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Expo E-42a | Academic Writing in the Humanities (Case)


Understand What HOLLIS Is


HOLLIS is two databases in one. 

It combines the extensive contents of our library catalog, the record every item owned by every Harvard Library with those of another, large and multidisciplinary database of journal, newspaper, and magazine articles. 

Think of HOLLIS as a discovery platform -- a way to search panoramically across subjects, languages, time periods, and information formats. 

There's sometimes an advantage to searching the library catalog separately, however: 

  • You'll usually have smaller result sets to work with. 
  • You'll privilege results that are in book form and available at Harvard, in print or online.  
  • You'll be able to tap into a rich system of subject tags that will link you to related sources.


In HOLLIS, you'll only get at articles by choosing the "Everything" search.  


Know How to Build Good Searches


Creating search strings with some of the techniques below can help you get better results up front. 

conventions to use quotation marks, Boolean operators, truncation with an asterisk, parenthesis for synonyms



Take Control of Your Search Results


While the broad and panoramic approach to searching HOLLIS can be mind-opening, you can sometimes find yourself overwhelmed by either the numbers or types of results your search returns.

When that happens, try one of these easy tricks to bring your results into sharper focus:


1. Limit your Everything search results set just to the items listed in the LIBRARY CATALOG.

  • Your numbers will immediately get smaller. Keep in mind, though, that the results will be heavily weighted toward book-length studies.

2. Limit your Everything search results set to items that are identified as PEER REVIEWED ARTICLES.

  • You'll eliminate newspaper and magazine materials as well as books, of course, but you'll also raise the visibility of scholarly journal articles in what displays. 

3. Think about limiting your results to publications from the last 5, 10, 15, or 20 years.

  • By doing so you'll get a snapshot of the most recent research trends and scholarly approaches in a field (or around a particular issue).


4. Try adding an additional keyword (or keywords) to indicate what you're after

  • Examples
    • handbook  or companion or encyclopedia  are common words to help identify good background or overview sources.
    • criticism or interpretation are words that will bring up secondary source studies of a book, film, artwork, musical piece, play, artist or writer, etc. 
    • history is a way to get at full-length studies not just of countries or events, but also of ideas and concepts and broad subjects. 
    • debate or controversy (or controvers* to pick up variants), or contested or disputed are words that will often help you surface works that identify the "stakes" of a particular argument, action, conclusion, etc. 
    • theory or theoretical or philosophy or philosophical  sometimes help surface works in larger contexts or examined via a "lens" of some kind.

Browsing in HOLLIS


BROWSING in the library catalog is an under-appreciated research strategy, especially at those moments when you're trying to discover your research interest.

Browsing helps you see how writing ABOUT a text, image, person, idea, event, etc. has been broken down and categorized. So instead of getting the typical list of titles, you see results in terms of sub-topics.



What does browsing look like in practice? Click on this link or the image above to find out. 



Getting PDFs From Us


Scan and Deliver

When an article you find in HOLLIS is not owned at Harvard, or is available in a printed journal volume but not online, you can ask us to make a PDF for you through a service called Scan and Deliver.

We'll send you an email when it's ready for downloading, typically between 1 and 4 days after you place the request. Scan and Deliver is a free service to Harvard affiliates.

Scan and Deliver is also an option if you want up to two chapters of any Harvard-owned book digitized for your use.  

Finding Copies of Books Near You


When you're far from Cambridge, identifying books in print and on shelves in Harvard's library buildings can seem like a futile exercise. You can, however, often get your hands on items you find in HOLLIS even if you live many miles away from the Yard.


1.  WorldCat: this is a database of library catalogs and useful for identifying college, university, and other  library collections that are in your vicinity.  Search for the title. WorldCat will attempt to geolocate you; otherwise, enter your ZIPCODE to identify your options.



2. Check the catalog of the large PUBLIC LIBRARY in your area.  Depending on the region, the size of the library, its mission, and its funding, a local public library may have a significant research component to its collection (The Boston Public Library at Copley Square is a prime example), including e-books and some digitized materials that Harvard may not have.

Public libraries large and small also have access to ebooks, and can be a rich alternative source if Harvard doesn't have what you need or you can't get to our copy.

Moreover, because you are a Harvard student, you're eligible for a BPL ecard, no matter where you're Zooming in from these days; you'll need to sign in with your Harvard email and key to get access, however. See BPL: Who's Eligible for an Ecard for the registration link.

3. Ask your local library about an INTERLIBRARY LOAN.  Libraries routinely borrow from each other on behalf of their patrons; if you have a library card, you should be able to request it (or have a librarian do so).  ILL can take a bit of time, however. You might wait a week or a bit more before the item arrives. Some places charge a small fee for the service. 

5. If you live close by the college or university from which you graduated, ask about ALUMNI PRIVILEGES there.