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Expos 20 | Why Shakespeare?

Fall 2020 edition



The resources and strategies described on this page are specifically targeted: they represent our first best guesses at where you might find the information you'll need to execute Essay 3 successfully.

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. 

Enjoy your research adventure!  



SPECIAL NOTE: Harvard Librarians understand you're working under extraordinary circumstances and unusual pressure this semester. Wherever you are this term, we promise: we'll be there -- virtually -- to help you succeed. We'll meet you on Zoom for a consult, triage your questions by email, even chat with you 7 days a week. See below for details.

Image, above left: Hamlet's famous line, in the world's languages. Image originally appeared on Shakespeare Standard.

Backgrounds and Contexts


In the early stages of a research project, when you still have a knowledge gap to close, when you need an authoritative overview, some historical or cultural contexts, and possibly some leads to good primary and secondary source material, we recommend:

  • Oxford Bibliographies Online: helps you identity (much more authoritatively and much less haphazardly Wikipedia links do) the most useful and most influential scholarship that's been produced to date.

When you're not sure who to read (or what to start with), the OBO can provide expert, annotated recommendations from top scholars in a field and provide you with links help for tracking these books and articles down in Harvard's library collections.  Shakespeare has two entries, which you can access here: 


  • Shakespeare  (authored by Andrew Hadfieldl and Amy Kenny) 
  • Shakespeare (authored by David Bevington)  


  • New Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare, 2nd ed.: The Cambridge Companions series is a reliable first point-of-entry for students new to a field, and they are written on many subjects, in many disciplines.  This volume, on Shakespeare includes chapters on the critical reception of his work, its "afterlife" in popular culture, and the "globalization" of the author and his plays.



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. 


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. 


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).


Experiment with limiting your searches to materials available  
You'll reduce your numbers of books by a wide margin, not often a good strategy, but an expedient one in exigent circumstances.  Learn more about strategies in the Books and COVID-19  tab in this section. 



1. Use QUOTATION MARKS for phrases

     "united states"   ||  "video games"               

​2.  ​Connect search terms and phrases explicitly with AND/OR and do so with capital letters:  

      "video games" AND children AND violence

​3.  Enclose synonyms or interchangeable concepts in PARENTHESES

    (women OR gender)  AND soccer AND (pay OR equality)

4.  Truncate words with an ASTERISK to pick up alternatives: 

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

5.  ​FILTER your results via right side limit categories.

You can sharpen up and whittle down your search results to peer reviewed articles or by date, language, resource type (and more).   

​6.  Take advantage of special system features: always sign in.

7. STORE the items you want to track down or read later via the    icon; SAVE a good search so you can remember what worked.




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 online content students can surface there is substantial. 

1. Search HOLLIS as you typically would (we give some advice on constructing effective search strings here). Results can then be limited, via the right-side filters, to materials ONLINE.

The limiter for online materials (like other filters) can be locked for the duration of your HOLLIS search session. ​When you apply the filter, it will, by default, look like this:    When locked, the icon color changes to blue: 

Locking filters is a useful option when you want to modify a search, do a completely new search, jump to a subject heading string,etc. You can mix and match locked and unlocked filters, too, as in this example: filters for language, onlline access, date, and resource type displayed, with 3 of the 4 locked


2.  Many publishers are opening up temporary, emergency access to a wide array of e-books, textbooks, and digital materials that fuel scholarship. Listed below are several that may have particular utility for students and faculty working on social science and interdisciplinary research projects, including those for Expos 20.

JSTOR E-books (30,000 books selected from academic presses)

Project Muse E-Books (a growing collection of temporarily free e-book and journal content, contributed by academic and university publishers)

University of Michigan E-Book Platform

HathiTrust Emergency Library: If we have it, and HathiTrust has a digitized copy, you'll be able to check it out, reserves-style. Presently, loan are given for 1 hour, renewable if there's no waiting list. The key here is be sure you click on the button, top right  and choose Harvard University.

 NOTE: Harvard Libraries do not, at present, subscribe to all of the e-book collections offering expanded, free access to their content. Access will most likely sometime between late-April and June 2020 (depending on the publisher).

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. 


 What does a Browse search give you? Click on the  image above to find out! 



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.

Vistas beyond HOLLIS: Databases

Literature Online

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.  

World Shakespeare Bibliography

Provides annotated entries for all important books, articles, book reviews, and other scholarly and popular materials related to Shakespeare and published or produced since 1960.

Try keywords like global shakespeare or  shakespeare AND [name of place/country]

From the Advanced Search page, you can also browse a range of topics -- included Translation Studies.


The first and still most widely known full-text journal database, trusted for its content.  JSTOR covers core  scholarly journals in 75 fields.  


Some of its content is open access and easily discoverable on the web; some is made available only because of your Harvard affiliation and the library's subscription to JSTOR


The most recent issues of journals may not even appear in a JSTOR search, however, if they are behind the database's 1-5 year "moving wall." 

Google Scholar: familiar and current, it searches full-text, which can be an advantage when you've got a very narrow topic or are seeking a "nugget" that traditional database searching can't surface easily. 


Google Scholar incorporates more types of information -- not just books and journal contents-- and depending on your need, comfort level, and perspective, that eclecticism can be an advantage.  

Google Scholar is perfectly acceptable for most general forays into scholarship; its algorithms are excellent and do return relevant results. 

It's also an excellent way to follow CITATION TRAILS. Enter the title of a book or journal article and then click on "Cited by" when the item appears.  If the cited references are very numerous, consider keyword searching with them.


Getting Research Help Fast --Wherever You Are


Our library-wide email service is Ask-a-Librarian. You can send questions -- or appointment requests -- in through this channel, too: they'll make their way to a library expert who'll be in touch to help, often within a few hours (and always by the next day).


From any HOLLIS page, or from the blue banner on the right-hand side of the Ask-a-Librarian page, you can initiate a chat session with a librarian on call. We've expanded our service hours to accommodate -- as we can -- time zones you may be working in.  Here's our schedule: 


9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. 


9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.


9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.