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REL 265: World Religions in America

Spring 2011
Doing Research

With so many information sources available online and in print, simply finding information usually isn't the issue. The true research problem lies in finding quality information sources that are appropriate for your topic. Take time to think critically about your research during this entire semester. Have you utilized the best sources for your topic? Do you have a grasp of the literature in your field? Have you thoroughly explored the nuances of your topic and supporting sources? This approach will not only be useful in this class, it will be invaluable as you head into the workforce or further graduate study. As always, give yourself enough time to do your research and have fun with your topics and the places they're taking you!

Using Secondary Sources Effectively

Effective research encompasses so much more than simply locating books and articles that relate to your topic. Those books and articles are the jumping off point for your research - they are an invitation to enter the scholarly conversation. Read until you understand the argument the author is making. Consider how the author discusses other literature on the topic. Mine the footnotes and references to locate other sources appropriate for your topic. Above else, constantly ask yourself how your research fits into previous research on the topic. How does your research address the ongoing conversation about the topic?

Table of Contents:

Reference works focusing on religion in America
  • Contemporary American Religion
    Macmillan 1999
    Contains over 500 short articles on facets of American religious life, including organizations, movements, practices, trends, and beliefs.
    • Location(s): Ref BL 2525 .C65 1999
  • Encyclopedia of African American Religions
    New York: Garland 1993
    Offers substantial articles on people, organizations, churches, and topics such as "preaching and the preacher in African American Religion" and "theology, black." Includes chronology and introductory essays as well as a thorough bibliography.
    • Location(s): Ref BR 563 .E53 1993
  • Encyclopedia of the American Religious Experience
    New York: Scribner's 1988
    Contains substantial articles surveying religions, cultural context, issues, and other broad topics, each with a helpful bibliography for further research.
    • Location(s): Ref BL 2525 .E53 1988
  • Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States
    Volume one contains entries about Islam in the United States; volume two contains primary documents and further investigations into topics such as citizenship, gender, and September 11.
    • Location(s): Ref BP67 .U6 E53 2007
  • Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion
    Washington, D.C.: CQ 2007 2nd ed. edition
    Offers overview articles on a wide variety of topics including places, people, faith traditions, and controversial issues such as creationism.
    • Location(s): Ref BL 65 .P7 E53 2007
  • Encyclopedia of Religion in America
    CQ Press 2010
    Covers a broad range of historical and contemporary topics related to religion in America and includes extensive bibliographies
    • Location(s): Ref BL 2525 .E52 2010 (4 vols.)
  • Hispanic American Religious Cultures
    ABC-CLIO 2009
    Presents information on the diversity of Hispanic American religious expression, including historical development and current trends.
    • Location(s): Ref BL2525 .H57 2009 (2 vols.)
  • Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America
    Westport, CT: Greenwood 2006
    A five-volume set that contains in-depth articles covering various aspects of American religions movements, ranging from alternative forms of Asian, African, Christian, and Jewish religions to considerations of New Age, Neopagan, and social aspects of alternative religions, such as gender, violence, legal aspects, and Millenialism.
    • Location(s): Ref BL 2525 .I58 2006
  • Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions
    Gale 2009
    Essays provide overviews of major trends in religion in the United States and Canada, along with detailed descriptions of 24 major religious traditions
    • Location(s): Ref BL 2525 .M449 2009
  • Religion and American Cultures
    Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio 2003
    Coverage in Volume 1 includes the intersection of culture and various religions in American life. Volume 2 addresses how religions approach various topics such as sacred space, the body, and death. Volume 3 contains a variety of primary source material.
    • Location(s): Ref BL 2525 .R448 2003
Finding Books
  • MnPALS Plus
    The online catalog to the library at Gustavus Adolphus College. Choose "All Libraries" in the search options to search other MnPALS libraries (such as Minnesota State schools) and request books through Interlibrary Loan. View our MnPALS Plus tutorial.
  • WorldCat
    Includes over 40 million bibliographic records representing cataloged resources in 400 languages owned by libraries around the world. Materials date back to the 11th century. Owning libraries can be identified for books, journals, archival resources and electronic resources. Access to WorldCat is provided by the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM); the database can also be searched through its free web interface, at
    1000 CE-present; updated daily
Finding Articles
If you have an article citation and can't find the full text in a database, use the Journal Locator to see if Gustavus owns a print copy of the article OR if it is available through another database. Be sure to search the Journal Locator with the title of the journal, not the article title.
  • ATLA Religion Database & ATLA Serials
    A comprehensive research database in the fields of religion and theology produced by the American Theological Library Association. Includes bibliographic citations and abstracts to journal articles from over 1,500 titles, citations to essays and book chapters, book reviews, and Doctor of Ministry projects. Many journal articles and book reviews are also available in full text.
    1949-present; updated quarterly
  • Arts & Humanities Citation Index (Web of Knowledge)
    A multidisciplinary index covering the journal literature of the arts and humanities. This index fully covers 1,144 of the world's leading arts and humanities journals, and also includes some individually selected, relevant items from over 6,800 major science and social science journals. Some of the disciplines covered include archaeology, linguistics, art, literature, music, philosophy, dance, history, religion and theater.
    1997-present; updated weekly
  • Catholic Periodical & Literature Index
    The Catholic Periodical and Literature Index Online is the product of a partnership between ATLA and the Catholic Library Association. The database covers all aspects of the Catholic faith and lifestyle, and includes over 380,000 index citations of articles and reviews published in Roman Catholic periodicals, Papal documents, church promulgations, and books about the Catholic faith that are authored by Catholics and/or produced by Catholic publishers. Indexing for CPLI Online corresponds to the print version, The Catholic Periodical and Literature Index, published by the Catholic Library Association and covers content from over 200 periodicals. Coverage in the database dates back to 1981. (description from EBSCOHost)
    Full-text backfiles to over 350 scholarly journals from more than 25 academic disciplines published between the 19th and 21st centuries in the JSTOR Arts & Sciences I, Arts & Sciences II, and Language & Literature collections. JSTOR provides complete journal backruns from the date of initial publication up to a "moving wall" of 3 to 5 years before the present year. To limit your search to full text articles, make sure that the option to "include links to external content" is turned off.
    1831-recent years
  • SAGE Premier
    Search the full text to over 500 scholarly journals published by SAGE in a range of disciplines, including many social sciences titles. Many journals include full backfiles - back to 1960s or earlier. To search articles by discipline, click on the "Browse" tab, then click on the "Articles by Discipline" tab.
  • Social Sciences Citation Index (Web of Knowledge)
    A multidisciplinary index with searchable author abstracts covering the journal literature of the social sciences, including anthropology, history, law, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, psychiatry, political science, public health, social work, sociology, urban studies, and women's studies. SSCI indexes more than 1,725 journals spanning 50 disciplines. In addition, it is possible to retrieve a list of works that have cited a specific author or specific work. May be searched simultaneously with Arts & Humanities Citation Index and/or Science Citation Index Expanded through the Web of Science interface.
    1997-present; updated weekly
Entering the Scholarly Conversation
  • Cited References Search
    As you find books and articles, be sure to mine their references for sources. By tracing cited works you're drawing on the evidence others have used and may find connections that you would otherwise miss. You will also see patterns emerge: works cited by everyone else are worth a look; authors who write a lot about your topic are worth searching by name, etc.

    Search for cited books by title or author in library catalogs; for journal articles, check the Journal Locator by journal name to see if we have an article you want. Several databases also include features telling you how often a work has been cited. You don't need to find a book or article on the computer to request it through interlibrary loan. Simply use the reference you have to fill out a form for either a book or a journal article. These forms are linked on the Interlibrary Loan page below. (For essays in a book, ask for the book.)
  • Understand the Argument
    When scholars write articles and books, they are arguing a particular thesis, just as you do in the papers you write in college. Professors rarely ask for a simple recitation of facts; you are typically asked to argue or interpret a set of facts. Scholars do the same thing. When you read articles and books, read carefully until you can fully articulate the author's premise. You are not simply reading for facts but to understand how the scholar is interpreting the facts. This will help you shape your own scholarly argument.
Useful Library Links
We've got several additional resources through the library that you might find useful for your research. Check out these webpages for more information.
  • Interlibrary Loan
    For information on requesting books and articles from other libraries, visit our Interlibrary Loan page.
  • Reference Desk
    Visit with librarians at the desk, by phone, email or chat for help with any library or research question. Click on the link for more information about this service.
  • Documenting Your Sources
    Check out this guide to learn about citing sources in MLA, APA, and Chicago Style. A copy of the Chicago Manual of Style is housed on the shelves behind the reference desk.
  • Evaluating Web Sites
    Use our guide to help determine if a web site would be an appropriate and reliable source for your research.
Contacting Julie
I'm happy to meet with you at any time to chat about your research. I can suggest additional sources, advanced search techniques, and troubleshoot problems you may encounter. Email me at or call x7552.

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