Why We Recommend Them

Research projects often require you to look close up at a body of research produced by scholars in a particular field. This research is typically collected, codified, and made findable in a tool called a subject database. camera with color filters and lenses

Every academic discipline has at least one subject database that's considered the disciplinary gold standard -- a reliable, (relatively) comprehensive, and accurate record of the books that scholars are publishing, and the ideas they're debating and discussing in important and influential journals.

Databases are like lenses: they change what you see and how you see it -- and they offer you easy and efficient ways to bring your questions into sharper focus.

Academic Search Premier: A First Step After HOLLIS

Academic Search Premier

Like HOLLIS, Academic Search Premier is multidisciplinary in its coverage and it also provides you with a range of article types (some scholarly, some not). But while still broad, it's a smaller universe than HOLLIS. In the early stages of research, when you're not sure what fields your research topic falls in -- or between, ASP might just feel like a more "manageable" space to go exploring

Top Picks: Religion, History, Literary Studies


America History and Life

This is the premier source for identifying scholarship on the Northern hemisphere (what we know today as the U.S. and Canada), from pre-history to the present.  History of religion in the U.S. context will also be well-represented here.


ATLA Religion Database

Produced by the American Theological Library Association, this database compiles the major scholarly literature produced in journals and books. Citations cover all religions and all theological points of view. 


MLA International Bibliography

Produced under the auspices of the Modern Language Association, the major U.S. scholarly association for literature and literary-related fields, MLA is the premier database for searching scholarship on literature from all periods, in all languages, in all its forms.

Literature Online (LION)

A leading online resource for the study and teaching of literature in English, it has three major components: primary sources (over 355,000 literary works), a database of literary criticism, and browseable author, literary period, and literary movement pages

The literary criticism in this database is drawn from ABELL (Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature), the British-born "cousin" to the MLA. Although there is significant overlap with MLA, LION  does have some unique content and is often worth checking.

Four Major Multidisciplinary Databases


The first and still most widely known full-text journal database, trusted for its content.  JSTOR covers core scholarly journals in 75 fields.

Some of its content is open access and easily discoverable on the web; some is made available only because of your Harvard affiliation and the library's subscription to JSTOR.

The most recent issues of journals may not even appear in a JSTOR search, however, if they are behind the database's 1-5 year "moving wall."

Google Scholar

Familiar and current, Scholar searches full-text which can be an advantage when you've got a very narrow topic or are seeking a nugget that traditional database searching can't surface easily.

Scholar incorporates more types of information -- not just books and journal contents-- and depending on your need,comfort level, and perspective, that eclecticism can be an advantage.

It is also an excellent way to follow CITATION TRAILS. Enter the title of a book or journal article and then click Cited by, when the item appears.If the cited references are very numerous, consider keyword searching within them.

Social Science Premium Collection

For crossover topics --.e.g., those that veer toward sociology, sociology of religion, and anthropplogy, this large database is worth checking.  It can feel HOLLIS-sized, so be sure to finesse your keyword search resutls with the left-side filters  (like those limiting to scholarly journals and books) .


A database of library catalogs (including Harvard's), WorldCat won't supply you with full-text content for any books it turns up, so don't search it with that expectation.

Its value will be in identifying where you can get closest geographical access to books and monographs, with research value to you, that aren't available digitally.

Using your IP address or the zipcode/town name you enter, WorldCat will list university, research, and/or public library options in your immediate area -- or in the next closest place to where you are.

When you're far from Harvard, this is one convenient way to track book-length studies down.

As long as any of the area libraries allows you in (often a phone call or a scan of their website will clarify policy), you'll be set.