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Expos 20: Religious Pluralism in America

Spring 2020 edition


This resource guide has been designed for students in Religious Pluralism in America, a Spring 2020 Expository Writing course taught by Jacob Betz. 

The resources and strategies described on this page are specifically targeted: they represent our 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!

SPECIAL NOTE: Harvard Librarians understand you're working under extraordinary circumstances and unusual pressure this semester. Wherever you are this term, we promise: we'll be there -- virtually -- to help you succeed. We'll meet you on Zoom for a consult, triage your questions by email, even chat with you 7 days a week. See below for details.


Image, above, of litigants in the 2017 Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights CommissionAssociated Press File; Molly Kaplan, ACLU.  December 2, 2017, Denver Post.

Searching HOLLIS





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.

When you search "everything" you're searching both of these databases together, at once. It doesn't mean you're searching all of the online content Harvard gives you access to.



The broad and panoramic approach to searching HOLLIS can be mind-opening, but if you find yourself overwhelmed by either the numbers or types of results your search returns, try one of these options: 


Limit your search results set just to    using the right side filters.

Your numbers will immediately get smaller; you'll eliminate a lot that might be pertinent in print, but you'll raise the visibility of what you have access to in full-text. 


Remember to LOCK YOUR FILTERS (click on the padlock) once you apply them, so they''ll remain active during your entire search session). 


Limit your search results set to items that are .

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. 


Remember to LOCK YOUR FILTER (click on the padlock) once you apply them, so they''ll remain active during your entire search session). 


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). 




 Use   quotation marks  " "    for phrases

​     "united states"   ||  "bill of rights"

 Truncate words with an  asterisk  to pick up alternatives: 

       religio* will also retrieve the words religion,  religionsreligiousreligiosity (etc.)

Connect search terms and phrases explicitly with   AND/OR   and do so with capital letters 

​       spotlight AND film  AND "catholic church"

Enclose synonyms or interchangeable concepts in  parentheses  

     (law OR legal) AND religious AND displays


 Limit your results using one or more  right side limit categories . They'll help you sharpen up and whittle down your search results by date, language, resource type, to peer-reviewed articles, and more.

Take advantage of special system features:  always sign in .

  Store   the items you want to track down or read later via the    icon;   save   a good search so you can remember what worked.



Your "default" approach to searching Harvard's catalog, HOLLIS, is probably similar to your Google approach: enter some words, see what comes up, then try again or improve from there. 

But BROWSING in the catalog is an under-appreciated research strategy, especially when you're trying to discover your interest. It helps you see how writing ABOUT an author, an idea, an event, etc. has been broken down and categorized. So instead of getting the typical list of titles, you see results in terms of sub-topics. Inspiration may lie there!


Open HOLLIS. Click on the  link above the search box. Then select SUBJECT. 

 What does a Browse search give you? Click on the  image above to find out! 




Browsing subject headings lists can teach you a lot about searching, because they rely on standardized language and standard ways of qualifying or further describing a given subject.

You'll build your search lexicon for the long term just by taking mental note of these codes (how we describe a century, for example, how we describe "aspects" of a topic, how we label historical events, how we deal with topics that use alternate spellings). 

Should you search voodoo or vodou to maximize your search yield? Should you write Tolstoy or Tolstoi for the Russian author?  Subject terms get around the problem of these flexible spellings. 

WWI, for example is always described in subject language as World War, 1914-1918.  So even if titles, sub-titles or tables of content use different terms to identify that phenomenon, like "World War I" or "Great War," or WWI, you'll still find them all. 

Subject Databases: Listening in on Scholarly Conversations


While the panoramic or "wide gaze" approach to research can be good ways to help generate an interest or area of exploration,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.

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

This database is an excellent next step after you've sampled what's available in HOLLIS+.

Like HOLLIS, it's also 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. Depending on your topic, in fact, searching in ASP may even be a more efficient route to quality information, simply because it will deliver a more manageable result set.


​ATLA Religion Database 

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

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


Hein Online  

The standard 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 

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. 


 Google Scholar: One simple change to its settings can turn Google Scholar into what's effectively a Harvard database -- with links to the full-text of articles that the library can provide. Here's what to do:  Look to the left of the GS screen and click on the "hamburger" (); then click on .  Look for "Library Links."  Then type Harvard University into the search box and save your choice.  As long as you allow cookies, the settings will keep.  

Getting Your Bearings: Ways to Explore For a Topic


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 is a benchmark for understanding religion in the United States. 


CQ Researcher 

Each week, CQ Researcher produces a 20-30 page report, devoted to one "hot button" topic in the U.S. -- a social concern, a political controversy, a public policy initiative, for example -- and then treats it in-depth, covering the issue fairly, and from all sides. Religious topics and controversy get some play here. 

CQ Researcher issue briefs are designed for educated general readers and journalists. Typically, a report includes an overview, a timeline and history, statistics, a long-term outlook, and a bibliography, Topics include lists of important studies (some academic, some not), groups and organizations.

All CQ Researcher reports include a ready-made citation you can cut and paste into your bibliography. 


The Supreme Court Yearbook (CQ Press)

In-depth coverage and analysis of every decision from the nation's highest court since the 1989-1990 term makes this database great for understanding contexts and controversies.

You can browse by year and by issue topic (like First Amendment). There are even clear guidelines on how to cite material you use from this source. 




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, for example, and to limit to editorial and opinion pages.

To limit, put the following in the search box. Substitute your term(s) and include the parentheses: religion AND (op-ed or editorial).



Consider this e-resource as your best alternative to NexisUni. Owned by the Dow Jones company, Factiva allows you to search across 8000 or so news publications from the U.S. and around the world.

Full-text coverage sometimes extends further back than the 1980 cut-off point for Lexis-Nexis.  Factiva allows for broad searching (but change the date parameters if your topic stretches back more than 3 months!).  Results are nicely subdivided into categories on the left side of the screen for easier navigation.




ProQuest Historical Newspapers  

For topics that were in the news earlier than 1980, this suite of databases (which includes the digitized content of important papers like th NYT, Boston Globe, LA Times, Washington Post (and more) is the obvious choice.

1995 is something of an arbitrary date marker; how much recent content you get in a historical newspaper database can vary from newspaper title to newspaper title. 

But in general, if you think "older" news (25 years), think Proquest Historical first. 






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]




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: 



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 public policy topics are covered, from foreign policy to domestic policy. Approximately 250 new records are added weekly. and organizations are reviewed daily in order to add their latest information into the database.

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

Getting Research Help Fast --Wherever You Are



Sue Gilroy wants to hear from you! Send me an email, if you want to triage that way. We can also do a virtual consult on Zoom at a time that's good for you. I can flex -- so if you're in a distant time zone, let's see what we can do to make things work. 



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).



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. We've expanded our service hours to accommodate -- as we can -- time zones you may be working in.  Here's our schedule: 


9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.


9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.


9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.