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Expos Studio 20 | Researching Success

Library Guide, Spring 2022



student protest in harvard square, september 2017, ahead of the Harvard admissions trialThis library research guide has been designed for students in the Spring 2022 sections of Expos Studio 20.

It's not designed to be comprehensive -- just to offer you some ways to try your hand at research and build your confidence locating, recognizing, and using scholarly materials.  

We hope you'll work from the guide as your research for Essay 2 gets underway. And we hope you'll enjoy your research adventure and learn a lot from what you do!


Above: Supporters of affirmative action protesting in Harvard Square ahead of the SFFA v. Harvard trial.  Photograph by Liu Jie/Xinhua/Alamy Live News, Sept. 2018. Photo accompanied the Jan-Feb 2019 Harvard Gazette article, "Admissions Trial: The Lawsuit that Could Determine the Fate of Affirmative Action," by Marina Bolitnikova.

Good Places to Look for Primary Sources on Harvard

Harvard College site 

  Question to consider  

As a type of primary source, how do pages from this site construct aspiration (Admissions) and possibility (Financial Aid); describe the ideal educational experience (Academics); and envision community and belonging (Life at Harvard)? 

Office of Career Services

  Question to consider  

As a type of primary source, how does the OCS  "educate, connect, and advise students about opportunities for summer and post-graduation in order to foster their intellectual, social, and personal transformations?"

Pursuing Excellence on a Foundation of Inclusion(March 27. 2018)

In Fall 2016, then-President Drew Faust created a University-wide task force composed of faculty, students, and staff. Their charge was to consider a set of important and interrelated questions designed to advance the Harvard community on the path from diversity to belonging. Their work culminated in a report called Pursuing Excellence on a Foundation of Inclusion  (March 27,  2018).

This report has continued to inform Harvard College's efforts at Diversity and Inclusion

  Question to consider   

How does Harvard, famous for its exclusivity, seek to "embrace difference" and what does or should or might that look like on the ground? What defines success?


Meet the Class of 2025 (annual Crimson profile)

Since 2013, The Crimson has published a detailed profile of each incoming class when it arrives on campus. Your class --2025 -- is linked above (and via the accompanying image below).

If you're interested in seeing what first years before you have looked like, believed in, and aspired to, you can scan their class profiles, too:

text from Crimson title, meet the class of 2025, superimposed over image of Widener LibraryClass of 2024 (profiled August 2020)

Class of 2023 (profiled August 2019)

Class of 2022 (profiled August 2018)

Class of 2021 (profiled August 2017)

Class of 2020 (profiled August 2016)

Class of 2019 (profiled August 2015)

Class of 2018 (profiled August 2014)

Class of 2017 (profiled August 2013)


The Graduating Class By the Numbers: 2021 (annual Crimson profile of seniors)

How transformative is a Harvard education? Over the span of four years, what shifts in attitudes, self-perceptions, views of Harvard and the world might become evident? 

 TIP:  You also view earlier years of the senior survey by searching Google.  Just type in harvard senior survey  and then, add a year, like 2020 or  2017.

Harvard Magazine

An alumni publication which has been produced independently since 1898 (i.e., not as a development/fundraising arm of the University).  


Online, you can browse issues and search the Harvard Magazine back to 2001

Harvard Gazette

The official news website for Harvard University, produced by the Harvard Public Affairs and Communications office. It covers campus life and times, University issues and policies, innovations in science, teaching, and learning, and broader national and global topics. Online coverage goes back as far as 1996. 


To browse by a topic (like "Campus and Community") or initiate a search, look for the  at the top left of the screen. 



Harvard Crimson

Its archives (back issues) are online, all the way back to its beginning, in 1873. You can search in two ways:

  • Browse by year and then drill down to month and day.

This strategy can work well when you know the exact or approximate date(s) of an event -- e.g., that University Hall was occupied in early April, 1969.



A library database that's best for searching news from (about) 1980 forward; the database includes the Boston Globe (1987-) and the Boston Herald (1991-).

Harvard has such a national (and international) significance that its happenings are covered in major papers well beyond Massachusetts, often on the front pages of publications like the New York Times


  • Factiva results will display in reverse chronological order so  resort by relevance, if that helps you target good information more quickly.
  • Factiva's default is to search only the most recent 3 months, so change the date range if you need to before you execute a search. 

Journals and Databases: An Introduction


covers of 4 academic journals

Journal articles are the academic’s stock in trade, the basic means of communicating research findings to an audience of one’s peers.

In some fields, especially the sciences, where information accrues rapidly and must be disseminated quickly, journal articles are actually the researcher’s preferred means of communication.

In disciplines like the humanities, where knowledge develops more gradually and is driven less by issues of time-sensitivity, journal articles may simply offer the more appropriate vehicle. Not all important and influential ideas warrant book-length studies, and some inquiry is better suited to the size and scope and concentrated discussion that articles afford.

Regardless of the discipline, however, journal articles perform an important knowledge-updating function.

Their quality and authority are established by other scholars, prior to publication, through a rigorous evaluation method called peer-review.

Searching the journal literature is part of being a responsible researcher.

It’s the way you tap into the ongoing scholarly conversation. And it's the way you can be sure that the data you have or the scholarly conversation you’re following is in its most current form. 





A database is, essentially, a collection of information that's been brought together, codified in some way, and made searchable.

The key point to remember about any library database -- and Harvard has hundreds --  is that it's constructed intentionally. Some things are included and some are not (you're never searching "everything") but there's always some principle of similarity among the information a database contains. 

Sometimes, that similarity will be a format --a database can be made up of all news articles, for example, or public opinion polls, or visual images. Sometimes the unifying feature is language, or geography (e.g. a database on Latin America), a particular time period  (a database covering the Middle Ages or the 19th century, for example), or some combination of these things.

Research projects here at Harvard will often require you to look close up at a body of inquiry produced by scholars in a particular academic field. We call these subject databases.

Every academic discipline -- from Anthropology to Zoology and everything in between -- has at least one subject database that's considered the disciplinary gold standard -- a reliable, (relatively) comprehensive, and accurate record of the books that scholars are publishing, and the ideas they're debating and discussing in important and influential journals. 

Subject databases function like lenses: they can change what you see in research and how you see it -- and they offer you easy and efficient ways to bring your questions into sharper focus. 

They can be radically different in what they cover and in how they look, but research databases do follow certain conventions.  Among them: 

TWO TYPES OF SEARCH SCREENS: basic and expanded

While “basic” screens are straightforward invitations to string words together and see where a search goes, the “advanced search” screens of databases are typically more powerful. They offer a host of other ways to manipulate language and more precisely and deliberately control and shape a search before you run it.

And incidentally, Google, Google Scholar (and HOLLIS) offer advanced search options, too.


TWO TYPES OF SEARCH LANGUAGE: keywords and subjects

Keywords are the terms you think up to describe your topic or information need.

Subject terms come from a standardized vocabulary list and are chosen by catalogers to describe intellectual content of an item in precise and common ways.

They add value to a search by helping you find additional items that are related in emphasis, cover similar content, or have the same purpose.

Subject terms  are what ensure that you get to all the relevant information on a given topic, regardless of the keywords with which you start.



Most databases will present you with ways you can drill down into your initial search results to get better or just more targeted information to surface closer to the top. Limiting to English (or other languages), by publication (title or type), or to a range of years are commonly offered options for customizing a search.

Some databases (like Academic Search Premier and HOLLIS) will follow the Google model and rank results by relevance; others (like Factiva) use reverse chronological order (date descending) as the default.

Re-sorting may help you gain perspective and clarity, especially when you are in the topic-defining stage or when you’re dealing with a large search results set.




Many databases now allow you to sample article content or view some of its parts: an opening page or two, its bibliography, images and graphs that accompany the written text, a list of works that have cited it since its publication. 

These features can help you evaluate the potential utility of a source for your particular research problem – and sometimes, they’ll lead you to interesting research places you might not otherwise have found. For a sample of how these features might appear in a database, click here.


Many journal databases now include at least some articles in full-text. When you’re working in a resource that doesn’t, however, you’ll almost always see a button next to each search result that looks like this:

is software which will identify options in other Harvard databases for  retrieving the article in full-text. If full-text isn't available, the software will let you link right into HOLLIS to find out which Harvard libraries might have a print copy you can use.

Four Journal Databases That Might Help With Essay 2


The databases below are options to consider.

Searching them isn't required and you may find all you need for your essay in HOLLIS

But if you're feeling adventurous, or if HOLLIS feels a little overwhelming, these might be other routes into the research conversation you're looking for. Comparison shopping -- even in the academic context -- is often useful. 


Academic Search Premier (Ebsco)

If you try just one database beyond HOLLIS for your Studio 20 project, Academic Search Premier is a good choice.

 WHY WE LIKE IT:  For one thing, it's broad and multidisciplinary in its coverage, so it will look across many fields of study, from anthropology to history and from education to zoology.

Its range can be a great advantage when you're not sure which academic fields study a topic you're interested in exploring or what kinds of questions researchers tend to ask in their research. 

Academic Search Premier is also a good stepping stone to research because it can offer you an assortment of  article types (some scholarly, some not).

ERIC (Education Resources Information Center)

For education-related research, this is an essential research tool.  It's produced by the U.S. Department of Education. It covers a little bit of everything: education history, education administration, curricular and extracurricular issues, K-12 education, college and university education, student attitudes and beliefs, etc. 

APA PsycInfo

This is the most trusted and comprehensive database in the world for finding research in the psychological sciences and related fields (like educational psychology). The American Psychological Association (APA), which approves the content in this database, is the premier U.S. professional organization for those who research, study, or practice psychology.


For your Expos assignment, it's probably a good idea to limit your search results to academic journals (the equivalent of what we call "peer-reviewed articles" in HOLLIS). 

Sociological Abstracts 

A core resource for finding the scholarly conversations of sociologists, social theorists, policy makers, and social and behavioral scientists. 

Expos Studio 20 students might want to explore it for topics related to the sociology of education, the sociology of sport, or topics that touch on students' sense of affiliation and community-building, for example.


Follow Up with the Librarians You Met


Tuesday, March 29, 10:30 a.m. (Turley)

Tuesday, March 29, 12:00 p.m. (Davies, Deli, Turley)

Tuesday, April 5 9:00 a.m. (Baca)

Tuesday, April 5,  1:30 p.m. (Hanes)

Tuesday, April 5, 4:30 p.m. (Hanes)

Wednesday, April 6, 10:30 a.m. (Tierney, Vilbig)

Wednesday, April 6, 12:00 p.m (Rosenzweig, Vilbig)

Thursday, April 7, 10:30 a.m. (Deli, Herron, Johnson)

Wednesday, April 13, 1:30 a.m. (Sireci)

Wednesday, April 13 3:00 p.m. (Sireci, Starkowski)

Wednesday, April 13, 4:30 p.m. (Starkowski)