HS 303b Research Methods and Practices in the History of Science

About the libraries:

  • 73 libraries. Widener is largest FAS library and the  primary social sciences & humanities research library. Science libraries within FAS include, Botany, Zoology and Cabot (for chemistry, hysics, geology.
  • Each of the professional schools like Baker Business, Andover-Harvard Divinity (sermons as general sources, etc.), Countway Medical etc has its own library. Most med stuff overall is at med school library though there’s a good section in Widener.

38 special collections of various sorts across the libraries

History/History of Science Research Guides for Harvard Library:


HOLLIS is Harvard's online search engine for our physical and online collections. There are two different options for searching:

  • Library Catalog searches books, journals, videos, images, government documents, manuscripts, digital resources, etc. It searches the full text of archival finding aids.
  • Everything searches periodical articles and a vast range of other electronic resources, some of which Harvard does not possess, plus the Library Catalog.

Books vs Articles: HOLLIS for books; for known articles.  Other databases often better for searching articles.

HOLLIS Search example

Getting Books once you’ve found they exist

Show only  –  Display  --  Harvard Direct  --  Scan&Deliver  -- Borrow Direct  --  ILL (scans of archival material :  Explained on guides (Getting What You Need section)

You can limit to Show only: Online, BUT):

  • You can request Scan&Deliver for two chapters from a book.  Tables of contents are often included in HOLLIS records, in Google Books, Amazon Look Inside, or can be requested via Scan&Deliver
  • Journals and some book series are not linked from HOLLIS, so check HathiTrust directly.
  • Full text may be available outside of HOLLIS/HathiTrust.

Background & Context

Reference entries: HOLLIS Everything Advanced Search: topic as Title, Refine to Resource Type: Reference entries. Example

Whole books: Your topic AND KW: encyclopedias OR Dictionaries OR handbooks OR companion (OR must be in caps). Example

Current vs. contemporary encyclopedias:

If a word was used differently in past, helps to look at older dictionaries

Harvard E-Resources

Three ways to find

Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources pages of History of Science & History guides

Four major databases for secondary sources:

  • America History & Life covers US and Canada from prehistory to the present.
  • Historical Abstracts covers world history, 1450 to the present (excluding  US/Canada
    •  Both offer era/date limitations as well as publication date limitations, Can usually use LC terms, not always
  • History of Science, Technology and Medicine (HSTM) (1975- ) is an index of books, book chapters, and journal articles. Some social sciences material is included.
    • HSTM is made up of four separate indexes with four different subject term systems. Note results of keyword searches to be sure that you know the proper subject terms for your topic in each of the relevant component databases. 
    • If you want to limit the coverage of your sources to a particular era, put one of these terms in a search box: Antiquity or Ancient - “Greek and Roman” - “Middle Ages” or Medieval - 13th  century - 14th century - 15th century - 16th century - 17th century - 18th century - 19th century - 20th century
  • Pubmed (1946- ) is the largest index of medical literature.  Can limit to historical articles

Types of Primary Sources - Outline of general historical primary sources with links to  research guides and sample HOLLIS searches

Finding Articles

For history of science, HOLLIS Everything good for known items, books and book reviews. Better off in other places for articles.

Periodical types

PubMed 1946- .

MESH (Example: for shell shock use Combat disorders)

               Index Catalogue pre 1946 (some overlap)     We have instructions


Mainly for full text searching and for finding early articles. 


You can search the "Notes and News" sections of journals (Science is especially rich in this material) in JSTOR. Also Recent Literature sections (e.g., Recent Literature section in American Journal of Sociology)

  • Choose <Search JSTOR>
  • Choose <Advanced Search>
  • Enter desired journal or expand journal list and select
  • At <Narrow by: Item type, check <Miscellaneous>

Notes & News sections are sometimes dropped from other databases.

Search: Curie  1921-1922 in Science

Web of science Science, 1900- ; Social Science, 1900- ; Arts/Humanities, 1975- .

Cited Reference search:   Forbes sa 1887-1925

Use to revivify old bibliographies


Archives and Manuscripts

Archives sections in history of science guides will lead to special collections within and outside Harvard

Other Boston area repositories

General Guide

If you can specify exactly what you want ILL and obtain the cost from the repository, ILL will chip in $$ for scanning.  Do a request for scanning an article and put the info in the notes field; this opens the negotiation



Many US government documents in HathiTrust


WorldCat (the OCLC Union Catalog).

A collective catalog holding records from over 75,000 libraries worldwide but largely U.S. Includes books, periodicals, archives and manuscripts, maps, videotapes, computer readable files, etc. Includes Boston-area libraries.  Importance:

  • 1. Subject searching beyond Harvard.
  • 2. Clues for finding items in the HOLLIS Catalog, e.g., unanalysed series.
  • 3. Finding non-Harvard books locally. No ILL for periodical volumes
  • 4. Verifying references for InterLibrary Loan. Give them the Accession no. at the bottom of the record

Subject Bibliographies

Look for specialized subject bibliographies in the HOLLIS Library Catalog: <ornithology [Keyword search] and bibliography [Subject search]>. On Advanced Search screen.

“Bibliography” has to be Subject search)

Also many online. Listed in guides, especially Specialized HistSci

Other Research Guides

Harvard guides

Google Advanced Search

  • All of these words: Library [Your topic keywords)
  • Phrase (if needed)
  • Any of these words: guide research resources
  • Domain: edu

Digital Libraries

Harvard Library E-Resources

Finding Primary Sources Online

HathiTrust and Internet Archive

HathiTrust Advanced Full Text search -- Sample: “lake as a microcosm”   See its citation history.

General and historical digital libraries  --  History of Science digital libraries

DPLA and state lists

Biographical Sources

Biographical sections on history of science guides.There is a separate guide for general biography 

World Biographical Information System

Specialized sources guide has regular biographical section for various disciplines

Citation and Research Management Tools at Harvard:

  • Comparisons, recommended tools, help getting started
  • Upcoming citation tool basics workshops
  • Help form: connects you with librarians who provide citation tool instruction for answers and one-on-one assistance.


  • Fred Burchsted, (burchst@fas.harvard.edu) Research Librarian and Liaison to the Department of the History of Science, Widener Library.
  • Emily Bell (emilybell@fas.harvard.edu) Research Librarian and Liaison to the Department of the History of Science, Lamont Library.