Our task today is to find sources for your research project. Your goal is to find two new scholarly sources on your final research topic.
What criteria is needed to be considered a scholarly source? (see tab under Academic Paper Writing to your left)
The sources should have a particular relationship with each other, namely you should find the second source within the first!
Scholarly writing is very different from either primary sources or writing designed for a popular audience. It is written for other researchers and has been vetted by experts who attest to its validity. Relevant scholarship is very useful for you: it will teach you more about your research topic and, potentially, support your thesis.
Academic writing is a type of conversation, and you need to listen for the different scholarly voices. The conversation could be a heated argument disagreement, a friendly argument, or scholars nuancing each other’s points. If you only hear one voice, be wary! Perhaps you are looking at poor scholarship or something that is not scholarship at all (e.g. a magazine article) or it isn’t relevant to the other scholarship you’re reading or you aren’t listening closely enough.
Most research requires you to listen to multiple conversations, not just multiple voices. You can approach any topic from multiple perspectives, each of which has its own scholarly conversation. If you are researching Wonder Woman and her sacrificial love as an empowering model for women, you may or may not find a scholarly conversation specifically about your topic, but regardless, you need to listen to the more general conversations about Wonder Woman as an empowering model for women and about sacrificial love in religion.
A good secondary source should almost always be 1) scholarly and 2) relevant to your topic. How do you find these sources? By “asking” people/sources that would know. “Asking” here does not mean literally asking your professor or librarian to do your research for you (though you should ask for help if you are stuck), but scanning citations in related books and articles, looking at research encyclopedias, or strategically searching in databases. For more in-depth information, see Religious Studies LibGuide in the left-hand column.
Research encyclopedias and other reference works
Why use them: to learn basic information about a topic (note keywords) and see works cited
Note: you are using the entries to help find scholarly sources; although the encyclopedia articles are often written by scholars, these are not the scholarly sources you are looking for
Because of this, you should have a strong preference for relatively recent publications
Hint: search for a moderately general term (e.g. “liberation theology”) rather than very general terms (e.g. Catholicism or theology) or very specific terms (e.g. Black Panther as liberation theology)
Oxford Research Encyclopedias (e.g. Oxford Research Encyclopedia: Religion)
Subject specific encyclopedias like The Oxford Encyclopedia of Religion in America or the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception or The American Superhero: Encyclopedia of Caped Crusaders in History
See also: Blackwell Companions and Cambridge Companions to Religion
Others are available in IUCAT, add the term “encyclopedia” to a search on a very general topic (e.g. religion or Judaism or comics)
You want a research encyclopedia, preferably extensive “further reading” sections, not just any encyclopedia
Religious Studies Research Guide (or other guides, e.g. folklore, gender studies, history, media studies, media services online streaming titles)
Why use it: it contains links to many different types of databases (which can be overwhelming to find on their own) and you can schedule an appointment with me
What you’ll find within:
Links to encyclopedias and other reference works (more within the religious traditions section)
Links to databases with scholarly articles
A summary page with examples of all of the above
Databases with scholarly articles
Why use it: get started with your research right away and many let you limit to peer-reviewed/scholarly articles
JSTOR (mostly scholarly journals/books, both old and new; easy-to-use)
Project Muse (similar to JSTOR but with different sources)
ATLA (focusing specifically on religion)
Academic Search (covers a wide range of disciplines; both scholarly and not, can limit searches to scholarly articles)
OneSearch@IU (cross-searches across hundreds of databases; can get unwieldy, but a good place to start if you don’t know where to go)
IUCAT (see also: this page in the religious studies guide)
Why use it: millions of books and journals available to you, often with subject headings, book summaries, and chapter titles
Note: Just because it is in IUCAT doesn’t make it scholarly. IUCAT includes all sorts of information
Keep track of subject terms and click on relevant ones
Browse call numbers
Use IUCAT information and Google Books/HathiTrust to quickly assess books
Put book titles in OneSearch@IU to search for book reviews
Google Scholar is an excellent source to: "search all scholarly literature from one convenient place, explore related works, citations, authors, and publications, locate the complete document through your library or on the web, keep up with recent developments in any area of research, check who's citing your publications, and create a public author profile."
Choose an empty set of questions below and claim it by writing your names and research topic.
Note that a research topic is different from a research question. A topic can be a bit more general and usually stems from an area of interest. Your question should be framed as a question to which your thesis provides an answer.
If you need help picking a research topic, here are some options:
Magical powers, comics, and religion/religious opposition
Black Panther as a liberation theology
Buddhist symbolism in x film/comics
Wonder Woman and the power of sacrificial love
Superman or Ironman (or some other superhero) as savior
Toxic masculinity in comics and religion
Violence as heroism in x religious tradition
Decide what you’re searching for?
Note: This is related to your research topic, but often more general than your topic. If your topic is the center of a Venn diagram, your searching will be one of the circles that make up the diagram.
Pick a starting point among the options above and insert additional keywords if necessary.
Once you find a source, quickly assess its quality. Below are some questions to ask.
Is it substantive (if it is only a page or two, the answer is no)?
Is it scholarly (does it have citations, is the author an expert, is there an argument, has it been peer-reviewed, etc.)?
Is it relevant to the topic?
If you are happy with Source A, look through Source A’s citations to try to find Source B
If Source A is an older source, you might also put it into Google Scholar and then click “cited by” to see what sources cited Source A since its publication.
Ask questions in #4 regarding Source B.
Time to Explore! (Divide into groups of 2-3); use your own Word Doc to fill in the blanks:
Names: Tommy & Adina
Research topic: Mutants and Persecution (Religious and Biological Frameworks)
Secondary source A:
Title: "X-Men as J Men: The Jewish Subtext of a Comic Book Movie"
Why do you think it is a good source: Cited by 61 other sources, part of a famous journal, published on Project MUSE
Secondary source B:
Title: "Men and the Mutant Metaphor: Race and Gender in the Comic Books"
Why do you think it is a good source: Cited by 71 other sources, provides a framework for how discrimination is set up in the X-Men, shows parallels between fiction and reality
Name: Saad Azeem, Grae Gosnell, Jonathan Thomas Riley Henson
Title: "Do the Gods wear capes?: Spirituality, fantasy, and superheroes"
Why do you think this is a good source? : Cited by 144 people, on google scholar, published on a professional publishing company, originally published in 1991 but continual revisions up tp 2011, it is a book, basic overview of religious studies in comic book superheroes
Title: "Superman as Christ-Figure: The American Movie Pop Culture Messiah"
Why do you think this is a good source? cited by 1 people, on google scholar, published in Journal of Religion and Film
The main catalog of books at Indiana University is IUCAT. Watch the video below if you need help finding e-books in IUCAT.
If you are just starting a research project and need to know some basic information to get started, encyclopedias and historical dictionaries are great tools.
Most databases allow you click a box with a name like "scholarly articles," which does a reasonably good job of limiting your results to high-quality, academic articles.
Although IU has access to newspapers from around the world, most of our large collections of newspapers center on the United States. Check out the "Old News" link below for non-American newspapers.
There are countless options for primary sources. In addition to all the physical collections at IU (including the Lilly Library and University Archives), IU has paid for access to hundreds of online databases that include primary sources from all over the world and all periods of human history. Finally, libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions have digitized many of their collections and made them freely available. For most research, at least through the undergraduate level, you can likely find the sources you need right in Bloomington. Contact me if you need help.