Using HRAF
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Anthropology 501: Research Questions  

Last Updated: Oct 24, 2017 URL: Print Guide

Using HRAF Print Page

Using HRAF--The Human Relations Area Files on Microfiche

What is HRAF?
HRAF stands for the Human Relations Area File. It's a microfiche collection of mostly primary sources (articles, books, reports), from around the world.

How is it arranged?
What the HRAF people have done is to organize the world into cultures and then subdivide by different aspects of those cultures. Then they take the pertinent portions of the collected primary sources and display them under a code number that relates to that particular aspect of that particular culture.

How does it work?

  1. Start with a culture, like the Nuer people of Sudan. Use the Outline of World Cultures to see how HRAF has them listed. There you will find the OWC (for Outline of World Cultures) code.

    So you've got the Nuer, HRAF listing FJ22.

  2. Now use the Outline of Cultural Materials to see how HRAF talks about the topic you have in mind. Start with the index at the back of the book. These numeric codes are referred to as OCM codes.

    Now you've got a letter and number code (OWC) for the culture (i.e., FJ22 for the Nuer), and a number for the aspect of the culture (OCM) (i.e., 233 for Pastoral Activities).

  3. Then you go to the Microfiche case where the fiche are arranged by letter code.   You'll find FJ between FI and FK, and FJ22 between FJ21 and FJ23. Make sense?  When you've got all the FJ22 fiche, you can find those that contain OCM 233.
    Take the fiche to the Microform Reading Room and Enjoy.

  4. At the top of each page shown on the fiche, you'll find source information (i.e., "1: Evans-Pritchard E 1940"). Make a note of that information and take it back to the HRAF Source Bibliography.

    The letter (M) following the entry in the source bibliography indicates that the full text should be available in the HRAF microfiche. If you go to the section of the files for OWC code FJ 22, and look in the subject category designated with the OCM 116, you will find the full document. OCM 116 is always the category for full texts, no mater which OWC number you are exploring.

    Occasionally, these sources will also be found in the Lawrence Library. Search the library's catalog under Subject (i.e., Nuer) or Author (i.e., Evans-Pritchard, Edward). Otherwise, allow a couple of weeks and try Interlibrary Loan.


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