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Expos 20 | Religious Pluralism in America

Fall 2022 edition


This resource guide has been designed for students in Religious Pluralism in America, a Spring 2023 Expository Writing course taught by Jacob Betz. 

The resources and strategies described on this page are specifically targeted: they represent ourimage of Coach John Kennedy, kneeling in prayer ona football field, in profile, with the Supreme Court building superimposed in back. first best guesses at where you might find the information you'll need to execute Essay 3 successfully.

See them simply as starting points as you explore for a research topic and seek out the scholarly conversations to engage with. 

Remember that good research is often about following up on hunches, testing out a hypothesis and then seeing where else (or to what else) it leads. You may need to try several search combinations before you strike gold.

Enjoy your work and please reach out if you have questions!

Sue Gilroy, Librarian for Undergraduate Writing Programs, Lamont Library, Room 210

Image, right: John Kennedy, the Bremerton "Praying Coach." From the First Liberty Institute's Supreme Court Victories page. .

Exploring for a Topic Before Exploring HOLLIS




Freedom of Religion (Freedom Forum Institute's First Amendment Center)

Detailed summaries of the history of religion in American, religion in public life, and religious freedom; additionally, provides overviews and explanations of the establishment clause, the free exercise clause, and religious liberty in public schools.


CQ Researcher  HARVARD KEY

A source for neutral, general information on many hot-button, social, political, and cultural topics of the moment.  Written by experienced journalists, thoroughly fact-checked and footnoted, these weekly reports provide an in-depth look at a topic's causes and consequences. To achieve a well-rounded perspective, the report's writer quotes a range of sources, including lawmakers, academics, interest group representatives, government officials as well as citizens involved in the issue.

Each report contains a timeline, overview, an appraisal of both current and longer-term outlooks, a forum where experts debate pro-con style, a brief bibliography and some links to organization websites.

Some recent CQ Researcher issues that touch on class themes include:

  • Church and State: Is Jefferson's Wall of Separation Eroding? (October 21, 2022)
  • Abortion Post Roe: Will Women Still Have Access? (September 5, 2022)
  • Parents' Rights: Should They Have Full Control Over the Education of Their Children? (August 12, 2022)


Pew Research Center: Religion and Public Life 

Through public opinion surveys, demographic studies and other social science research, we examine the religious composition of the U.S (and the world),  the influence of religion on politics, the extent of government and social restrictions on religion, and views on abortion, same-sex marriage, stem cell research and many other topics.

Pew's 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey has benchmark data for understanding religion in the United States.


Nexis Uni    HARVARD KEY

A large, full-text collection of English language news sources -- state, national, and international. 

Coverage begins (roughly) around 1980 for most of these sources. This database has nice features: the ability to search transcripts of TV and radio broadcasts (think NPR, for example), to search for polls that might have been undertaken by news outlets, and to search for editorial and opinion pages.



Its stated mission is to "defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country." Two pages  might be useful your Essay 3 research: 


First Liberty Institute

Founded in 1997 by Texas attorney Kelly Shackleford, FLI is sometimes described as the "flip side" of the ACLU.  It is "the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious liberty for all Americans."  FLI believes that "every American of any faith—or no faith at all—has a fundamental right to follow their conscience and live according to their beliefs."

Its website contains information on key, current and past  litigation, its Supreme Court victories (included the Bremerton School Coach case), cases of religious freedom in the COVID context, and its own stated courtpacking efforts.


Policy File    HARVARD KEY

A database of U.S. public policy research drawn from over 350 public policy think tanks, nongovernmental organizations, research institutes, university centers, advocacy groups, and other entities.

Over 75 topics are covered, from foreign policy to domestic policy. New items are image of filter that allows you to limit results by political leaning of an organzation added each week, and organizations are reviewed daily in order to add their latest information into the database.

One nice feature of Policy File is its ability to browse entities by political leaning (or to limit your results that way, once you've performed a keyword search). 


Landmark Cases and Contexts


Scotus Blog

Covers the U.S. Supreme Court comprehensively, without bias and according to the highest journalistic and legal ethical standards. The blog is provided as a public service.


A site that brings together audio, text, and supporting scholarly and legal materials around cases that end up at the nation's highest court. 

Google Scholar Federal and State Case Law

NexisUni Case Law [state, lower courts, supreme court]  HARVARD KEY

Some First Lessons in Searching HOLLIS

HOLLIS In A Nutshell:  Three Considerations


1.  Understand what HOLLIS is.

HOLLIS 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. 

The system default is to search both of these large databases, but you can make different choices (excluding one or the other) before or after you execute a search.

2. Know how to work HOLLIS.

Creating search strings with some of the techniques below can help you get better results up front. 


 3.  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:

  • Limit your search results to the LIBRARY CATALOG.

Your numbers will immediately get smaller. Keep in mind, though, that the results will be heavily weighted toward book-length studies.

  • Limit your search results just to those items we've 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).


Scan and Deliver

When an article you need is available in a print journal at Harvard 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.  

NOTE: Initiate Scan and Deliver requests through HOLLIS.


Q. What should you do?  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)?

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


Subject Databases: Listening in on Scholarly Conversations


HOLLIS searching is often like taking a panoramic or "wide gaze" approach to research. However,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. Rather than wide, subject databases go deep.

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.


Databases can look very different from one another, but they often behave in similar ways.

Expect that the same features in HOLLIS will apply to these other search environments -- and employ them to make your searching more targeted and more precise.



Academic Search Premier (EBSCOhost) HARVARD KEY

WHY: The advantages of Academic Search Premier are 1) its multidisciplinary; 2) its inclusion of very recent content; 3) its mix of scholarly, news, and magazine content.

It's often a great next step after HOLLIS, when you want to search across disciplines but in a databases that's not quite so large and (sometimes) difficult to find your way in.


WHY: This tried and true database is probably one of the first places you learned to search for scholarly literature. "Smallish" (in relative terms), it's also mighty because the journals it includes are those that, historically, have been considered the most important and most impactful in the fields they cover.  

One nice feature of JSTOR is the ability to zero in on a particular discipline. Scanning the left side limits after you run a straight keyword search might help you pinpoint  you "where" the scholarly conversation is clustering (history, Asian studies, urban studies, etc.). 

One downside of JSTOR: it typically excludes the most recent 1-5 years of the publications it includes (with some exceptions). That means you may want to supplement / update with  in HOLLIS,  Google Scholar, or one of the subject databases listed below.

ATLA Religion Database HARVARD KEY

WHY: ATLA (American Theological Library Association) Religion Database is a key resource for identifying scholarship about all religions, all theological points, of view, and the intersection of religion with society, politics,and more. 



America: History and Life HARVARD KEY

WHY: AHL is the premier database for historical (or history-related) scholarship on the U.S. and Canada, from pre-history to the present.  


Hein Online  HARVARD KEY

WHY: Hein Online is a superb collection of databases for accessing  law reviews, legal publications, and primary source case law. 

Remember to use  all your HOLLIS search strategies here; good results depend on them! 


Worldwide Political Science Abstracts HARVARD KEY

WHY: WPSA provides citations to and summaries of journal literature in political science and related fields, including political sociology, political theory, economics, law, and public policy. 

Getting Research Help




Sue Gilroy wants to hear from you! Send me an email, if you want to triage that way. We can also meet up in person in Lamont Library (where I have an office) at a time that's good for you. 



Our library-wide email service is Ask-a-Librarian. You can send questions -- or appointment requests -- in through this channel, too: they'll make their way to me or to another library expert who'll be in touch to help, often within a few hours (and always by the next day).



Every Tuesday through December 6, you'll find a librarian right in the Lamont Lobby, waiting to help, from 2-5 p.m


No appointment needed -- we give advice and answers on the spot! 




From any HOLLIS page, or from the blue banner on the right-hand side of the Ask-a-Librarian page, you can initiate a chat session with a librarian on call. Monday-Thursday, chat is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; on Fridays, till 6 p.m., Saturdays till 5 p.m., and on Sundays from 12 p.m.-9 p.m.