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Religious Studies Department, SCU
Bible Research Writing Style Sheet Bible Tools Exegesis
Table of Contents

 1. Choose a Topic
 2. Select Type & Number of Sources
  3. Find the Right Sources
  4. Get the Sources
 5. Check Source Credibility

1. Choose a Topic
Consider your interests and the scope of the course, and choose a topic that bridges both. For some courses, the professor will suggest particular topics; see the directions for your paper on your specific course website (tabs to the left).
You might also glance at the syllabus topics or the topics in the table of contents or index of your course text books to see if anything sparks your curiosity.
2. Select Type & Number of Sources
2.1. Types of Sources
For any discipline, including religious studies, there are several different types of sources you might come across:
  • Professional - These are "substantial" sources that have passed through some process of review. The review process promotes a higher level of quality and a "seal" of some level of acceptance from the academic and publishing communities. These types of sources include:
    • articles in professional journals like those abbreviated toward the end of this web site (see abbreviations)
    • books written by professionals in the field that had to be reviewed by other scholars and publishers before they could be published.
    • government documents
    • resources you would find in the reference section of the library (concordances, dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, etc.)
  • Popular - These resources require either a modest level of quality-control or none at all. They include:
    • Newspaper or newsmagazine articles
    • Literature produced by an organization
    • Online resources (in general; there are some exceptions, such as online government publications)
    • Interviews and other primary data you would collect
2.2. Number of Sources
The number of sources you need will depend upon the topic you choose and on the requirements for your assignment. see the directions for your paper on your specific course website (tabs to the left).
3. Find the Right Sources
VideoDemoThe single best resource for finding articles and books on a topic in religious studies is the ATLA Religion Database + ATLAS. Other resources are listed below, but you will likely find everything you need in this one database. The video demo to the right shows you how to use this database.
VideoDemoOnce you've located sources in the database that might be useful for your paper, you'll want to save them and reformat them for your own working bibliography. The video demo to the right shows you how to save and export your records from the database.
Here are some other resources that will help you identify sources for your paper:

  • Other Electronic Databases - Your topic may require you to take a look at databases in different disciplines, such as Classics (all classes), Political Science (all classes), Women's Studies (SCTR 26, SCTR 165R), and Gay and Lesbian Studies (SCTR 165R).

  • Scriptural Commentaries - If you need resources on a particular book in scripture, find a good recent commentary on that book. It will include a comprehensive bibliography of recent publications (if you pick a recently published commentary).

  • Scriptural or Topical Dictionaries and Encyclopedias - These resources, usually found in reference areas of the library, may have articles related to your topic. These articles will usually have brief bibliographies.

  • Oscar, Santa Clara University's online library access database; choose a keyword search and type in terms related to your topic

  • "Professional" Journal Articles and Books - These will frequently include bibliographic references that may be helpful.

  • Online Search Engines - For online searches, Google and Wikipedia have become the go-to resource. But Google's results are based on an algorithm that privileges the popularity of a site, which may mean that the first pages of results have the least reliable info. How willing are you to drill down deep? And Wikipedia is a useful first read to orient yourself to an issue, but reliability depends who's contributing (something you can't see), and "sources" are limited to print texts, which rules out the oral wisdom of a lot of global cultures.

4. Get the Sources
After you have located some sources, check Oscar to see whether our library has them (do a title search for book or journal titles). If our library does not have the title, you can order books or chapters in books through LINK+ (a button will appear on your title search page). If a LINK+ library has the book, the book will arrive in 3-4 working days. If the book you need is not in any of the LINK+ participating libraries, or if you need to order a journal article or other resource, you can do so through Bronco Express, an interlibrary loan service (articles are faxed within a few days directly to your email; books can take two weeks to arrive). All of these services are available from the Oscar Main Menu. Here are two pages with directions on finding your sources. If you need a visual guide, here are some video demos for how to locate journals or books:
Video Demos: How to find journal articles and books
Journals in our library
Books in our library
Journals not in our library
Books not in our library
5. Check Source Credibility
Be aware that anything that is published comes from a particular person or agency with their own background, training, and interests. It is important to become as aware of these matters as you can in order for you to read the resource critically.
Books and even some articles will provide not only the name of the author, but also sometimes some biographical information about that person on the dustjacket or in the preface, acknowledgments, or introduction. In addition, the publisher or the journal will usually have a certain profile—a particular religious denomination, audience, and niche. If the author is a faculty member at an educational institution, you can usually find out something about him/her through the college or university website (use to search those websites). Publishers maintain their own websites. A short-cut for finding out other people's views of an author is to read reviews of their work; for authors of articles and books on scripture, use Old Testament Abstracts and New Testament Abstracts.
Researching the source of a web site can be a little more difficult. Back out of the url hierarchy "slash-by-slash" to see whether higher levels of the source provide background information about the author or the mission/purpose of the site. There are a couple of web sites that provide tips for use of online sources:
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