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Social Sciences E-100B | Graduate Proseminar (Orkaby)




This guide is meant to offer you a first point of entry into major resources for accessing scholarly sources in the Harvard research environment.  The intent is neither to be comprehensive nor finely grained -- we want to give you just enough to encourage exploration  and help your gain confidence, without overwhelming you with choices.

Research is about hypothesis-making and testing and for that reason, you'll find that it's more iterative than linear. As your project develops and your thinking deepens and expands, other tools, other kinds of information, and other search techniques might need to be added to this knowledge base.

Feel free to contact me, at any point in the process, whenever questions arise.  I may not have the answer myself, but I'll know which Harvard librarian has the expertise you're after and will put you in touch with him or her. 

Enjoy your work! 

Sue Gilroy, Research Librarian, Lamont Library

Contexts, Literature Reviews, and Methods


Sage Research Methods Online

The ultimate methods library, it has more than 1000 books, reference works, journal articles, case studies, and instructional videos by world-leading academics from across the social sciences. It also boasts the largest collection of qualitative methods books available online from any scholarly publisher. 

Users can browse content by topic, discipline, or format type (reference works, book chapters, definitions, etc.).  SRM offers several research tools as well: a methods map;  user- created readng lists; a project planner' and advice on choosing statistical tests.



The Oxford Bibliographies Online 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. 

OBO updates quarterly, to keep material current. 



Since 1932,the Annual Reviews series has offered authoritative syntheses of the primary research literature in 46 academic fields, including political sciencesociology, anthropology, and public health.

A search of Annual Reviews can therefore help you easily identify—and contextualize—the principal contributions that have been made in your field.  The comprehensive critical review not only summarizes a topic but also roots out errors of fact or concept and provokes discussion that will lead to new research activity. 

The advanced search screen  offers excellent search tips, including ways select certain AR titles or limit to particular disciplines and narrow by date.

SMART SEARCHING TIP: If you find a review that seems on point, but rather dated (10 years or so), try searching for it (or one of the authorities it cites) in Google Scholar.  Then follow the “cited by” links. You  may discover something more recent there.  



Web of Science

Don't be put off by the name of this resource: the social sciences (and humanities) are also well-represented in this multidisciplinary database of over 20,000 journals. Results display by default in reverse chronological order, but you can resort them by relevance if that better suits your purposes.  

TIP:  In the question-making or "discovery" stage of research, Web of Science can be a a powerful tool to uncovering literature reviews. 

A keyword topic search in Web of Science, much like HOLLIS, will return results that you can then sift through using a variety of left-side filter categories.  Under document type, look for the review option. Selecting it will help you quickly uncover essays that sum up and synthesize research trends and breakthroughs and to trace citation trails (the  "web" of interconnected scholarly conversations).


Serendipity and Strategy: Ways of Searching in 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. For better or for worse, "everything" is our system default. 

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 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).


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. 

Examples of subject terms in actiom (click to see subdivisions of each topic):



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 give subject.  For example, these additional words may relate to a subject's geography (united states, massachusetts, canada, etc), or  the time period that's under discussion in a book (19th century, or 2lst century). Sometimes, a specific marker of the type of information is also included in a subject heading, like statistics; legislation; handbooks; case studies; etc.).


  • Use QUOTATION MARKS for phrases "united states"   ||  "chemical weapons"

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

"gulf war" AND "chemical agents"

  • Enclose synonyms or interchangeable concepts in PARENTHESES

 (law OR legal) AND "war crimes"

  • Truncate words with an ASTERISK to pick up alternatives: 

politic* will also retrieve  politics, political, politician (etc.)

  • FILTER your results via 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.




  • Sometimes, adding the word sources to a keyword string will retrieve published collections of primary source materials.  Other words that you can try include reader document* (for documents and documentary); reader; anthology; casebook
  • Using the right side limits, adjust the DATE PARAMETERS of your search results. Items that were published on the subject during the period you specify will qualify as primary sources.   

  • Using the right side limits, examine the FORM/GENRE categories. Items that have been tagged with words like "interviews," "autobiography," "memoir," "speeches," "photographs," "correspondence" (and so on) might help you target various kinds of primary sources.




1. Search for the item in WorldCat.

WorldCat  is a database of library databases; using ZIPCODES, it can tell you which college and university libraries in the vicinity of where you live own the book.  

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). 

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. 

Finding the Research Conversation in Journals and Newspapers


Academic Search Premier

This database might be an excellent next step after you've sampled what's available in HOLLIS. Academic Search Premier is also multidisciplinary in its coverage, 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, searching in ASP may even be a more efficient route to quality information simply because it will deliver a more manageable result set.

For those times when ASP might seem broader than deep  the longer list of EBSCOhost subject databases that the Harvard Libraries subscribes to.


 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. 

PAIS Index (Public Affairs Information System)

Covers issues in the public debate through selective coverage of a wide variety of international sources including journal articles, books, government documents, statistical directories, grey literature, research reports, conference papers, web content, and more.

CIAO [Columbia International Affairs Online]

CIAO is the most comprehensive source for theory and research in international affairs. It publishes a wide range of scholarship from 1991 onward that includes working papers from university research institutes, occasional papers series from NGOs, foundation-funded research projects, proceedings from conferences, books, journals and policy briefs.

Sociological Abstracts

A core resource for researchers, professionals, and students working in sociology, social planning and policy, and many related disciplines. It draws its contents from more than 1800 journals, relevant dissertations, selected books and book chapters, and association papers, as well as citations for book reviews and other media.

Tools for Locating Full-Text and Managing Your Sources


Google Scholar Settings: 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.  

If you've used NoodleTools or EasyBib in a past academic life -- or even if you've figured out the the pin and cite options in HOLLIS -- Zotero will take you to a whole new level. 

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.

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


Leads for Individual Students


Library Expert: Steve Kuehler, Research Librarian, Lamont


Library Expert:  Keeley Wilczek, Harvard Kennedy School Library




Library expert: Lynn Shirey, Widener Library 


Library Expert: Svetlana Rukhelman 







Library Expert: Daniel Becker, Harvard Kennedy School Library 


Library Expert:  Keeley Wilczek, Harvard Kennedy School Library



  • Passport (try searching, for example, on "chained consumer food service," limit to China and then to  analysis, or try a company name)