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.

In HOLLIS, you'll only get at articles by using the default "Catalog & Articles" option. That's the most common way users approach HOLLIS: they take a wide-angled approach to their information seeking and work to sharpen their focus from there.

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:

Limit your search results set just to the items listed in as  BOOKS or BOOK CHAPTERS
  • Your numbers will immediately get smaller. And with book chapters, you may discover a great resource that you might not have seen by relying solely on the titles of books.
 Limit your 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. 
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).
Try adding an additional keyword (or keywords) to indicate what you're after. Examples
  • handbook  or companion  are common words to help identify good background or overview sources. Reader, anthology, collect* (to pick up collection and collected) are also commonly used for books that bring together significant readings on a subject by one or more  researchers. 
  • 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  debate* 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.  Political scientists like the word puzzle -- so consider. trying that word, too, if your topic angles that way.
  • theory or theoretical or philosophy or philosophical  sometimes help surface works in larger contexts or examined via a "lens" of some kind. 
  • case study or interview  or qualitative might angle topics more specifically toward their social science dimensions and away from the the popular culture/humanistic research. 


Get 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.

Track Down Copies of Books via Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

What should you do if a book you find in HOLLIS and want to use is:

  • checked out to someone else;
  • declared missing or lost in the catalog record you are looking at (alas, it happens);
  • on order (that is, coming into the library collection but not yet arrived at Harvard); or
  • in process (that is, it's arrived at Harvard but some final things are being done to get it read for the "stacks," our word for the library shelves)?

In every one of these cases,  open the full item record and look for the Interlibrary Loan option toward the bottom of the screen (under the GET IT information and just before the call number). Follow the prompts from there.

We'll get a copy of the book for you, within 4 days, from another university library. 

If the item is "in process" we'll expedite the process of getting the book ready for use and you'll be quickly notified by email.