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Today there are so many great databases online, that it is often best to start your human rights research with a survey of online sources. Where do you begin? HOLLIS Catalog or HOLLIS? The Internet? Westlaw? Lexis? Getting started is often the most difficult part. Selecting the best place to begin involves many factors, including the subject of the search, the scope of the research, the time frame of the materials required, and the organizations involved.
This guide lists some of the best places to start online research. It includes a list of four common human rights research questions, and a selective list of online resources that are useful for answering these questions.
1. Westlaw and Lexis
Both Westlaw and Lexis are great for finding full-text articles. However, the number of full-text articles available is extremely limited. For example, full-text coverage of journals can begin as late as 1998 or 1999. Also, many journals (including the Human Rights Quarterly) are not available in full-text in Westlaw or Lexis at all. These are great places to start if you only need a few articles; however, they are far from comprehensive.
2. Legal Resource Index (LRI)
The Legal Resource Index is a great resource for comprehensive searching. It indexes over 900 English-language law journals, from 1980 forward. LRI is available via Westlaw (LRI); via Lexis (LAWREV; LGLIND); and via HOLLIS (Legaltrac).
3. Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals via HOLLIS
IFLP indexes over 450 legal journals from countries other than the United States and the British Commonwealth.
4. Public Affairs Information Services (PAIS) via HOLLIS
PAIS indexes over 1600 public policy journals. This is particularly important for human rights research as it indexes many important non-law journals, such as Foreign Affairs and Africa Today. Also, it includes journals in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.
5. Internet indexes, such as on Human Rights Internet (http://www.hri.ca):
This database indexes articles since 1985, dealing with human rights issues. A password to the database is available to Harvard Law School affiliates through the ILS Reference desk.
6. Electronic Journals full-text on HOLLIS
Click on "Electronic Journals" at the HOLLIS page to see the hundreds of journals available full-text, including the Human Rights Quarterly.
7. Use the catalog, HOLLIS Library Catalog
Searching the HOLLIS "Journals" or "Digital Resources" database subsets will help you to limit your search and find journal locations.
1. Amnesty International (http://www.amnesty.org):
Use the A-Z index under the "Library" link for a list of their publications on a country.
2. Human Rights Watch (http://www.hrw.org):
Includes full text of recent world reports and country reports.
Includes full text of their yearly reports. For 1993-1999 reports please see: http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/hrp_reports_mainhp.html
For 2000-current reports, please see: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/hr/.
4. For the Record: The United Nations Human Rights System (http://www.hri.ca/fortherecord2002/index.htm):
Yearly summaries of UN human rights work by country.
5. Newspaper databases and country databases via Westlaw and Lexis
Newspaper articles are often the fastest way to get information about human rights situations.
6. Annual Review of Population Law (Harvard School of Public Health):
1. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:
This is the most useful site for full-text UN/human rights documents. Click on "Documents" on the left side of the page to get to the excellent 'Treaty Bodies Database' and 'Charter-Based Bodies Database'. There you can search for UN/human rights documents by country, subject, symbol and more. Note, for the UN Human Rights Committee use the "Treaty bodies Database" and for the UN Commission on Human Rights use the "Charter-Based Bodies Database."
2. The United Nations home page (http://www.un.org):
Click on "UN Documentation, Maps" for many recent full-text UN documents: resolutions, decisions and more organized by organ. Click on "international law" for international criminal court links.
3. UN Guide to Human Rights Research (http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/resguide/spechr.htm):
Excellent guide to UN human rights research. Links to all major UN human rights bodies, and explains the documentation system of each.
4. The University of Minnesota (http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts):
Great for documents from the UN Human Rights Commission (annotated lists) and more. Sometimes faster than the official UN sites.
5. AccessUN via HOLLIS
One of the few databases that indexes all UN documents. Coverage begins with 1961. Some documents are included in full text.
6. UNIQUE (http://lib-unique.un.org/lib/unique.nsf):
Indexes UN documents from 1946 onwards. Focuses on documents of a recurrent nature. For example, one can search for all special rapporteur reports on torture. See their "Advanced Search Tips" for more details.
For more details, and for older print resources, see the ILS guides to UN research.
1. Official Web Site Locator for the UN (http://www.unsystem.org):
This page is great for finding UN organizations, and it performs a different function than the sitemap of the United Nations main home page. The sitemap provides links to the principal organs of the UN whose Web sites are maintained as part of the primary UN Web site system. The Locator, however, provides a comprehensive set of links to UN bodies, agencies, and funds which maintains Web sites separate from the primary UN home page.
2. HLS Library Human Rights Research guide for an annotated list of human rights sites, arranged by organization.
3. International Organizations Directory (http://www.library.northwestern.edu/govpub/resource/internat/igo.html):
Good for finding international organizations such as the Organization of African Unity.
4. Human Rights Internet databases (http://www.hri.ca):
HRI has an excellent database of human rights organizations around the world. Passwords are available for Harvard Law School affiliates through ILS Reference.
5. Internet Search Engines
Topical search engines in the area of human rights include:
University of Minnesota Human Rights Library http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/lawform.html
Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights http://www.unhchr.ch/search.htm
Your search results could include resources as diverse as a teenager's personal home page, a lobbying group, or an official government site, so be sure to research the organization providing the information carefully.
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