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World Religions Library Resources Guide

Guide to finding films and peer-reviewed articles in the field of World Religions.

World Religions and Academic Study

academic studyThroughout your course you will be introduced to world religions including Native American religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and others.  You will learn about the historical roots and basic tenets of religions, as well as understand the characteristics religions have in common and the characteristics differentiate each religion. 


As your read through research article, notice how they attempt to answer these questions.

  • Why do religions exist?
  • What is the knowledge that religions purport to lead us to?
  • Why have people seek to know something outside the parameters of rational thought and experience.

Many people have the experience of a religion or faith tradition, either the one they were raised in or chose as an adult. A person's religion and may be a deeply meaningful personal and subjective experience.

In contrast, the nature of academic study is that a subject is approached with objectivity. The student plays the role of observer, rather than participant.

Academic study in the field of religion applies scientific methods of study seen in other disciplines. For example, researchers will study sacred texts and use methods of literary criticism which examine and reflect on the quality and character of a text.

Other scholars use the research methods form the fields of anthropology, philosophy, psychology, and sociology, in order to understand and clarify religious beliefs, practices, and moral codes.

ask questions

Your goal is to find research materials from the perspective of an objective observer. Observers ask questions like:

  • What does this mean? 
  • Why is this important?
  • How does this work in people's lives?
  • Does this make sense?

Overview of the Research Process

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Research is a a process of exploration and discovery!



You are exploring bits and pieces of information about your chosen topic and discovering what they say about it. Your job as the author or author or creator is to pick and choose the information that help you put together the complete picture of what you want to convey about your topic. puzzle pieces icon


Tackle your research in 2 phases.

Phase 1 - background research. This is the information you will use in the introductory section of your paper or project. Assume your reader or audience knows nothing about your topic, and you need to give them the background or context to understand and appreciate your work. Background research is about exploring and discovering:

  • WHO - names of people, organizations, groups, sects, religions, cultures, governments, etc.
  • WHAT - concepts, ideas, events, doctrines, rituals, laws, etc.
  • WHEN - dates, timelines, time periods, years, decades, centuries, etc,
  • WHERE - place, buildings, towns, cities, countries, provinces, continents, etc.
  • WHY - reasons, causes, motivations, beliefs, etc.
  • HOW - framework, structure, plan, requirement, implementation, execution, etc.

Your goal is to take this information and use it to provide an overview of your topic for your reader or audience.

Phase 2 - focused research. In this phase you will focus in-depth in on a very specific aspect of your topic.  Example --  in your background research about Buddhism you learned about the Japanese school, Zen Buddhism. You've heard the term "zen" before but don't know a lot about it and decide to explore it further. Start again at Credo Reference this time looking for a specific aspect about Zen Buddhism for your research project. You decide to focus on Zen Buddhism as it's practiced in the United States in the 21st century. You will use databases that provide more detailed information found in magazines and academic journals.

Notetaking and Research

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Take Notes as You Read or Skim!

Jot down names, dates, concepts, and most importantly your thoughts, ideas, or questions. Feel free to be as messy as you want with your notes.  As long as they help you learn, it doesn't matter what they look like.


Studies show note-taking helps you understand and remember information better

For more -information about note-taking link to the LibGuide below or find videos on YouTube. There's a lot of them that cover all kinds  of subjects.

Taking Notes for Credo Reference Articles

The purpose of background research  is to learn more about a broader general topic and find a specific area of the topic to focus on for your research project. 

For example, you might decide to write about Buddhism. This is a HUGE topic! There's way too much information about Buddhism and all its aspects to cover in a 4-5 page paper. 

credo reference search Buddhism

Your goal at this stage is to skim for articles in the encyclopedia database, Credo Reference.  Skim the list of articles, and look at the titles, descriptions, Key Concept buttons to get a feel for what type of articles are available. You are trying to get a sense of what Buddhism is all about.

To do look for the:

  • WHO?  Jot down key people/leaders, related groups 
  • WHAT? Jot down ideas or concepts: history, purpose, rituals, culture (family, gender, marriage, children); similarities and differences         
  • WHERE? Jot down key places - place of origin, countries where Buddhism is practiced
  • WHEN? Jot down key dates and timelines for important events in history or personal development
  • WHY? Jot down causes and reasons, for specific rituals, practices or  belief systems, etc.
  • HOW? Jot down methods used in rituals or practices, meditation, for example

Mind map image

A great feature of Credo Reference is the  Mind Map, which gives you a quick idea about the different aspects of Buddhism. The Mind Map is broken down into linkable subtopics. . Clicking on a subtopic brings up a list of articles related to the subtopic.  of anything that grabs your attention to bring up the full article. Skim the article, you can read it more in depth later. No single article will provide all the information you need. Look for a minimum of 3 articles you think will give you solid background knowledge about your topic, and help you to start to narrow you focus.

World Religions

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Religion is broadly defined as a "code of beliefs and practices formulated in response to a spiritual awareness of existence. It may involve either faith in a state of existence after earthly death, or a desire for union with an omnipotent spiritual being, or a combination of the two."

"Polytheistic religions, such as those of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, entailed the worship of many distinct gods or personifications of nature. Many cultures classified their deities into hierarchies known as pantheons; some religions, such as Hinduism, still have such pantheons.

Other ancient religions, some of which incorporated belief in a state of existence after death, were more of a system of ethical philosophy concentrating on metaphysical contemplation (for example, Buddhism and Taoism).

The ancient Hebrews were among the first people to worship a single omniscient and omnipotent being, Yahweh. He gave them His protection in return for their total faith and obedience.

Common to all religions dominated by a single omnipotent force (monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is the idea that the power is all places at once, and that it is beyond the physical plane occupied by humans."

Citation - Chicago Style

"Religion." In Philip's Encyclopedia. Philip's, 2008.

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