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Expos 20: The Ruling Class: Unit 3

The Assignment

For the research paper students will design their own research project that explores some theme related to the American ruling class. Students will devise their own original research question, collect and/or analyze primary data of some sort, and identify their own secondary sources.


Steve Kuehler, Research Librarian
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Contact the Harvard University Archives

Contact the Schlesinger LIbrary of American Women's History

Types of Primary Evidence . . .

Archival records  •  Interviews  •  Surveys  •  Statistics (numerical data)  •  Official documents  •  Websites  •  Articles in the media  •  Public statements  •  Social media  •  YouTube videos, etc.

. . . and Three Ways to Find It

One good place to find primary sources is in the references and bibliographies of secondary ones. Your three course texts -- Khan's Privilege, Karen Ho's Liquidated, and Sherman's Uneasy Street -- all cite primary evidence, especially statistics, throughout their pages. See these examples.

In the HOLLIS Basic or Advanced Search, combine your search topic with words such as:

  • Interviews
  • Case Studies
  • Research Studies
  • Qualitative OR Quantitative
  • Patterns
  • Ethnog* (the asterisk is a "wildcard character" that lets you search for ethnography, ethnographic, ethnographer, etc.)

In the Advanced Search, you can express your topic in general Keywords, or as a Subject using terms created by the Library of Congress (see more about this here).

Often, the sources you find will be a combination of primary data and secondary analysis of the data. Here are examples.

Sample searches in HOLLIS Advanced Search:

  • Keywords "elite students" and Keywords interviews OR statistics
  • KW "boarding schools" and KW "case studies"
  • KW "inherited wealth" and KW interviews
  • KW billionaires and KW qualitative AND data
  • KW "gated communities" and KW exclus* AND statistics
  • SUBJECT "country clubs" AND SUBJECT race OR racial
  • SUBJECT "upper class" AND SUBJECT education


A statistics portal that integrates thousands of diverse topics of data and facts from a wide range of sources onto a single platform. Sources of information include market research, trade publications, scientific journals, and government databases.

Sample report: Millionaires in the United States

For other statistical sources, see the Beginner's Guide to Locating and Using Numeric Data, by Harvard Librarian Diane Sredl.

Finding Secondary Sources

HOLLIS has two main parts. There’s the traditional Library Catalog of Harvard's books, journals, films, sound recordings, maps, and so on. Then there’s a huge additional database of articles, reviews, etc. which come from various sources outside Harvard. Many of these are available in full text online through Harvard's subscriptions.

You can search the Library Catalog separately, or  -- especially if you want to see articles -- search for "Catalog and Articles." These choices appear as soon as you start to type a search.

Turn to the next page for tips on using HOLLIS effectively.

Use the Selected Databases for faster access to more relevant search results. To find even more, go to HOLLIS Databases.

But . . . won't I get all the articles I need with HOLLIS?
HOLLIS will give you a lot of articles, but specialized databases can give you more focused results from specific fields of study.

Most of the records in HOLLIS have linked Subject Headings that you can use as a springboard for finding similar items. Most of the headings in the Library Catalog have been specially crafted by the Library of Congress. For example, here are the subject headings for Khan's book Privilege:

Go to the Subject Heading Tips to see how you can use a main heading like Boarding schools to search for specific treatments of this topic.