Senior Theses

Research Guides: History of Science: intro, middle, specialized:

History, Intro History:

How to find databases listed below: HOLLIS Databases

Exploring your Topic

  • Quick overviews
  • Read for specifics – Notebooks
  • Controlled vocabulary vs natural language and proper names
  • What kinds of sources are used?
  • What kinds of sources can you imagine?


Tertiary Sources (background & context)

  •  Some overlap with "secondary" sources, but these generally compile, summarize, or organize primary or secondary sources.
  • Dictionaries and encyclopedias, fact books, manuals, handbooks, indexing and abstracting sources etc
  • These are good places to get background and context, a solid overview of a topic before you decide where you want to focus.

Finding them:

Subject encyclopedias

Encyclopaedia of the history of science, technology, and medicine in non-western cultures Helaine Selin (ed.). (not online)


Subject terms, subdivisions, Browse

Date limits - Early works -- Source terms
Place limits


Document Collections in HOLLIS:

Secondary Sources: general

Secondary sources defined: "What is a Secondary Source?" page of Intro guide

America History & Life covers secondary sources for the United States and Canada, "prehistory" to the present.

  • sample search: eugenics AND race
  • publications across a vast range of topics

Historical Abstracts covers non-North America 1450 to the present (excluding the US/Canada, which are covered in America: History and Life, above).

  • sample search: eugenics AND race
  • publications across a vast range of topics
  • Coverage date limitations rather than publication date limitations, Can usually use LC terms, not always 

History of Science Technology and Medicine (HSTM) (1975- ) is an amalgamation of four separate indexes with four different subject term systems

  • sample search: eugenics AND race
  • can limit search terms to a particular era like "middle ages" or antiquity 
  • Unlike AHL and HA, the publications indexed here are specific to the history of science, technology, medicine and allied fields. 

While you can search all three of the databases above at once, you'll get the best results in each one individually because of nuances like subject terms.

PubMed is the major index of medical literature-- the first, best place for secondary sources on medicine.

  • Has its own subject terms, called MeSH terms 
  • sample search: eugenics AND race
  • MeSH search: eugenics AND race (of the MeSH terms for race, select "continental populations groups" and "race relations" but exclude "race factors." Results are more focused.

Secondary Sources: Biographical material

Subject encyclopedias may yield personal names

  • Standard general biographical sources include American National Biography and Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography standard source in sciences
  • All above include sections with original works and recommended secondary literature
  • Many more sources in "Biography" pages of the general (middle) and specialized History of Science guides.​

Secondary Sources: Bibliographies

There may already be a list of resources for your topic, or some aspect of it.

  • Bibliography can refer to a reference list at the end of a relevant article or an entire work consisting of resources for a certain subject.
  • Finding specialized subject bibliographies
    • many of the databases named above include bibliography listings
    • HOLLIS advanced search sample: eugenics (can be subject or keyword-- try both!) AND subject: bibliograph*
  • WorldCat is a catalog containing the collections of thousands of libraries. 
    • Use WC advanced search. sample: eugenics (try either subject or keyword) AND subject: bibliograph*
  • More on bibliographies in guides
    • "What is a Secondary Source?" page in Intro
    •  "Bibliographies" page in general (middle)
    • Multiple detailed sections in advanced guide
  • More on using Web of Science to get from a very old bibliography to newer relevant works in "What is a Seconday Source?" page of Intro guide (and Fred will mention later if time allows).

Primary Sources

Outline of Primary Sources

Digital Libraries

HathiTrust (also Google Books, Internet Archive

Medical Heritage Library, Biodiversity Heritage Library

Use contemporary language

Periodical articles

  • Science
  • General
  • Science news: JSTOR
  • Web of science for revivifying old bibliographies
  • Disciplinary
  • Other academic disciplines
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers


At Harvard
Elsewhere (can limit to Boston area)  Archive Finder

Copies: See Digital Libraries and Document collections, above.

Government documents

ProQuest Congressional (say can find in history resources, but will here give specific)

Hathitrust CDC, NASA

Personal writings and Oral History, Interviews

HOLLIS: diaries OR interviews OR "oral histor*" OR "Personal Narratives"

Regulatory Oral History Hub (Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University) offers links to digital collections containing interviews with regulators, lawyers, and judges. Mainly U.S.

Bibliography of First-Person Narratives of Madness, by G. A. Hornstein.

Technical Reports

Citation Management