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REL 315: Mystics of the West: Start

Course guide for REl 315: Mystics of the West

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.


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 pandemic, I advise that you focus on materials you can find through ATLA or other library databases. DO NOT rely on library 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.

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. Articles tend to be more specific, so as you search, start paying attention to the scope of articles - 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. 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.


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 GeorgetownNCSU Libraries or the University of Arizona

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