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Religion & Philosophy Research Guide: How to Research

a collection of library and online resources to aid in the study of topics in world religion

Getting Started

 Quick Links:
  • Bunn Library Online Resources Display of all online resources available through the library. 
  • Noodletools Bunn Library's recommended citation management tool. Create citations and bibliographies is multiple citation styles, collaborate with teachers and classmates, and use the interactive notecards feature to organize your evidence. 
To get started, Look at your topic from a wide lens. As you gather research, narrow down your focus based on the amount of evidence that you find. Make a list of keywords as you read! Check out this research organizer for more help organizing your focus.
To access databases and other library services from home, you will be prompted to sign-in through Lawrenceville's EZproxy. When you click link for a Bunn database or service, the log-in screen (pictured below) will appear.
  • Username: first part of your email address (before the Example: asinai
  • Password: your email password
Having trouble with access? Email and include a description or screenshot of your issue. 

Evaluating Sources: Using the SIFT Method

Need help evaluating a source? Refer to the SIFT method outlined below. Think link a fact-checker, and read outside the source (look at wikipedia, other websites) to track the reporting on a particular topic. 

Currency looks a bit different for study of religious topics versus other subjects that you may have researched.

Take a close look at how the religion has reformed over time. How have various sects and ways of thinking developed and changed? Look at the timeline of the religion you are researching, which will impact the religious views and the conversation surrounding it

Research Tips

  • Tip #1: Research takes time! It is a trial and error process. Don't try to rush, or stress that it's taking too long!
  • Tip #2: Pick a passion or at minimum, an interest, for your topic. You're going to be reading a LOT about your subject- make sure it's something that you're interested in learning more about!
  • Tip #3: Start thinking about keywords that represent your topic. These will make your search easier.
  • Tip #4: Once you've found some sources, start to ask yourself “So What?” or “Who Cares?”. These are the questions that you want your project to answer. 
  • Tip #5: Library materials are arranged by subject. If you've found a good book, do a quick browse on the shelf nearby.  If you've found an article, see if they list any keywords or subjects in the citation. Look into the works cited by your article, and at other articles that cite the one that you've found.

Research Without Bias

How do we investigate religious topics without employing a religious perspective?
  • There are many modes of investigation that help to contextualize a topic. You can view the religion through many lenses, whether they be "literary, historical, cultural, sociological, or anthropological". When you explore the context, it can help to shed light on more mystifying topics.
  • For example, ask how the religion developed the way it did? How does the cultural context inform that? The historical context? The sociological? Etc.
When researching religious topics, we must always work to consider our own biases.
  • How might our upbringing or personal religious tradition impact the way we research and write about religious topics? Be mindful and aware of these biases.
The goal: to give a well reasoned and well-researched argument that gives no indication of your personal beliefs. Stick to the evidence!

How to Skim a Scholarly Article

As you research, you will not have time to read every article thoroughly - practice "skimming" an article to understand the main points. If it does not fit within your research question, you can move on quickly. If it seems useful, you can save the article to read more thoroughly later. Here are some tips to get started: 


  • You are writing a paper based on what you discover - keep your research question in mind. This will help you to focus on the parts of the article that target your research goals.


  • Identify the author. What are their credentials? Are they an authority on the topic?

  • Read the abstract, a concise summary of the article (if available). Identify the main purpose of the text (thesis), the authors findings, and why the reader should care. 

  • Read the introductory paragraph of the article. What is the author planning to discuss? Look for a “forecasting statement” that previews  the content and structure of the rest of the article. 

  • Read the conclusion

  • If the article is divided into sections, read the first paragraph of each section

  • Focus on the sections relevant to your research question, and read the first sentence of each paragraph.


Taking brief notes will help you to keep track of what you read and where you read it. Avoid accidental plagiarism - input each source into Noodletools as you research. 

  • Record the citation information - add into Noodletools. 

  • Document the main idea or thesis.

  • Any pieces of evidence you find useful - ideas, statistics/facts, points that you want to return to later on or create into notecards.