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Expo E-42b: Writing in the Social Sciences: J-Term 2021


This resource guide has been designed by Harvard librarians for students in Expos E-42B, a January Term advanced writing class taught by Ariane Liazos.

The resources and strategies described on this page are specifically targeted to your course theme: the NAACP. Rather than offering you an extensive list of databases and search options for your papers, however, we're asking you to work with a smaller, carefully chosen set of materials.

Our hope is you'll use them to practice building your skills at selecting primary sources and sampling scholarly conversations -- without feeling overwhelmed by the options that are actually available to you. These you're bound to discover in other classes, for other research projects, and in good time. 

For now, 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 searches before you strike gold. 

Let me know if questions arise at any point in your project. We'll triage by email or set up a time to meet on Zoom for a personal consultation.  

Enjoy your work! 

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


Image above, left:  Flag, announcing lynching, flown from the window of the NAACP headquarters on 69 Fifth Ave., New York City, 1936 (Library of Congress). Between 1920 and 1938, the NAACP hung this flag whenever it received word of such a killing as a way of reminding New Yorkers of stark racial realities. The NAACP stopped the practice when it was threatened with eviction in 1938.

Finding the Research Conversation


  • JSTOR: trusted; 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; 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. 

Google 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.  

GS is perfectly acceptable for most general forays into scholarship; its algorithms are excellent and do return relevant results.  GS can also be a good way to follow citation trails.

  • America: History and Life (EBSCOhost) is the premier database for deep access to scholarly books, journals, and dissertations on the United States and Canada, from prehistory to the present. AHL included all the leading English-language historical journals as well as some international publications. 

Image, above: the first issue of the NAACP's flagship publication, The Crisis, conceived and edited by  WEB Du Bois. Read more about its history at the Modernist Journal Project. 


Discovering Primary Sources



Includes NAACP Papers; records of SNCC and CORE ; federal government records (FBI files, e.g.), and personal papers of individuals important to the movement.



For other access points to digitized versions of The Crisis, see U Penn's Online Books page.  Harvard Libraries hold print copies and you can Scan and Deliver articles this HOLLIS link



Includes the contents of major U.S. dailies, like the New York TimesWashington Post,  LosAngeles TimesBaltimore SunBoston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia InquirerSt. Louis Post and Dispatch, and the Wall Street Journal. 

In addition, your search will pick up content from 10 important African American news titlesAtlanta Daily WorldBaltimore Afro-AmericanChicago DefenderCleveland Call and PostLos Angeles SentinelMichigan ChronicleNew York Amsterdam NewsNorfolk Journal and GuidePhiladelphia Tribune; and Pittsburgh Courier.

A database that allows you to broadly search the contents of state, local, and regional newspapers from 1607 through the 20th century.

Smaller news outlets sometimes give a different perspective than major dailies and sometimes a fuller treatment of issues "close to home."

A database of close to 15,000 newspapers, mainly from the U.S., many on the local level.  The database is offered in partnership with

Image, left: Linda Brown, 1952. (AP Photo)

Tools for Managing Research


One simple change 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.  


 Zoteroa free, open source citation management tool will take the process of collecting and organizing citations, incorporating them into your paper, and creating a bibliography or works cited page to the next level. 

It's worth the small investment of time to learn Zotero.  A good guide, produced by Harvard librarians, is available here: