference lists.

2. Search for the author(s) in HOLLIS (or the database in which you found this first lead).

Here's why:

Academics rarely produce an "only child" out of the specialist knowledge they've acquired in the lab, in the field, or in the archive. More typically they'll write again and again on a subject. Sometimes, the immediate family is small, but sometimes you discover that their progeny is really quite extensive.

The work you start with may actually have siblings you should meet: older, younger, some with strong enough family resemblances (in method, argument, and intent) to also be useful to you.

3. Use HOLLIS to re-search the book title you have in hand.

We know this strategy sounds counterintuitive: what's the point of searching for an item when you've already found it?

Here's why:

Glancing at the the item's  descriptive information -- and in particular, its subject tags -- might offer you vocabulary clues: new or different terms to broaden, refine, or reframe the searches you've already done.

Clicking on a subject string that looks promising -- or just adding a subject term onto an existing keyword search -- will likely lead you to some of the cousins and close relatives of the item you've begun with.

That's because subject tags are carefully chosen to describe the intellectual content of an item. Paying attention to them can increase your source "fit."

In HOLLIS, there's a shelf view option at the bottom of every book record. Use it to browse forward and back to seee what's sitting next to or nearby your item.

Browsing (in the real or virtual library stacks) is yet another way to meet extended family.

4. Re-search the article title you've got in hand. 

Here's why:

When you open up the full item record in HOLLIS, for example, you're more and more likely to see , off to the right side of the screen, some recommended reading. These suggestions are algorithmically produced -- so some may be better than others -- but glancing at them might take you somewhere interesting.  (Example here.)

Library databases do something similar: open up an item record (or jump into the full-text or an article) and you'll be presented (most often on the right side of the screen) with suggested sources or recommended reading, or even, at times, links to foundational research on the broader  topic.  

Some of our databases will even  switch things up and get you beyond algorithms.  They'll let you what users actually looked, downloaded or read after landing on the same article (the Amazon approach to content discovery). 

We recommend this strategy as a way to  “run into” relatives, friends, or acquaintances. Sometimes you’ll want to stop, meet up with,  or hear what they have to say in detail. And sometimes, as in real life, you'll simply acknowledge their presence and keep moving. 

5. Put the title of a book or article you find in Google Scholar and look at who it’s Cited By.

Here’s why:

Scholar does a good job of identifying the descendants of ideas and research.

If you only look at bibliographies of the item you have (strategy 1, above), you'll limit yourself to everything that that came before your book or article was published. Ancestors  will tell you only part of the story of ideas as they develop through time.

Scholars often want to look forward, not just back -- in effect, to identify the afterlife of scholarship: who used it after it was published  and then cited it in their own bibliographies; who replicated the research findings or qualified or complicated them; who took the ideas in new and different directions, and so forth. 

Obviously, very recently published works in the humanities and social sciences may have many fewer cited references  than, say, recently published science articles.  The number of citations might be an indication of importance and impact, but as with any source, the "fit" will depend on lots of variables--the most important of which are your own aims.