Where can you find sources for your research?
As you are conducting research for your comprehensive project (or conducting research for a RELS course), you will need to scour scholarly databases that index scholarly journal articles, books, collections of essays, and book reviews in the field of Religious Studies and in any ancillary disciplines.
Search fields: There are several ways to search databases. At first, we recommend using the Keyword and Subject search fields, limited by English language and peer-review. (Note: you may need to click on Advanced Search to limit by language and peer-review.)
*Keyword or Subject—Try many different configurations of keywords related to your topic since scholarship is not uniformly indexed! (e.g., “euthanasia,” “suicide,” “physician assisted suicide,” “mercy killing,” etc.)
*Language—If you don’t want sources in languages other than English, limit to English only.
*Peer-reviewed—This will limit your search to articles that have been vetted by scholars in the field before they have been published. For this reason, they are thought to be more “scholarly” and reputable.
Document types: Note the different types of sources indexed in databases: books, articles, essays, etc. You should look mostly for articles and essays—which are more manageable than books—but you might have to include a book or two if it is a classic work in the field.
Article: a short work of scholarship published in an academic journal or serial.
Essay: a short work of scholarship published in an edited volume (a collection of essays).
Review: a scholar's summary and critique of a book. This is a good type of writing to consult in order to get an overall sense of a book's main arguments in order to determine whether it will be useful to your research. It does NOT, however, constitute an appropriate source.
Date: Keep an eye out for the most recently published, thus the most up-to-date, scholarship. There is one exception to this rule: you should also keep an eye out for the “classic” articles/books on your topic. Classic texts are easy to find because other scholars reference them regularly.
Databases (in alphabetical order):
There are dozens of scholarly databases that index scholarly essays, books, reviews, etc. Most gather together only scholarship within one field/discipline, while some are interdisciplinary. Below is a list of databases that might be useful as you conduct research in Religious Studies.
For topics related to Religious Studies, the ATLA database is the most extensive index to scholarship in the field.
- To get to ATLA, go to Oxy’s database page: http://libguides.oxy.edu/dbs (From the library home page, click on “Database Finder” in the middle bottom of the page)
- Scroll down to ATLA Religion (EBSCOhost), click on link.
For historical topics, you can search Historical Abstracts, an index of scholarship in the field of History.
- To get to Historical Abstracts, go to Oxy’s database page: http://libguides.oxy.edu/dbs (From the library home page, click on “Database Finder” in the middle bottom of the page)
- Scroll down to Historical Abstracts, click on link
For scholarship in a range of fields, you can search JSTOR.
- To get to JSTOR, go to Oxy’s database page: http://libguides.oxy.edu/dbs (From the library home page, click on “Database Finder” in the middle bottom of the page)
- Scroll down to JSTOR, click on link.
- When the new window opens, click on “Advanced Search” (under the Search box)
- Then limit your search according to the disciplines relevant to your topic by checking the boxes next to each discipline you’d like to include.
For philosophical topics, you may try Philosophers’ Index. It is extensive, and presents information in a way that makes identifying peer reviewed journal articles straightforward.
- To get to Philosophers’ Index, go to Oxy’s database page: http://libguides.oxy.edu/dbs
- Scroll down to Philosophers’ Index, click on link.
- Be sure to limit your search to “peer reviewed” publications, by checking the checkbox just under the searchbox.
For philosophical topics, use Philpapers. It is a database created by and for members of the philosophical community.
- To get to Philpapers, go to: philpapers.org
- Note, you will need to perform an Advanced Search - so that you can specify (using the checkbox on the Advanced Search page) that you want ‘published only’ papers.
- This database also tracks “Similar books and articles.” If you find a particularly good source, be sure to click on the full information, so that you can access this helpful feature.
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