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Expos 20 | Religious Pluralism in America

Spring 2022 edition


This resource guide has been designed for students in Religious Pluralism in America, a Spring 2022 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!

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.

Exploring for a Topic -- Before You Search HOLLIS


CQ Researcher: 

An excellent source for general information on many social, political, and cultural topics of the moment.  Written by experienced journalists, thoroughly fact-checked and footnoted, each report provides an in-depth look at the 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.




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.





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. 





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 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). 

Some First Lessons in HOLLIS Searching




1.  Understand what it 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. 


When you search "everything"  searching both of these databases together, at once. For better or for worse, "everything" is our system default. 


2. Know how to work it.

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




3. Take control of your 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 Everything search results set just to the items listed in 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 Everything search results set to items that are 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.

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)?

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


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 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 May 3, 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.