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Western Libraries

HRAF (Human Relations Area File): Using HRAF

Information and detailed instructions for using the HRAF collection.

Getting Started

After carefully reviewing all of the information on the previous page, retrieve the following materials from the Microform Index Collection shelved along the south windows on Wilson 2 West or from Haggard 2-Reference. You may find it helpful to review the tables page before starting.

Finding Useful Information

Steps for finding useful information in the HRAF microfiche collection:

  • Topic Number: Select or locate a topic in the index of the Outline of Cultural Materials (OCM).  Make note of the 3-digit number the topic has been assigned. (Example: 583 is the OCM category for "Mode of Marriage".)  It is advisable to carefully read the OCM text to be sure the category covers the information you are interested in.  The description is often followed by related category numbers.

    Basic information about each culture will be found under the following topic numbers:
            101 - Cultural identity
            105 - Brief summary of the culture
            111 - Bibliography of the sources used for each culture
            116 - Full text of the books and articles used

  • Culture Code:  Using the Outline of World Cultures (OWC) locate the culture for which you wish to examine the topic chosen above. Be aware that the Library's collection consists only of the cultures that have microfiche numbers penciled next to them.  We do not own the complete HRAF collection.  Make a note of the letter/number code for that culture. (Example:  NT 23 is the code for Zuni Indians of the American Southwest.) 

  • Locating Fiche:  Take the information you have collected to the HRAF microfiche cabinets (GN301 .H8) and find the culture you have selected (Example: NT 23). Use the labels on the front of the fiche drawers as your guide.  The collection is arranged alphanumerically by the culture codes.  Cultures are divided in the drawers by cardboard dividers and identified clearly in the header on each piece of fiche.

  • Locating and Interpreting the Data:  Next find the fiche within that culture that contains your topic.  The topic numbers  or ranges of numbers (Example: 583 - 597) are located in the upper left of the fiche.  On each card you will see "flashers".  That is to say eye-readable category numbers located at the start of each topic on the microfiche card.  If the card contains information on the topic you've selected for this particular culture you will see a "flasher" number.  The information for that topic category will contain excerpts from books and articles.  Only text or article pages relevant to your topic are included here.  To view the full text of these resources go to section 116 of the culture you've selected. Look for your topic number in the right margin of the document for relevant passages.

  • Understanding the Text Headers:  Each selected source within your topic has been evaluated by the HRAF staff providing you with information about the researcher's training and an evaluation of the material's quality (see tables below). 

    At the start of each entry the following information is listed from left to right across the page:  Source number; author or authors; training & quality evaluation codes; date of field work if applicable; date of publication; and culture name and code.