Research Tips — Online religion research: locating recommended books

Written by Robert Sivigny, University Librarian

If you are distance student in the School of Divinity, one of the challenges of writing research papers is gaining access to the best books on your topic. How do you go about this? Where do you begin?

First, look for recommended books in your course syllabus or other resources listed at the top left-hand area of the course Web site within Blackboard. Professors often include a list of recommended resources, which usually have bibliographies where you can find authoritative sources. Your textbooks are another possibility; or you might ask your professor directly for best books on your research topic. If you topic has an historical angle, consult the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, available in full-text online through Oxford Reference Online. After logging in, choose “Religion & Divinity” from the subject list. Select “Advanced Search” at the top left-hand side in the dark blue menu, then select The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church from the list of works below. Type in your topic, click on the down arrow in the “Refine your Search” drop-down box to the right, and select “Entry Headings.” In this way, the database will return only full articles on your topic, not just passing references.

A full entry will give you a great overview, hypertext links to associated topics, and most importantly, a bibliography that will point you to the best books on your topic. Consider these recommendations like gold. Print out the page and search the Regent Library Catalog to see which books the Library has; then place requests through our InterLibrary Loan department. We will ship the books promptly at no charge to you. For books not held by Regent, check your local public library’s catalog and InterLibrary Loan service.

If you are working on a scriptural topic, a place to find recommended academic resources is the Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology at Articles in Bakers usually have great bibliographies at the end of the entries. If you are looking for commentaries, use the School of Divinity handout, Selected Resources for Old and New Testament Studies, available from the Library’s new Divinity & Religion subject guide.

Other dictionaries and encyclopedias in the Library’s Reference section may have useful bibliographies. Check Recommended Reference Works to Consult for Bibliography to identify reference works that may have an article you would like to see. Call the circulation desk and ask one of the library faculty to examine a couple of listed reference dictionaries or encyclopedias to see if there is an article on your topic and to give you the page numbers. Armed with the article topic, page numbers, and specific dictionary or encyclopedia title, fill out a “Request a Photocopy” form in your InterLibrary Loan account.

After you identify the books you want, you can also use the WorldCat database to identify libraries in your area that may have the books on your topic. Sometimes even public libraries will surprise you and have the exact item you are looking for; if not, they should be able to acquire them for you through their own interlibrary loan service.