Contact Information
  • Librarian: Moira Marsh
  • Location: Herman B Wells Library E760
  • Phone: (812) 855-1550
Libraries & Subjects
last updated: 10/8/2012

HRAF Overview & Guide

Maori Man, New Zealand.

Go to eHRAF

What are the Human Relations Area Files?
What can I use the Human Relations Area Files for?
Where are the Files Located?
How are the Files Organized?
Where Can I Get Help?
Using HRAF: Browsing Cultures | Browsing Subjects | Searching | Exporting

What are the Human Relations Area Files?
The Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) is a database of full-text ethnographies on nearly 400 different ethnic, cultural, religious, and natural groups worldwide.  The Files include nearly a million pages of text from books, articles, and unpublished manuscripts as well as English translations of foreign texts available exclusively in HRAF.

What can I use the Human Relations Area Files for?
HRAF is used to find information on a particular culture or cultural trait or for making cross-cultural comparisons.  You can compare specific topics across many cultures, find brief excerpts arranged by topic and read cultural summaries.

HRAF Table of Contents:

  • For a Microsoft Excel .xls version of HRAF's Complete Collection List click here.
  • Click here for information on how to Cite HRAF

Where are the Files Located?
HRAF is available in two formats:

     1.  A microfilm collection housed in Government Information, Microforms and Statistical Services on the 2nd floor of the Wells Library.  Most of the Files are only available in this format.

     2.  In eHRAF, an electronic full-text version of the files, available on the web to authorized Bloomington users (on and off campus).  As of Fall 2002, approximately one-third of the files are in electronic form.

                222 cultures in microfiche only
                55 cultures in eHRAF
                415 cultures in total

How are the Files Organized?
The Files are indexed in two waysby cultural group and cultural traits.

     1.  Cultural Groups (Outline of World Cultures):
The Files are first organized into cultures.  Each culture is designated by a four 
          character alphanumeric code.  These codes are taken from the Outline of   
          World Cultures
(OWC), which is available in the stacks at the Wells Library   
          (GN345.3 .M87 1983). This reference book classifies all known cultural   
          or ethnic groups  based on their geographic location.  The first letter of each   
          culture's code refers to the broad  geographic region where it is located:
               N=North America
               R=Russia (cultures located in the former Soviet Union and Russia)
               M=Middle East
               S=South America

          For example, the Masai are designated as FL12, while the Crow and Highland 
          Scots are referred to as NQ10 and ES10 respectively.

     2.  Cultural Traits (Outline of Cultural Materials):
A unique and powerful feature of HRAF is that it provides detailed subject   
          indexing of every cultural trait described in the texts.  The Outline of  
          Cultural Materials
(OCM) is the classification system used for this indexing.  
          The OCM is divided into some 80 broad headings that are further subdivided 
          into nearly 700 topics.  The data contained in each paragraph of the 
          ethnographic texts are indexed with these three-digit OCM codes.  Some 
          common OCMs include: kinship terminology (601), forms of marriage (583),   
          clans (618), and ethnic relations (563).


Click here to browse an outline of all the subject categories.

Where Can I Get Help?




1. Browse Cultures:

  • Browse cultures through A-Z index, or,
  • Browse cultures by Region: Africa, North America, etc.
  • Each culture is given an OWC (Outline of World Cultures) code, e.g.
    • Azande, FO07
    • Cuban Americans, NK08
    • Hopi, NT09
  • Click on the culture name to go to the file description
  • From the file description, click on Cultural Summary
  • From the file description, scroll down to File Table of Contents and click on any title to read the full-text of the book or articleEach culture is assigned a code that comes from the Outline of World Cultures (OWC), e.g. the Akan are FE12.

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2. Browse Subjects:

  • Browse A-Z index of all subjects, or,
  • Click on "Browse Subject Categories" for an outline of all the subject categories.
  • Each subject has OCM (Outline of Cultural Materials) code, e.g.:
    • 290 CLOTHING
    • 291 NORMAL GARB (Garment, ordinary, 291)
    • 292 SPECIAL GARMENT (Garment, special, 292)
    • 580 MARRIAGE
    • 754 SORCERY
  • There are 91 broad subject categories. Each is subdivided into narrower subjects, e.g. 730 Social Problems includes 731 Disasters; 732 Disabilities; 733 Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, etc.
  • Click on the numeric code for a description of that subject term, a list of subjects, and links to eHRAF texts that match that subject.
  • Click on "eHRAF Ethnography Documents with this OCM" for links to texts that mention this subject.
  • The same word may be linked to several different subjects in the index, e.g. the word bone occurs in six subjects:
    • Bone pointing, in sorcery, 754
    • Bone setting, 752
    • Bone, horn, and shell technology, 321
    • Bone, ideas about, 826
    • Bone, use, 237
    • Bone, work in, 321

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3. Search:

  • The Quick Search box searches words in full-text, subjects, culture names, or OCM codes (e.g. 754 for Sorcery).
  • Text Search: You may search by any combination of the following:
    • Subject codes (OCMs or OWCs)
    • Words in the full-text titles of eHRAF documents
    • Culture name
  • To enter OCMs (subject terms), click on "Add." This opens the A-Z Subject index in a separate window. Scroll through the index to find the term you need. Click on "Note" for a description of the subject. Click "Add" to add this subject to your search.
  • You may enter up to three different subject terms. The default operator combines the terms with "AND." Click the drop down menus to change the Boolean operator to "NOT" or "OR."
  • To search for words or phrases, in the full-text, enter only one word or phrase in the "Exact Word or Phrase" boxes. You may enter up to three terms. The default operator combines the terms with "AND." Click the down menus to change the Boolean operator to "NOT" or "OR."
  • Use * to truncate terms, e.g. music* returns texts that contain music, musical, or musician.
  • To search for words or phrases in titles, enter them in the "Exact Word or Phrase" boxes. Do not enter any subject terms in the OCM line. Click on the box that says "Paragraphs" to change to "Titles."
  • To limit your search to one or more cultures in eHRAF, select the culture from the A-Z list at the bottom. Use Ctrl-click to select more than one culture.

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Viewing Records in eHRAF:

  • Search results appear as a list of cultures that include matching terms.
  • Results are sorted by geographic region (Africa, Asia, etc.), and then in alphabetical order within each region.
  • After each culture name a note explains how many matches were found. Each "match" is a single paragraph, e.g. "25 matches in 3 documents" means that 25 paragraphs were found in three different book-or article-length documents.
  • Click on the culture name to see a list of results for that culture.
  • It is not possible to mark records in eHRAF.

      Exporting (Printing, Saving, E-mailing) in eHRAF:

      • Use the browser's Print command to print the current document view.
      • Use the brower's Save command to save these results. Change the format to a text file.
      • Click "Save."
      • Use the brower's Send command to send the current page by e-mail.
      • It is not possible to export entire documents from eHRAF; you can only export one section at a time.

      Where Can I Get Help?

    • last updated: 10/8/2012