This resource guide has been designed for students in Humanities E-100, a Spring 2021 Extension School course taught by Ryan Napier.
See our suggestions simply as starting points -- a preliminary toolkit or research workbench as you "cross the threshold" into your graduate studies.
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.
Let me know if questions arise at any point in your project. We'll triage by email or set up a time to meet in person on Zoom.
Enjoy your work!
Sue Gilroy, Research Librarian, Lamont Library, Harvard University
OBOs combine the best features of the annotated bibliography with an authoritative subject encyclopedia.
Often the issue in information-seeking isn't scarcity of material but overabundance. OBO entries can help you solve the problem of knowing what or who to read or which voices in the conversation you should give some fuller attention to. They identify some of the most important and influential scholarship on a broad topic.
Victorian Literature, British Literature, and American Literature are among the major subject modules of this database.
Literature Compass (Wiley Online Library)
Commissioned from leading researchers, rigorously reviewed, and published monthly, Compass articles combine original research and analysis with a broader understanding of how that work fits—as both contribution and intervention—in the authors’ fields or sub-fields. Articles often help you suss out the state of a discipline at a moment in time, recent trends in research on a particular theme, literary author, etc; or describe, comparatively, the boundaries and intersections in literary studies.
Companions are a stock-in-trade for academic researchers, including in literary studies. Typically, they're edited volumes, with chapters written by authorities -- or recognized experts. They synthesize current "consensus" thinking and present the most widely accepted perspectives on a concept, person, movement, etc. They usually contain extensive bibliography which you can mine as well. Examples related to course themes:
Smart Searching Tip
HOLLIS is a also good place to search for these tools. One strategy is just to combine a broad keyword search with this format type.
Other terms to try (for rough equivalents of the companion) are handbook, encyclopedia, guide, reader.
Example: handbook AND victorian
USING HOLLIS WELL: THREE CONSIDERATIONS
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.
Try 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).
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 SUBJECT 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!
HOW DO YOU BROWSE?
Open HOLLIS. Click on the link above the search box. Then select SUBJECT.
WHAT DOES A BROWSE SEARCH LOOK LIKE IN ACTION?
Click on the image below to see results
RESOURCES IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS
Despite the fact that our physical items are unavailable and buildings are shuttered, HOLLIS can and should continue to be a key research resource, wherever students are. That's in part because of the sheer size and enormous variety of what it contains, but also because the content students can surface there is substantial.
Here are some ways to think through your digital options in HOLLIS
This service, free to Harvard students even before the pandemic, can be a lifesaver when you find something in the catalog that's essential -- but only available in print.
Scan & Deliver allows you to request a PDF of an article, a portion of a book (and now, a portion of a special collection, under some circumstances). Just remember that the library staff responsible for this service are returning to campus slowly, so the response time (usually within 4 days) may be delayed.
NOTE: Initiate Scan and Deliver requests through HOLLIS.
If HathiTrust has a digitized copy, you'll be able to check it out, reserves-style. Presently, loans are given for 1 hour, automatically renewable if there's no waiting list for the item you're using.
Hathi Trust materials can't be downloaded or printed out (when they're in copyright), but the upside is that you'll have excellent access to our collection in print, even when you can't use the print.
Normally, your access to HathiTrust items is seamless via Harvard; when you see the record details, click on the link to initiate check out.
NOTE: If you go directly into HathiTrust through the link above, be sure you click on the button, top right and choose Harvard University.
For books not available online via a HOLLIS link or through HathiTrust, the Open Library may be a good next step. You'll need to create a free account to "check out" books (temporarily, for up to 2 weeks).
4. Lamont Front Door Pickup (if you're in / near Cambridge)
Materials that are available for checkout are requested online via HOLLIS; they are paged for you by library staff. When they are ready, you receive an email directing you to schedule a pick up time (15-minutes windows, as available)
When you're far from Cambridge, identifying books in print and on shelves in Harvard's library buildings can seem like a futile exercise. You can, however, often get your hands on items your find in HOLLIS even if you live many miles away from the Yard.
SOME OPTIONS TO CONSIDER
This is a database of library catalogs and useful for identifying college, university, and other library collections that are in your vicinity. Search for the title and then enter your ZIPCODE to identify your options.
With WorldCat, you're going beyond the BorrowDirect consortium and beyond our reciprocal lending agreements. However, as long as any of the area libraries allow you in (often a phone call or a scan of the website will clarify policy), you'll be in luck!
2. Check the catalog of the large PUBLIC LIBRARY in your area.
Depending on the region, the size of the library, its mission, and its funding, a local public library may have a significant research component to its collection (The Boston Public Library at Copley Square is a prime example), including e-books and some digitized materials that Harvard may not have.
Public libraries large and small also have access to ebooks, and can be a rich alternative source if Harvard doesn't have what you need or you can't get to our copy.
Moreover, because you are a Harvard student, you're eligible for a BPL ecard, no matter where you're Zooming in from these days; you'll need to sign in with your Harvard email and key to get access, however. See BPL: Who's Eligible for an Ecard for the registration link.
3. Ask your local library about an INTERLIBRARY LOAN.
Libraries routinely borrow from each other on behalf of their patrons; if you have a library card, you should be able to request it (or have a librarian do so). ILL can take a bit of time, however. You might wait a week or a bit more before the item arrives. Some places charge a small fee for the service.
5. If you live close by the college or university from which you graduated, ask about ALUMNI PRIVILEGES there.
Even in COVID times, it's good to check on your options.
A leading online resource for the study and teaching of literature in English, it has three major components: primary sources (over 355,000 literary works), a database of literary criticism, and an online library of key reference resources.
Produced under the auspices of the Modern Language Association, the major U.S. scholarly association for literature and literary-related fields, MLA is the premier U.S. database for searching scholarship on literature from all periods, in all languages, in all its forms.
MLA's "British cousin" is ABELL ( The Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature, which forms the literary criticism component of LION, described above). Although there is significant overlap, there's sometimes an argument for checking both.
This free, open source citation management tool makes the process of collecting and organizing citations, incorporating them into your paper, and creating a bibliography or works cited page stress-free and nearly effortless.
A good guide, produced by Harvard librarians, is available here: http://guides.library.harvard.edu/zotero. You'll also find upcoming Zoom classes on Zotero listed on that site (under "Getting Help"), if you want to be shown around the software.