Think of library research as a scavenger hunt and use skill, intuition and awareness. Some tips include:
- Jot down what you're looking for on paper. This helps you verbalize and organize your needs.
- Look in resources that can broadly define your topic and provide background info and keywords, such as The Encyclopedia of Religion (Ref BL31 .E46 2005) or other encyclopedias, including Wikipedia. Jot down keywords, dates, names, etc.Don't stop there!
- Keep in mind there may be variant spellings or transliterations - especially for international subjects.
- Consider the timeliness of your topic. Are you researching a religious event from last month, or interpretation of a 500 year old codex. Generally more recent events will likely be covered in newspapers and on-line blogs, while a little time is required before they appear in journals, and even more time for books.
- Once you know what type of info you want, choose the right tool to find it. For books, use a catalog such as SWAN; for journal articles use an index such as JSTOR; for newspaper stories, use an index such as ProQuest News. You get the idea.
- Consider the source. If you're looking for criticism about a televangelist's work, their personal website might not be the first place to look.
- Familiarize yourself with what I call the "anatomy of a record". Most catalog and journal index records have many of the same pieces of information, organized in "fields". They differ slightly from one source to another, but understanding the underlying structure helps you move from one source to another easily. Most have "subject", "author", "title", "keyword", etc.
- Use the "advanced search" option when available. It will help w/ the point above.
- If you find a book or article that suits your needs, look at the subject headings assigned, and search those.
- Look in the bibliographies in pertinent books and articles to see if the sources listed may also help. If we don't have them at Drury, order them through Mobius or Interlibrary Loan.
- Ask for help. No one is expected to know everything about libraries, and every library is different. Take advantage of the student research assistants and librarians at the Reference Desk, or contact me.
Religion: "Relation of human beings to God or the gods or to whatever they consider sacred or, in some cases, merely supernatural. Archaeological evidence suggests that religious beliefs have existed since the first human communities. They are generally shared by a community, and they express the communal culture and values through myth, doctrine, and ritual. Worship is probably the most basic element of religion, but moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions also constitute elements of the religious life. Religions attempt to answer basic questions intrinsic to the human condition (Why do we suffer? Why is there evil in the world? What happens to us when we die?) through the relationship to the sacred or supernatural or (e.g., in the case of Buddhism) through perception of the true nature of reality. Broadly speaking, some religions (e.g., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are outwardly focused, and others (e.g., Jainism, Buddhism) are inwardly focused."--Britannica Concise Encyclopedia
Associate Librarian for Art, Architecture, Philosophy & Religion