How to...

How to Choose a Search Tool

Just like how Google offers Google Scholar and Google Images, the library offers different search tools for different types of research.

The library offers many search tools that are tailored to the type of materials you’re looking for. You can choose your search tool based on the type of materials you need — books, articles, geospatial data, digitized items, etc. These search tools are available freely for anyone to use.

Throughout this guide, we'll use the example search of "Boston" to illustrate the types of results that each search tool can generate.


HOLLIS is the library’s main search tool. It's Harvard's library catalog.

The Catalog & Articles search (formerly "Everything") searches the catalog plus billions of citations. Or you can choose "Library Catalog" from the drop-down to limit to Harvard materials only.

Catalog & Articles

HOLLIS Catalog & Articles includes the library catalog and millions of citations, including some citations outside of Harvard’s collections. You’ll find books, online articles, ebooks, book chapters, archival materials, media, maps, and more.

Search for "Boston" in HOLLIS Catalog & Articles and your results will include items like:

  • Boston Magazine
  • books on the history of the city
  • tourist guide books

Library Catalog

HOLLIS Library Catalog has Harvard owned materials. You’ll find books, ebooks, archival materials, media, maps, and more.

Search for "Boston" in HOLLIS Library Catalog and your results will include items like:

  • maps
  • ebooks on the history of the city
  • tourist guide books

Digital Items

Curated Digital Sets

CURIOSity digital collections are dedicated websites with search and browse features specifically designed for these digital collections. The library is always adding new sites, so check back often.

Search for "Boston" in the Slavery, Abolition, Emancipation and Freedom set and your results will include items like:

  • pamphlets on the crusade against slavery
  • the fiction novel Megda by Emma Dunham Kelley
  • reports from the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society

Finding Aids

A finding aid finds archival and special collection material. These can include both physical and digital (and digitized) materials. 

HOLLIS for Archival Discovery

HOLLIS for Archival Discovery is for finding special collections and archival materials in finding aids. In HOLLIS for Archival Discovery you’ll find primary sources including letters, photographs, film and video, print items, digital materials, and physical objects (t-shirts, pins, and more).

Not all archival and special collections at Harvard have a finding aid, so they aren’t searchable in HOLLIS for Archival Discovery. If HOLLIS for Archival Discovery does not have what you're looking for, try HOLLIS or Ask a Librarian.

Search for "Boston" in HOLLIS for Archival Discovery and your results will include items like:

  • scrapbooks from Boston Theater
  • Boston Chamber of Commerce records
  • League of Women Voters of Boston records

Research from the Harvard Community


DASH is Harvard's central, open-access repository for research by Harvard community members. DASH contains over 45,000 works of scholarship. You’ll find articles, conference proceedings, working papers, case studies, books and book chapters, theses, and dissertations.

Search for "Boston" in DASH and your results will include items like:

  • articles on Boston Strong
  • a history on a 1820s Boston medical student
  • a thesis on affordability on Boston housing prices

Geospatial Data

Harvard Geospatial Library

Harvard Geospatial Library (HGL) is a place to search for and download geospatial data. You’ll find data sets available from around the world at various scales, from global to local, complete with metadata.

Search for "Boston" in Harvard Geospatial Library and your results will include items like:

  • Boston maps across time
  • site plans for buildings
  • land use plans

Tip for the search, to activate the map and limit results to the area seen within the map viewer, select "Click to wake" and have "Search when I move this map" checked.

Explore Collections

Explore featured collections.