Skip to Main Content

A Guide to Religious Studies

Reference Sources

New Catholic Encyclopedia (Detroit: Gale in assoc. w/ the Catholic University of America, 2003) - prized for its scholarly presentation of persons and subjects related to Catholicism and the humanities. Topics include abortion, divorce, cloning, and reproductive technologies. Among the 12,000 entries in the encyclopedia are articles on theology, philosophy, history, literary figures, saints, musicians and much more. In addition to the hundreds of new, signed articles on a wide variety of topics, this edition also features biographies of contemporary religious figures, thousands of photos, maps, and illustrations, and completely updated bibliographical citations. (See also: New Catholic Encyclopedia. Supplement 2012-2013: Ethics and philosophy for a wide range of topics including ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, logic, aesthetics, philosophy of literature, art, and music, political philosophy, and philosophy of law. It contains numerous articles of special interest to Catholic thought and culture covering such areas as the philosophical aspects of love, hope, wisdom, marriage, friendship, death, pain and suffering, the human person and the human soul, and the philosophy of God and religion).

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World. Peter N. Stearns, ed. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008) provides information about major world developments from 1750 to the present, through articles on world events; countries; organizations; regions; ethnic groups; and themes such as social history, demography, family life, politics, economics, religion, thought, education, science and technology, and culture. It offers coverage of standard geographic and ethnic units—such as Scandinavia, Korea, or the Gypsies—in the modern period. Significant institutions such as the International Red Cross and the League of Nations are treated at length. Informative articles by an array of leading scholars offer an unprecedented breadth of information relating to the modern world. Each article includes an up-to-date bibliography to help interested readers take their research further. 

Catalog Searching

By Author, personal and corporate

e.g., Dorothy Day (formally Day, Dorothy, 1897-1980) or the Catholic Church (which one? See examples like Catholic Church. Pope; or Catholic Church. Archdiocese of, or Vatican Council (2nd: 1962-1965: Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano

by Subject, group, place, or work

e.g., birth control (or related terms Abortion, Contraception, or Reproductive rights), or the Catholic Worker Movement, or the Congo (formally Congo (Democratic Republic))  

Moving from Keyword to Subject Heading

A keyword search ("Word(s)") in the Washington University Libraries' catalog is similar to a search in any Web-based search engine in that the words you enter could be anywhere in the Web page. For a Web page writ large, this means in the metadata or the text. For a catalog record, your keyword(s) could be in the title, subject, chapter titles, contents, summary, etc.). If you do not know the Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) for the topic you are researching, then a keyword search is a good way to start. However, if you want to find EVERYTHING the library owns on a subject, you will want to discover the proper subject headings and peruse the available titles therein. When you see a title and say to yourself: "Hey, that sounds exactly like what I'm looking for!," click on that item record, then click on the LCSH (labelled as "Subject(s)")for all titles in the library under that subject heading. Keep in mind that the process of creating and assigning subject headings is a human endeavor and prone to error; some subject headings may seem redundant, but a title assigned to one may not be assigned to what appears to be the exact same subject matter. 

How would you find the Rerum Novarum?

Academic Journal Article Databases


History, U.S. - America: History & Life a complete bibliographic reference to the history of the United States and Canada from prehistory to the present. Published since 1964, the database comprises almost 400,000 bibliographic entries

History, World - Historical Abstracts historical coverage of the world from 1450 to the present (excluding the United States and Canada), from over 2,000 journals published worldwide.

Religion - American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Religion Journal, essay, and book review index. Contains thousands of citations from international titles and multi-author works in the field of religion. 


JSTOR - is a digital library founded in 1995 originally containing digitized back issues of academic journals, it now encompasses books and other primary sources as well as current issues of journals in the humanities and social sciences. It provides full-text searches of almost 2,000 journal titles,12 million journal articles, in more than 75 disciplines. 

Google Scholar - the world's largest single index of academic journal articles

Primo - searches WUSTL holdings across multiple databases (book catalog, journal databases, newspapers, etc.) 

Google Books a service from Google Inc. that searches the full text of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text using optical character recognition (OCR), and stored in its digital database. As of October 2019, Google celebrated 15 years of Google Books and provided the number of scanned books as more than 40 million titles. 

Primary Sources