Welcome to the Harvard Library
Finding a Researchable Question
What is Already Known
Handbooks are a stock-in-trade for academic researchers. Typically, they're edited volumes, with chapters written by authorities -- or recognized experts, and they synthesize current "consensus" thinking around a particular topic, the most widely accepted perspectives on a topic They usually contain extensive bibliographies which you can mine as well.
- Cambridge Handbooks Online
- Cambridge Histories Online
- Oxford Handbooks Online
- Very Short Introductions
Current Trends & Questions
Literature reviews are essays that help you easily understand—and contextualize—the principal contributions that have been made in your field. They not only track trends over time in the scholarly discussions of a topic, but also synthesize and connect related work. They cite the trailblazers and sometimes the outliers, and they even root out errors of fact or concept. Typically, they include a final section that identifies remaining questions or future directions research might take.
Among the databases for finding literature reviews, we recommend you start with:
- Annual Reviews offers comprehensive collections of critical reviews by leading scholars.
- Web of Science can be a powerful tool in 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.
Prioritizing My Reading
- Oxford Bibliographies Online combine the best features of the annotated bibliography with an authoritative subject encyclopedia. Entries identify key contributions to a topic, idea, person, or event and indicate the value of the work.
Finding Scholarly Resources in Your Field
Social Studies tends to be so interdisciplinary that it's sometimes hard to offer students a "one-size fits all" starting point.
- Research Guides for Social Studies 98 (junior tutorials) may also cover -- broadly speaking -- an area of interest and you may find some leads there. But the 1:1 consult often can't be beat for locating the databases and the primary sources that are best suited to your project!
- If your thesis is applied, our Social Sciences Premium database is sometimes, along with HOLLIS, a good jumping off point.
- If your thesis is theoretical, resources like Phil Papers or Philosopher's Index are also recommended.
Sue Gilroy, Liaison to Social Studies, Lamont Library
COVID-19 - Information & Resources
Helpful Library Services & Tools
- HathiTrust for digitized materials
- Scan & Deliver
- Harvard Library Purchase request
- Check Harvard Library Bookmark - Use this bookmarklet to get quick access to subscriptions purchased by Harvard Library.
- Zotero: Getting Started - A tool for saving, organizing and formatting your research sources.
- Ask a Librarian - Send us your question virtually.
- Borrow Direct & ILL to borrow materials not currently available from the Harvard Library
- Harvard Map Collection
- Visualization Support
- Qualitative Research Support
The contents of this Guide are drawn largely from other Guides authored by Sue Gilroy, Librarian for Undergraduate Writing Programs and Liaison to Social Studies.