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Comparative Religion: REL / WGS 313: Marriage Across Cultures: Research Support

Research Guide: REL / WGS 313

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Getting Started: Selecting a Topic and Thesis

Selecting a thesis statement
Research papers aren’t just a regurgitation of all the information you uncover about a particular topic. Instead, they examine an area where there is disagreement or uncertainty about it, with the goal of proving a point. This is the thesis statement of your paper.

After identifying a subject of your paper, you will examine information about an area of interest written by experts in that field as articles and books. You’ll notice that there is a conversation taking place about this area. Your goal is to identify within these conversations an area of uncertainty or unknown. You will develop a hypothesis about this area, which your paper will adopt as its thesis statement; it is the goal of your research paper to use information in this conversation to demonstrate that your thesis statement is valid.

Some information you uncover may seem not to support your paper’s thesis statement ; your research paper should identify this information and explain why it does not undermine the thesis statement your paper presents.

Selecting Search Terms

Selecting search terms

Much of your work will consist of searching scholarly databases relevant to your topic. Unlike Google, most of these databases do not search the entire text of a document. Instead, you will be trying to match your search terms with the title, abstract (a one-paragraph summary), and some selected subject terms.

If you had to select 2-4 words which described your topic, what would those words be? Make a list:

  • interreligious
  • marriage
  • bride

Next, think of similar words which might be used in addition to, or instead of each of your terms. For example:

  • interfaith ; cross cultural ; Muslim; Islam; Christian; Christianity; Hindu ; Hinduism
  • wedding
  • spouses ; gender roles ; sex roles

You’ll want to prepare to mix and match terms to see which combination works best in each database you’re searching.

EXPERT TIP: If you type multiple search terms, Google assumes that each term you add is connected by the logical operator AND . Many scholarly databases do not do this. Instead, they may assume that you are looking for all of your search terms only when they appear side by side. So if you are seeing fewer results than anticipated, add the term and in between your key words.

As an example, in the ATLA Religion database, marriage hindu brings back 80 results, but marriage and hindu brings back 173, just over twice as many.

MORE INFORMATION: Video on Finding Articles

Selecting Databases Identify Articles

If you visit the Libraries’ web site and click on the Find Articles tab, it will search across multiple databases which cover many subject areas.

The  Miami University Libraries provide many databases which search fairly specific subject areas. For REL / WGS 313, you can narrow searches to a particular subject by trying one or more of the databases below. Three of them (ATLA, LGBT Life, and Sociological Collection) are EBSCOHost products - they will look familiar to you if you have used other EBSCOHost products on the Libraries' web site.

  • ATLA Religion Database and ATLASerials, Religion Collection 
    A comprehensive reference database designed to support religious and theological scholarship.
  • Gender Studies Database
    Gender-engaged scholarship inside and outside academia.... Coverage: 1972 –
  • Gender Watch
    Women's and gender issues in popular publications. Coverage: 1970's -
  • LGBT Life with Full Text
    Indexes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues and topics related to civil liberties, culture, employment, family, history, politics, psychology, religion, sociology and more. LGBT Life includes archival and current content in the area of LGBT studies and includes some full-text. Coverage: 1953-
  • Sociological Collection
    Comprehensive collection of resources related to the study of human social relationships and institutions

EXPERT TIP: If one of your search terms overlaps with the subject of a database, you may be able to exclude it when searching that particular database. For example, you probably won't need LGBT as a search term in the LGBT Life database or religion in the ATLA database.

MORE INFORMATION: Video on Finding Articles

Locating Articles: How to Find them once you've identified them

Knowing that there's an article about your topic somewhere out there isn't very useful unless you can find and access it. 

Here are some ways in which you can connect to an article which you have identified in one of the Libraries' databases:

Many search databases will have helpful links labeled PDF Full Text or HTML Full Text that link directly to articles. These will connect you to articles provided to us by the database manufacturer.

If you don’t see such links, don’t despair; instead, there are a few more strategies for locating the article:

  • Look for the Find It! Button, which appears in many databases. In many cases, it will link to an online copy of an article provided to us at Miami by someone other than the database manufacturer. Occasionally, the Find It! button will indicate that the journal is available in a library facility. If it is in King Library Ground Floor, you can visit the basement of King Library to find and scan or copy the article.
  • Look for the link to Interlibrary Loan Requests. This will appear in the Find It results if we do not have access to the article; or you can go directly to this link if you are using a database which does not have the Find It! Button. A library employee will try to find a copy of the article and have it delivered to you electronically. This typically takes 2-5 weekdays.

Searching Databases to Identify Books

You’ll start with the Books & More tab on the .

Remember that books are typically 300-500 pages, so they will cover a much broader area than a journal article. You may need to broaden your search term to identify a book that will contain a chapter or a part of a chapter about your topic.

EXPERT TIP: Note the Subject Terms – They will link you to a list of other books of a similar topic. In the example below, note the subject heading Clothing and Dress - Religious Aspects - this link will identify books similar to the one you have already identified.

FOR MORE INFORMATION video on finding books using the catalog.

Locating Books: How to Retrieve them once you have identified them

Once you have identified a book of interest, there are several ways in which you might obtain them:

  • E-Books - Nearly one half of the Libraries’ book holdings are electronic. For an electronic book, you may be able to connect immediately, but there is a chance you will have to wait if somebody else is looking at the book you have found. You should be able to access your book 15 minutes after the person has finished looking at the book.
  • In the Library - If the book status is AVAILABLE, note the Location and Call Number. The Location will tell you which library to go to, and once there, Library staff can explain to you how to find items with your particular call number. Because the call number reflects the subject matter of the books, you may find more useful books nearby.

EXPERT TIP: Sometimes, you'll see the location SW Depository for a book. This is an exception to the rule mentioned above. This is usually older material which is located in a storage facility. It will be delivered to you if you use the Request Item link; however, you might ask your instructor if there is more recent research which might better meet your needs than this older material.

  • OhioLINK - But what if the book you want is checked out? Or MISSING? Never fear; you can click on the OhioLINK link in the left column of the catalog. This will search a catalog shared by Ohio’s colleges and universities. If there is another copy of the book which is not in use, you can select the Request Item button and have the book delivered to the Libraries, typically within 3-5 weekdays. You will be notified by email when the item is ready to be picked up.

FOR MORE INFORMATION video on finding books using the catalog.

Individualized Assistance

The Libraries' AskUs service allows you to consult individually with a research library mornings (Monday - Friday); afternoons (Sunday - Friday); and Evenings (Sunday - Thursday).

As the subject specialist for Comparative Religion, I'm also happy to respond to emails or to meet with you in my office in King Library 111. I am generally available on weekdays. While an appointment will guarantee that I will be available, you're welcome to seek walk-in assistance as long as I'm not in a meeting. So if you can find me in King Library, you can probably talk to me about a research project.