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REL 252: Interfaith Understanding and Global Christianities: Start

Getting Started

Welcome to your library course guide! It provides ideas for where and how to search for your topics. In addition to this guide, I recommend consulting the Stay Connected to the Library During the COVID-19 Emergency guide. Also, if you're new to doing academic research - or need a refresher - consult our Quick Answers guide.

Our doors may be closed but library services are still up and running. If you have any question about your research or anything related to the library, either email me (use the button below my picture) or use the chat reference box (below). We look forward to working with you!

Chat with Us! (Fall Semester through Spring Semester only)

Chat reference service is available Monday - Thursday 10:30 - 4:30 & Fridays 10:30 - 2:30. We look forward to connecting with you! Contact us with any question about research or library services.

These times don't work for you? Prefer to connect via email or Google Meets? Visit our Reference Services page for more options to contact a librarian.

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Accessing Hard Copies

When you're searching the ATLA database, you may find lots of materials that are not full text in the database. To find the full text, click the FindIt! button (the bright yellow one).

A few possible things might happen.

1. It's full text in another database, in which case the FindIt! button will take you to a screen where you can access the full text.

2. The library has a print copy of the journal, in which case the Find It! button will tell you we have it. You will go to the library's lowest level, where you'll find print copies of journals in alphabetical order of journal title. You can check these out. 

3. In the library catalog, you will see an option to request from another library, which means we don't have immediate access. Click the request link, where you will be asked to log in with your Gustavus account username and password. You should then be taken to an interlibrary loan (ILL) form containing the item's information. Double check the info and submit the form. The article will be emailed to you.

4. You click the FindIt! button and nothing works, or a link is broken, or ILL isn't working, or you're not sure if we have the journal in print or not. It's okay! Tracking down the hard copies of materials can be challenging, due to the number of systems that may or may not talk to each other. You should always track down a librarian (stop at the Information Desk, email Julie, etc.), and we can help you find your materials.

You can also click the Tracking Down Materials tab (top) for more information.

Where Should I Search?

Because of the the pandemic, I advise that you focus on materials you can find through ATLA or other library databases. DO NOT rely on library books. This is funny to say as a librarian, but since most libraries (including ours) have shut down physically lending books, you'll want to mainly conduct research through databases. I do have some tips below about other ways to locate books, however.

The ATLA database (below) is the main database for Religion, so definitely start there. I've added a few others that might have some information, too.

Some of you might be looking at interfaith issues in another discipline, like psychology or history. Or maybe you're looking into interfaith matters in the workplace. Be sure to browse the other Research Guides to find more ideas for databases to search. If your topic involves psychology, use the Psychology research guide; same goes for business (check out the Economics guide) or History. 

Even though you aren't able to access library books, there are still some options. Google Books often has snippets of recent academic books. There are also some options listed on our Stay Connected guide. Also, if you come across a book author and can't access that particular book, search a database to see if they've written an article on a similar topic. You can always email me for more suggestions and help, too.

Developing Your Topics

Don't expect to find the "perfect" article the first time you sit down to search. This is especially true if your topic is really broad: "I want to do something with interfaith understanding and the workplace," for example. Articles tend to be more specific, so as you search, start paying attention to the scope of articles. Is a workplace article focused on two specific religions? A specific type of workplace? Specific issues that arise regarding accommodations or sacred spaces? Pay attention to these details - you want to get a sense of the following question: "What are people talking about when they talk about my topic?"

Think about search terms - and using more than one word or phrase. Even "interfaith" can also be described as interreligious, multifaith, multireligious, etc. Pay attention to the terms that experts in the field use to identify your topic. Different search terms will bring up different results, so be sure you're using a variety of search terms. Consult the Search Tips tab (top of page) for more ideas on how to search.

Be sure to find articles that you understand. This might be a little obvious, but it bears repeating. You might find an article that describes your topic but is written for people who are already scholars or experts. It might be too dense or complicated to understand. There's nothing wrong with dismissing a source because it is too technical. If you find one that's easier to understand, your research and presentation will be much better.

Finally, although things are a little different during the pandemic, we are still able to get electronic copies of articles. The Accessing Hard Copies box to the left, as well as the Tracking Down Materials tab (top of page) give detailed information on getting materials from other libraries; feel free to email me with specific questions, too.


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Julie Gilbert
Hello! I look forward to working with you. If you have any questions about research, an assignment, or the library in general, please contact me via email or make an appointment. You can reach any of the reference librarians at folke @ or via the Ask Us! button on the library's homepage.

Scholarly vs Popular

In general, scholarly sources:

  • Are written by experts in the field for other experts (or students)
  • Often include a discussion of related literature 
  • Contain a list of works cited at the end of the article (or in footnotes)
  • Lack paid advertisements

Learn more from guides at other libraries, like Georgetown, NCSU Libraries or the University of Arizona.

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