Basic Research Guide for Religious Studies

Research goals

1. Compiling a list of reliable and relevant research materials (books, articles, essays, chapters, journalism, online media)
2. Out of this mass of materials, determining which are most useful to your research project

Research strategies

1. Determine research topics. Pick two or three topics that you expect to cover in your paper, and finesse those topics into a few words (in various combinations, with useful restrictions [quotation marks, minus signs, etc.]) that you will use in the many search engines to start collecting research materials. You should be crafting and adapting and reshaping these search phrases based on your initial results. Eventually, these topics will form the core of your paper.
2. Search forward. Especially through the library tools that allows you find books, you may come upon a reliable, useful, relevant book written ten or more years ago. But what’s been done lately? Use this older book as your new search term, and plug it into Google Scholar, Google Books, and Web of Science to see what works have cited this book more recently (and don’t forget to restrict the years of your search).
3. Search backward. Let’s say you found a recent article or book which is useful, but not quite exactly on topic (or, you want to find more sources on the same subject). The first thing you do is read through that book or article’s bibliography (or, if there is no bibliography, read through its footnotes/endnotes). If you do this with several recent pieces of research, you’ll see several works cited over and over, and you can even subject those works to a “forward search” (see #2).
4. Useful, but not relevant. Sometimes you’ll stumble upon a piece of scholarship which is tangential to your actual research, but still useful. It may have good background, or provide context you were unaware of, but doesn't relate directly to your topic. Feel free to get what you can and then set it aside: your job is not only to find sources, but find relevant sources.
5. Start online. It is wonderful to browse the physical library for journals, books, magazines, but it is often not the best place to start. First of all, we don’t have a lot of hard copies left in our library, as so many things are digitized. Second, even if we have something, it may not be on the shelves. So you need to start your search online: through the library catalogs (Blais and Worldcat), through Google searches (Scholar and Books), and through databases (by subject and material).

Research tools

The Google Family provides many ways to tap into popular and academic resources. Don’t forget to keep limiting and reconfiguring your search topics (through limiters such as +, ( ), " ", -; or click on the advanced search link on any Google search).
Google Scholar ( will capture articles, essays, citations, and books. You can limit (through the advanced search) by subject area and date.
Google Books ( will search entire texts of books, but will not always show you the text of those results. Often useful to arrange results by date (in lefthand side of screen).
Google News ( An initial search will only return recent hits, but then you have the option to click on “archive” on the lefthand side of the screen, and results will come back dating from more than a century ago.
“Google Everything”: click on “everything,” and you’ll capture social media, images, twitter, etc.

Library resources (
Start search online through the Blais and the online catalog of the Claremont School of Theology, located just across Foothill Dr. from the Colleges. For books at CST, you can get a borrower’s card from them for free as a Scripps student; you can also use books/reference materials in that library. Or, you can request these resources through Link Plus or Interlibrary Loan (you may need to set up an Illiad account in order to use Interlibrary Loan services).

You should also search Worldcat, available through the Databases page (see below). If you find a resource on Worldcat that you like that we don’t have you can click request, and be taken to the Interlibrary Loan page (aka Illiad). After setting up a user name and password linked to your library ID, you can request books, articles, chapters, essays, through Illiad.

Be sure also to check out the Religion Research Guide put together by the Library staff . You'll find links to on-campus digital resources (including some listed below) as well as public online resources. There are also more specific guides for Christianity and Judaism.

While on the Databases page you should check these very useful databases (note, links will only work from a Claremont Colleges terminal):
a. ATLA (religious studies): In addition to standard searches (title, subject, author, etc.) you can also search by Scriptural citation (e.g., “Genesis 3” or “Exodus 1-20”; experiment with different book/chapter/verse ranges). Some results will come back with a PDF link; if not, you can always click on the little green GET THIS ITEM  button, and you will be taken to a page that tells you if Honnold subscribes to this digital journal; if not, you can click directly on the Interlibrary Loan link, be taken to Illiad (see above), and request the item
b. JSTOR (academic journals): Captures almost all academic journals, but often with a moving “wall” of four or five years past (i.e., you will not get the most recent items.)
c. Lexis-Nexis (newspapers, magazine, government documents): A tremendous range of materials, so you’ll have to work on limiting your search (to, for instance, “English news sources” from particular dates). Most useful if you want to find journalistic sources beyond simply reviews.
d. Web of Science (cross-citation index): Be sure to limit your search to “Arts & Humanities.” You can search by topic or author on the main page for general results, or click on “Cited Reference Search” and plug in the name of an author (Last Name First Initial Asterisk, e.g., Jacobs A*) and be shown all sources by that author cited by other authors
other useful databases:
e. Academic Search Premier (journal articles): A catch-all index of academic databases. You never know what you'll find here!