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Religious Studies Guide: Evaluating Religious Publications

Research tools for students in religious studies

How do I evaluate resources?

Selecting the right resources to use for your research can be a challenge. Watch the video below to learn why it's important to evaluate the resources you find and what the characteristics and purposes of the various types of publications are.

To Put it Briefly

 

Popular Press Publications

Academic/Scholarly Publications

Bible Study Books and Materials

Spirituality and Religious Nonfiction

Reference Materials

Books

Journal Articles

Appearance

 

Colorful, eye-catching graphics on cover

 

Chapters may be organized into lessons

 

Colorful, eye-catching graphics on cover

 

May or may not have an eye-catching cover

 

Very large, multivolume texts

 

 

May or may not have an eye-catching cover

 

Contains a detailed bibliography and notes throughout the text

 

Likely contains no graphics (except for illustrative content)

 

Abstract, bibliography and notes throughout the text

 

Audience

 

General public; believers of the faith

 

Often targeted at specific groups (women, mothers, young adults, men)

 

 

General public; believers of the faith

 

May target people enduring particular life battles (sickness, loss, addiction)

 

 

Academics, researchers, scholars, college students

 

Believers and nonbelievers

 

Academics, researchers, scholars, college students

 

Believers and nonbelievers

 

Academics, researchers, scholars, college students

 

Believers and nonbelievers

Content and Purpose

 

Guide to reading and understanding the Bible

 

Some contain short lessons/sessions

 

Some contain activities and reflective questions

 

 

Self-help material; spiritual guidance and comfort

 

Some may analyze the Bible or the meaning of particular passages

 

Written to entertain and inform

 

Presents perspective and analysis based on faith, rather than research

 

 

Commentary: contains analyses of biblical scripture

 

Bible Dictionary: contains definition and location of word in all passages of the Bible

 

Encyclopedia: provides background information

 

Analysis of a religious text, a particular religious figure, a particular religious practice, etc.

 

Historical or general coverage

 

Presents analysis based on research, rather than faith

 

Very narrow analysis of a religious figure, practice, behavior, etc.

 

Presents analysis based on research, rather than faith

Author

 

Christian writers, practitioners of the faith

 

Often written by people who hold positions of authority in a religious denomination (pastors, monks, rabbis, priests, nuns)

 

Academics, researchers, scholars.

 

Editor with contributing authors

 

 

Academics, researchers, scholars

 

Published by university presses, Wiley, Routledge, W.W. Norton & Co., Sage

 

Academics, researchers, scholars

Example

 

The Father’s Plan: A Bible Study for Dads

 

Becoming a Woman whose God is Enough

 

When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Rabbi Harold Kushner)

 

Angels (Billy Graham)

 

Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit (Charles R. Swindoll)

 

 

The Anchor Bible Dictionary

 

The Jerome Biblical Commentary

 

The Norton Anthology of World Religions

 

The Catholic Labyrinth: Power, Apathy, and a Passion for Reform in the American Church (Peter McDonough)

 

The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (John L. Brooke)

 

Callon, C. “Adulescentes and Meretrices: The Correlation between Squandered Patrimony and Prostitutes in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 75.2 (2013): 259-278.

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