Subject Searching in HOLLIS


HOLLIS is Harvard's online search engine for our physical and online collections. There are three different options for searching:

  • Library Catalog searches books, journals, videos, images, government documents, manuscripts, digital resources, etc. It searches the full text of archival finding aids.
  • Everything searches journal and newspaper articles and a vast range of other electronic resources, some of which Harvard does not possess, plus the Library Catalog

Search Tips

  • Use quotes "" to keep words together as a phrase, thus "shell shock" rather than shell shock which is searched as shell AND shock
  • Words are automatically truncated. Thus when Creationism is searched, Creation is also searched.  Use quotes ("") to turn off automatic truncation: "Creationism".
  • Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to do complex searches: e.g., (“electronic surveillance” OR eavesdropping) AND privacy
    • Note that OR and AND must be in caps. 
  • Find all forms of a word with wildcards. ? matches a single character and * matches multiple characters: e.g., feminis?; gene* therapy
    • Note: Phrase searches cannot include wildcards, and you cannot use a wildcard at the beginning of a word).

Finding Books:

A keyword search (Everything tab) limited to Books (either pre-search – adjust ‘Limit to: Any resource type’ to ‘Limit to: Books’; or post-search – ‘Refine My Results: Resource Type: Books’) yields numerous book chapters and books not available at Harvard.  To find books available via the Harvard Library, use 'Show Only' at the top of the right-hand column on the Results page.  Note that you can limit here to books not in Harvard Depository.

For more on HOLLIS

To do a systematic topic search in HOLLIS, search any reasonable keywords, choose pertinent records, and look at the subject terms. These are terms chosen by the Library of Congress to express the subject matter of the book.

When you can locate a a good subject term, use it to generate additional research leads.  Subject terms in HOLLIS+ are linked; click on one and you'll see all the other items that have been "tagged" the same way.

Examples of Subject Terms

African Americans -- Civil rights

African Americans -- History -- 1964-

Busing for school integration

Civil rights movements -- United States

Civil rights workers -- United States -- Biography

Protest movements -- United States

United States -- Race relations

United States -- Social conditions -- 1960-1980

Subject Browsing:

Select the "Starts with/Browse" option.  Select "Subject" from the dropdown menu on the left and type in your subject to browse

Primary Source Terms:

Several of these added terms (called subdivisions) indicate primary sources:

  • --Archives
  • --Biography (Includes autobiographies as well as (secondary) third person biographies)
  • --Correspondence
  • --Description and travel
  • --Diaries
  • --Interviews
  • --Manuscripts
  • --Notebooks, sketchbooks, etc.
  • --Personal narratives
  • --Sermons
  • --Sources (usually refers to collections of published primary sources)


For material not available at Harvard, search in: WorldCat (the OCLC Union Catalog) which includes catalog records from over 45,000 libraries worldwide but largely U.S. Includes books, periodicals, archives and manuscripts, maps, videotapes, computer readable files, etc. Includes Boston-area libraries.

Importance of WorldCat:

  • 1. Subject searching beyond Harvard. For periodicals: Advanced search. Document type-Serial Publications
  • 2. Clues for finding items in the HOLLIS Catalog, e.g., volumes in monograph series for which HOLLIS has only one record for the whole series.
  • 3. Finding non-Harvard books in Boston-area libraries.
  • 4. Verifying references for InterLibrary Loan. Give them the Accession no. at the bottom of the record (i.e., OCLC number) to speed up the request.