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The Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) are a specially organized collection of thousands of full text sources on almost 400 cultures worldwide. HRAF can be useful for anyone looking for background information or specific data on a particular ethnic group, culture or country, as well as by those investigating subjects like architecture, kinship, political structure or settlement patterns on a comparative cross-cultural basis. By using these files you will be able to find information on a great many topics in any of the cultures included.
For further guidance in using HRAF and eHRAF, you may want to explore the “ eHRAF User Guides” section of the HRAF website. A comprehensive tutorial on how to use HRAF and eHRAF, a Quick User’s Guide, and a Basic Guide to Cross-Cultural Research are included. An eHRAF library guide is also available through the SSHEL website.
HRAF was originally produced on paper, then on microfiche, and then on CD-ROM. Beginning in 1995, all new installments are available only via eHRAF. Many older installments, however, are available only in print or microfiche, not online. For a list of which cultures are covered in what format, see the table " Human Relations Area Files Collection of Ethnography" appended to the end of this guide and available online. (Note: Roe (2002) notes that a small number of sources in the print version were not reproduced in microfiche due to copyright issues. Thus, the print version contains unique material.)
Two additional access points to HRAF are Outline of World Cultures (OWC) (025.419 M974ou 1983; shelved in HRAF area) and Outline of Cultural Materials (OCM) (025.419 M974o 2000; shelved in HRAF area) and available online.
Selecting a Culture | Researching Topics and Subjects | Aids for Cross-Culture Study | Physical Format of HRAF Files | Sources used in HRAF | Citing HRAF | HRAF Guides | OCM codes (PDF) | Probabilty Sample file (PDF)
The Outline of World Cultures (OWC), organized geographically, classifies cultures by codes consisting of two letters and a number. All known cultures are listed in the OWC, but not all cultures have HRAF files since development of the files is ongoing. For information on which cultures have HRAF files in what formats, please visit the Yale HRAF information portal. Select the "Cultures Covered" link from the left-hand menu under "eHRAF World Cultures," then scroll down to the bottom of the "Cultures Covered" page and select the PDF or Excel version of "HRAF's Complete Collections List."
The first letter of the OWC code corresponds to one of eight major geographical regions of the world:
The second letter of the code represents a regional subdivision, usually political or geographical-cultural. These regional subdivisions are often, but not always, countries.
The number portion of the code is a group identifier. These may represent geographical-cultural units, country entities, or culture-bearing population units. Historical and archaeological cultures are also included (e.g., NT3 = Prehistoric Southwestern U.S.).
The detailed index to OWC allows access to a specific culture when its geographical region is not known. See the A-Z index of cultures included in eHRAF to search for specific cultures.
Outline of Cultural Materials (OCM) codes represent various topics and subject headings that you may wish to research. Each OCM code consists of a three digit number: the first two digits represent general subject categories which are then further subdivided into more specific, related terms.
The OCM "Table of Contents" provides a brief listing of these codes and subjects. You should also check the subject description in the OCM (also available in print), to ensure that the subject you have selected covers the topics in which you are interested. A useful "see also" section follows each explanation and indicates other related topics.
The detailed alphabetical index to the OCM (also available in print), was set up to facilitate use of the HRAF files for all social and behavioral scientists. An effort was made to include terms utilized in the fields of political science, economics, geography, and general science.
Index to the Human Relations Area Files
The Index may be used to find whether there is information in the files on a given OCM topic for a particular cultural group. The 1988 cumulative edition of the index is on microfiche and can be obtained from a staff member.
The equivalent for the eHRAF files is available at eHRAF's Subject Categories by clicking on the term and then on the and then on the “Related Documents” tab to locate any documents pertaining to that subject.. All information is listed by OCM category code; if your culture group is not listed under a given OCM category code, then there is not any information processed for that combination of culture and cultural material.
Probability Sample File
A Probability Sample File (PDF) was created in order to facilitate cross-cultural studies. This file lists sixty culture files which are fairly complete in their coverage of OCM topics. This file also suggests cultures that can be substituted for the original sixty.
There are three distinct formats in the HRAF files at the UIUC Library.
1. Paper (Available by request using the Library Catalog): The older format consists of 5" x 8" individual paper file pages produced in two slightly different styles. Each OCM category is separated by paper dividers.
2. Microfiche (Available in SSHEL): Microfiche sheets were in use from 1984 through 1994. Microfiche sheets contain "flashers" — eye-readable OCM category numbers which indicate the beginning of each new category. For examples of each of these formats, see Figures 1 and 2. One can search the Library Catalog using OWC codes to locate paper or microfiche files.
3. eHRAF: HRAF began to be issued in electronic format in 1995, available online as eHRAF. Retrospective conversion of the print and fiche text has not been done, so a comprehensive search will involve the paper or fiche and eHRAF.
Both the HRAF print and microfiche files are made up of individual file pages. These file pages are facsimiles of pages from source articles and books. Files are arranged geographically. Within a given culture group, file pages are arranged according to OCM code which are written in the margin of the file pages to indicate relevant information within a file page. The complete works covered in the file are reproduced at the beginning of each file. The top line of each file page contains coded information related to the author, reliability of the data, years during which the field work was conducted, and year of publication. Keys to these codes are listed below:
Source Evaluation: (Gives an indication of the quality of the data).
The “ eHRAF User Guides” section of the HRAF website.
A comprehensive tutorial on how to use HRAF and eHRAF, a Quick User’s Guide, and a Basic Guide to Cross-Cultural Research are included.
(By paper HRAF Collection)
HRAF Source Bibliography: Cumulative, 1976.
MFICHE 016.306 H88
Index to the Human Relations Area Files, 1988-. Continues Index to the HRAF Files, Supplement I, Steffens, 1979 and Index to the HRAF Files Naroll and Morrison, 1972 (both of which are 8 print vols.)
This index may be used to find whether there is information in the files on a given OCM topic for a particular cultural group. The 1988 cumulative edition is on microfiche and can be obtained from a staff member. The equivalent for the eHRAF files is available at eHRAF's Subject Categories by clicking on the term and then the “Related Documents” tab to locate any documents pertaining to that subject. If a culture group is not listed under a given OCM category code, then there is not any information in the files for that combination of culture and cultural material.
The Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) Collection of Ethnography: Format Variations and Their Implications for Users. Sandra K. Roe. 2002.
(By paper HRAF Collection)
Nature and Use of the HRAF Files: A Research and Teaching Guide, Lagace, Robert O. New Haven: Human Relations Area Files, 1974.
Outline of Archaeological Traditions, Peter N. Peregrine, ed. 2001.
A companion to the eHRAF Collection of Archaeology, this text is "an attempt to catalog all known archaeological traditions, covering the entire globe and the entire prehistory of humankind." Each entry provides the name of the tradition; the approximate time period for the tradition; brief information on the tradition's location and salient characteristics; and the tradition's alphanumeric code used in the eHRAF Collection of Archaeology.
025.49 M974o 2000
Outline of Cultural Materials, 5th Edition with Modifications, 2004. George P.Murdock, et al., eds.
A comprehensive classification scheme used by HRAF to index ethnographic and archaeological texts by subject. Cross references are provided along with scope notes. An alphabetical index is also provided which uses terms common to all social science disciplines, which may be helpful to those less familiar with anthropological terminology. The 5th edition reflects changes made in subject-indexing the new eHRAF Collection of Archaeology, as well as shifts in ethnographic research interests.
025.419 M974ou 1983
Outline of World Cultures, 5th ed., Murdock, George P. New Haven: Human Relations Area Files, 1983.
A geographical classification of all cultural groups worldwide. Each group is assigned a code consisting of two letters and a number. All known cultures are listed, but not all cultures listed here have HRAF files since development of the files is ongoing.