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World Religions Library Resources Guide

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

Developing Search Terms for Library Databases

Make a listBasic Search Strategies

Begin your research by creating a list of search terms - single words or short phrases - based on your choice of topic. Databases respond best to nouns that identify something specific. Terms like those below a make good starting point for a basic search.

  • Judaism
  • Christianity
  • Islam
  • Buddhism
  • Hinduism
  • Taoism
  • Native American Religions

When you search, enclose multiple-word terms in parenthesis (Native American) so the database searches for articles about "Native Americans" rather than searching the two words "Native" and "American"  separately, which will bring back a lot of irrelevant results.

Combine Religions with Concepts as a search term:

  • Hinduism and marriage
  • Islam and women
  • Judaism and society
  • Christianity and family

Because different authors use different terms that mean the same thing, you want to create a small list of alternate search terms so you don't miss a good article just because the author used different words than you entered into the search box. For example:

  • Judaism --- Jew; Jews, Jewish
  • Islam --- Islamic, Muslim
  • Hinduism --- Hindu
  • Native American - Native, Indigenous
  • Ritual - rite, ceremony, ceremonial

Use Thesaurus.com (linked below) or look at Subjects features in the databases to expand your word lists.

Basic searches strategies are conducted in the main search box using a word (Islam) or a short phrase (Native American religions).  The fewer terms you enter in the search box, the more results you get. This is okay.  The results that best match your search term appear first. (If they don't match what you were hoping for try another search term.) Skim over the first 2-3 pages of results with observer's eye. You are not looking for something in particular, you are looking to see what research exists on your topic.

Advanced Search Strategies

Advanced search strategies are useful if you get too many results from a basic search. To reduce or specify the results, try combinations of several words and linking them with AND, OR, NOT. This is known as Boolean searching. A Wildcard search adds an * to a root word means it will search for all variations of where the root word appears

  • Islam AND prayer OR ritual
  • Christianity AND Catholic OR Protestant OR Evangelical
  • (Judaism OR Jew OR Jewish*) AND Torah
  • (Native American) AND religion OR rit*

Remember, databases respond best to nouns that identify something specific. Words like impact or effect don't identify any one specific thing, and tend to muddy the results you get.


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