What is a database?

database is a collection of resources which have been collected together because they relate to a certain area of knowledge. 

Some databases will be full-text databases, and will provide access to the actual resources themselves. Other databases are bibliographic databases and only provide the citation references for resources. There can be several reasons for this, ranging from the intended purpose of the database to copyright restrictions.

A bibliography is a collection of citation references for resources. They are arranged by a single feature, such as by author or title.

An annotated bibliography is a collection of citation references which have annotations. An annotation is a brief review of a resource's subject matter and usefulness.

An abstract is a concise summary of the content of a resource.

A reference or citation is a description of a resource which enables it to be located. It most often includes the following information: creator, title, date, version, publisher, and format. Citations are standardized using different style manuals, like Harvard, Chicago, MLA, MHRA, and APA, to ensure that the necessary information is captured and to make it easier to organize and retrieve information.

An index is, in its most basic form, a list which provides access to the content within a resource. In a back-of-book index, it is a list of keywords or concepts found within the resource and location information as to where in the resource those words or concepts can be found. For a database, an index is a set of preferred vocabulary keywords under which resources can be found. Looking at the index or thesaurus for a database can be helpful in knowing which search terms to use to find information on a given topic. Information about the index can sometimes be found on the main search page of a database, somewhere near the search engine box.

bibliographic index is a bibliography which is organized according to a list of keywords or concepts.

Resources at Harvard


DASH is a central, open-access repository of research by members of the Harvard community.

Bibliographies, Databases and Indices of South Asian Studies Materials

There are a number of databases which contain materials relevant to research in South Asian Studies. Some of these databases are general collections of scholarship. Some are collections of materials from a single repository or related materials from multiple repositories. Some of these databases are collections of data gathered from research projects. Some are digitized collections of texts. All are intended to bring together related materials and to make them accessible. 


Online Research Resources for South Asian History

Published in Oxford Research Encyclopedias. Asian History, this article by Aruna Pulipaka Magier points to reliable avenues for accessing unique and previously inaccessible treasures from South Asia online. It covers national library and government online archives, university-based open access archives, scholarly societies, open access digital libraries, and commercial online publishers. Magier also includes a summary of how this information is organized and cataloged.

Oxford Bibliographies

This resource is a hybrid bibliography and encyclopedia. It contains research guides, which contain both annotated bibliographies and encyclopedic discussions of scholarship in may fields. For bibliographic articles relevant to South Asian studies, click on Browse by Subject to consult the sections dedicated to Buddhism, Hinduism, Islamic Studies, Linguistics, Medieval Studies, and others. You may also search by keyword across all collections.

Databases and Indices

Area Studies: India (a part of "Research Source," by Adam Matthew)

A vital resource for the study of the British Indian Empire and the history, culture and literature of the Indian subcontinent from 1712 to 1942. Highlights include: (a) Rare printed works of colonial literature from India and volumes of travel writing from Indians travelling to the West, 1712-1933, (b) printed weekly abstracts compiled by the India Office, summarising both English- and Indian-language newspapers from British India, and, (c) the official and personal papers of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, 1898-1905, from the India Office Records at the British Library.

Bibliography of Asian Studies

Indexes more than 545,000 records on all subjects related to East, Southeast, and South Asia from 1971 to the present (primary disciplines covered are in the humanities and social sciences). Note well that monographs published since 1992 have not been added to the database, so for books in these areas please consult other databases (such as HOLLIS or WorldCat).

Cross-Asia Repository (xasia)

A full text, open-access platform for research literature in Asian Studies (including South and Southeast Asian Studies) contributed by academics from all over the world.

Digital South Asia Library

The Digital South Asia Library, a project of the Center for Research Libraries, is a global collaborative effort to make important and rare South Asian resources available to the international community.

Eight Centuries

Formerly called Nineteenth-Century Masterfile, this database contains primary source material dating from the 12th to 20th centuries. Some of the British documents are relevant to to the study of South Asia, such as the many personal narratives and travel accounts that can be found therein.

Eighteenth-Century Collections Online

Eighteenth Century Collections Online provides access to digital images of 150,000 books published during the 18th Century. With full-text searching of approximately 33 million pages, the product allows researchers new methods of access to critical information in the fields of history, literature, religion, law, fine arts, science and more. The database is a comprehensive digital edition of The Eighteenth Century microfilm set, which has aimed to include every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in the United Kingdom, along with thousands of important works from the Americas, between 1701 and 1800. Consists of books, pamphlets, broadsides, ephemera. Subject categories include history and geography; fine arts and social sciences; medicine, science, and technology; literature and language; religion and philosophy; law; general reference. Also included are significant collections of women writers of the eighteenth century, collections on the French Revolution, and numerous eighteenth-century editions of the works of Shakespeare. Where they add scholarly value or contain important differences, multiple editions of each individual work are offered.


Empire online

Provides access to images of original documents and printed materials relating to Colonial empires across the world, including South Asia. The materials span across the last five centuries and are accompanied by a host of secondary learning resources including scholarly essays, maps and an interactive chronology. Documents are sourced from a number of libraries, including the Harvard College Library.

Film Index International

Film Index International is based on SIFT (Summary of Information on Film and Television), a database collated by the British Film Institute. It covers films from 170 countries with information on about 100,000 films and biographical details of 40,000 personalities, with references to periodical articles, providing in-depth indexing of films from the first silent movies to the latest blockbusters and biographical information for film personalities. It also includes coverage of international film awards and prizes as well as searchable plot summaries and full cast and crew lists.


Foreign Office Files for India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan; 1947-1980

This collection consists of the main British Government files on South Asia. Section I covers the period between Indian and Pakistani independence and the death of Jawaharlal Nehru. Section II covers the period from Nehru’s death to the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan and the subsequent war and humanitarian crisis. The period also saw renewed war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir (August-September 1965), the accession to power in India of Indira Gandhi, Nehru’s daughter, and the continuance of military government in Pakistan under Yahya Khan. The documents, from the Dominions Office (renamed Office of Commonwealth Relations in 1947) and Foreign Office, include diplomatic despatches, correspondence, newspaper cuttings, economic and military reports, statistical analyses, maps, photographs, minutes of meetings, and leaflets and other ephemera.

Gale Literary Index

A master index to the major literature products published by Gale, combining and cross-referencing over 165,000 author names and listings for over 215,000 titles. Includes coverage of the following series, among many others: Asian American Literature, Contemporary Authors, Contemporary Novelists, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary World Writers, Dictionary of Literary Biography, International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, and World Writers in English.

Guide to the Indexing of South Asian Studies Periodicals

Identifies and lists periodical titles with South Asian Studies content. It also identifies if a particular title has been indexed and if so, to what extent. Refer back to HOLLIS to see if Harvard Library owns a given title.

Hathi Trust Digital Library

The HathiTrust Digital Library is a shared repository of works digitized by more than 50 research library members. The catalog provides information about more than 5 million books and journals and is growing daily. More than 2.5 million titles are in the public domain so may be viewed in full text. The database was originally a collaboration of the thirteen universities of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the University of California system, and the University of Virginia to establish a repository for those universities to archive and share their digitized collections, and quickly expanded to include additional partners with fast growing treasure of digitized collections.

Historical Abstracts with Full Text

A reference guide to the history of the world from 1450 to the present (excluding the United States and Canada, which are covered in America: History and Life). Currently over 1800 journals published throughout the world are covered in the database, including key historical journals from virtually every major country. Full text is available for over 300 journals and 100 books. All abstracts are written in English. In addition to articles, Historical Abstracts includes citations to historical books and to abstracts of dissertations completed worldwide of particular interest for historical research.

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

Provides access to 53,824 images of RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, India, 1945-1949, Decimal numbers 645, 745, 845 and 711.45. The collection consists of thousands of pages arranged topically and chronologically on subjects, such as: political parties and elections, unrest and revolution, human rights, government, administration, fiscal and monetary issues, labor, housing, police and crime, public health, national defense, foreign policymaking, wars and alliances, education, religion, culture, trade, industry, foreign relations, and natural resources.

India-Pakistan Conflict: Records of the U.S. State Department, February 1963-1966

Provides access to images of over 16,000 pages of State Department Central Files on India and Pakistan from 1963 through 1966. The collection documents the political relations between India and Pakistan during a crucial period in the Cold War, and the shifting alliances and alignments in South Asia.

India, Raj and Empire

The diaries, letters, maps, sketches and official and private papers in this collection relate to the East India Company's activities in India before 1857 when the area came under direct rule of the British government; and 1857 to 1947, when India achieved independence and Partition created the nation of Pakistan. Topics covered in varying depth include social history, urban history, trade, wars, agriculture, travel and antiquities, and Indian and Imperial politics.

Indian Army and Colonial Warfare on the Frontiers of India, 1914-1920

This collection from the British Library contains Army Lists; Orders; Instructions; Regulations; Acts; Manuals; Strength Returns; Orders of Battle; Administration Summaries; organization, commissions, committees, reports, maneuvers; departments of the Indian Army; and regimental narratives.

International Medieval Bibliography

The International Medieval Bibliography is a comprehensive, current bibliography of journal articles, essay collections and conference proceedings in this interdisciplinary field. Disciplines covered include Classics, English Language and Literature, History and Archaeology, Theology and Philosophy, Medieval European Languages and Literatures, Arabic and Islamic Studies, History of Education, Art History, Music, Theatre and Performance Arts, Rhetoric and Communication Studies. Dates covered range from 400 to 1500 A.D., and geographic coverage includes Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. The database allows users also to search the Bibliographie de Civilisation Médiévale, an index of over 40,000 books and 64,000 book reviews on medieval topics since 1957.


A database of back issues of core journals in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. All issues of each journal are included in full-text except for the most recent 2-to-5 years. To see the list of South Asian Studies journals included, choose Advanced Search, then scroll down and click on the "Asian Studies" category on the Journal Filter tool.

Linguistics and Language Behaviors Abstracts (LLBA)

Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts indexes and provides abstracts for journal articles from over 1200 journals annually in all areas of language and linguistics. LLBA also includes books, book chapters, bibliographies, monographs, conference proceedings, etc. International in scope, this index covers phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics as well as descriptive, historical, comparative, theoretical, and geographical linguistics.

Linguistic Bibliography Online

The Bibliographie Linguistique/Linguistic Bibliography online database provides bibliographical references to scholarly publications on all branches of linguistics and all the languages of the world, irrespective of language or place of publication. The database contains all entries of the printed volumes of Bibliographie Linguistique/Linguistic Bibliography from 1993 to the present. The database indexes over 2,000 periodicals, including publications in related disciplines such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy and computer science.

MLA International Bibliography

The MLA International Bibliography, produced by the Modern Language Association, consists of bibliographic records pertaining to literature, language, linguistics, and folklore, and includes coverage from 1963 to the present. The MLA International Bibliography provides access to scholarly research in over 3,000 journals and series. It also covers relevant monographs, working papers, proceedings, bibliographies, and other formats.

Nineteenth-Century Collections Online

A multi-year global digitization and publishing program focusing on primary source collections of the nineteenth century. The content is sourced from the world's preeminent libraries and archives. It consists of monographs, newspapers, pamphlets, manuscripts, ephemera, maps, photographs, statistics, and other kinds of documents in both Western and non-Western languages.

Project Muse

Full-text versions of peer-reviewed journals from many of the world's leading university presses and scholarly societies, as well as thousands of ebooks, with emphasis on humanities and social sciences. Subscription access to journals are made available to libraries in six collections: Premium Collection - Standard Collection - Basic Research Collection - Basic College Collection - Humanities Collection - Social Sciences Collection.

SALToC: South Asian Language Journals Cooperative Table of Contents Project

Provides browsable tables of contents of journals in South Asian languages.

South Asia Open Archives (SAOA)

A rich and growing curated collection of key historical and contemporary sources in arts, humanities and social sciences, from and about South Asia, in English and other languages of the region. SAOA's collection contains hundreds of thousands of pages of books, journals, newspapers, census data, magazines, and documents, with particular focus on social & economic history, literature, women & gender, and caste & social structure.


WorldCat is a database of catalog entries from more than 9,000 member institutions. With millions of online records built from the bibliographic and ownership information of contributing libraries, it is the largest and most comprehensive database of its kind. The database contains records of any type of material (books, periodicals, scores, films, recordings, etc.) cataloged by over 41,000 OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) member libraries, primarily but not exclusively, from libraries in the United States, but extending to 82 other nations. There are more than 47 million records in the database. This database can be used to verify citations of resources, to find a local holding library, or to provide accurate citations for interlibrary loan requests. Records also contain bibliographic information such as tables of contents, cover art, book summaries, and notes about authors.