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RELG300: Introduction to Islam

Introduction: The Research Endeavor - Religion Databases - Other Databases - Statistics

Websites - News Media - Citing Sources - Questions?

The Research Endeavor

This webpage outlines useful resources for the inquiry paper in RELG300.

For the paper, you will need to discover reputable sources as you pursue a research question you have formulated. Here are a couple of general suggestions to get you started:

  • Let the research guide you as you hone and focus your question. In other words, you won't formulate the perfect question before you begin to research; instead, you may arrive at a focused question through the process of research.
  • Concentrate on identifying high-quality sources that are relevant to your research needs. Evaluate the author, audience, and purpose of each source before you incorporate it into your paper.

Religion Databases

Scholarly books are important to the study of religion, so be sure to consult ALiCat and I-Share (you may even want to begin there). Augustana's book collection is constantly growing in the areas of Islamic studies that Augie students most frequently research; I-Share can get you whatever books you need that we don't have here.

Find the library's article databases in religion via this path:

  • Library website --> Databases --> History, Religion & Philosophy --> Religion

At the top of the list of religion databases you will see a link to Ebsco Databases in Religion. This allows you to select among several of the library's religion resources, or search two or more at once. The relevant databases for this class are:

  • Index Islamicus. Index Islamicus covers all aspects of Islam and the Muslim world; everyone in this class should use it for the inquiry paper.
  • ATLA Religion Index. ATLA is the library's most important general religion database. For this class, it will be a supplement to Index Islamicus; again, everyone should use this database for the inquiry project.
  • Philosopher's Index. Although not directly a religion database, this will be useful to anyone researching theology or major Islamic thinkers.

The Encyclopaedia of Islam is another resource that most of you will find useful. Unlike many other encyclopedias, this one can be cited as a research piece in your paper. The EI is one of the most important sources for the study of Islam.

The Encyclopaedia Iranica (also listed under "Websites" on the History, Religion & Philosophy page) is a peer-reviewed, multi-disciplinary Internet encyclopedia. It will be useful if you are researching a topic related to Iranian or Persian history or culture. Like the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the Encyclopaedia Iranica constitutes research in its own right and may be cited in your paper.

Further up on the History, Religion & Philosophy page you will see a list of more general databases suitable to "All Humanities." The database I recommend from this list is JSTOR, a full-text journal archive that covers a large variety of subjects. Start at the Advanced Search, where you can limit your results to particular subject areas.

Other Databases

If the inquiry question you pursue is directly related to religion, theology, and/or philosophy, the above databases will serve you well. But your question may also be:

  • historical
  • psychological
  • sociological
  • literary
  • or something else entirely!

In that case, you will need subject-specific databases in addition to Index Islamicus, ATLA, the Encyclopaedia of Islam and ALiCat/I-Share. Find those additional databases via this path:

  • Library website --> Databases --> open drop-down menu and select a general subject area

Every general subject page is broken down into more specific subject areas. Browse the options in the subject area of your choice to find the best databases to search.


Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project
This is the division of the Pew Research Center devoted to "issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs." The Pew Research Center is a non-partisan organization that "conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research." Particular reports that may interest you include:

  • Pew's Religious Landscape Survey, about the demographic distribution, beliefs, and perspectives of U.S. religious groups, including Muslims.
  • The 2011 report on American Muslims, specifically. This extensive report also links back to a 2007 report on the attitudes of Muslims in the U.S.

Statistical Abstract of the United States
The Statistical Abstract is the United States Census's official annual report. This link goes to the religion page, but you can also browse the table of contents or do a keyword search to find other information.


Religion is a particularly difficult subject to research on the web, because it gives rise to strong feelings and opinions. How can you distinguish the legitimate, well-researched sites from those that display an unsubstantiated bias?

First, note the site's domain: .edu, .org, and .gov sites are, on average, more likely to be reliable than sites in many other domains. Don't stop at the domain, though! I've seen .com sites that are better than some .org's.

Next, look for a link (often in a menu near the very top or very bottom of the page) that says About or About Us. Read this page carefully to discover the site's affiliations and its creators' methods. If you do not see such a link, look for one that says "Who We Are" or "FAQ," perhaps.

Finally, review the site's overall content for tone, relevance, and, if applicable, recency. If you have any questions about a site's quality, a librarian will be happy to help.

News Media

Some of the news sources you consult may be on the web. Use the tips in the "Websites" section, above, to assess any news source you are not already familiar with.

Among the Augustana library's news databases, I recommend LexisNexis Academic, the New York Times, and Newspaper Source (go to: Library home page --> Databases --> Databases A-Z). LexisNexis even has news transcripts from major television stations, and it can provide a background description of any news source that is new to you.

Citing Sources

For the inquiry paper, you are required to cite your sources correctly according to either Chicago or MLA style. Online guides to both citation styles are available at the library's "Citing Sources" page:

  • Library website --> Citing Sources (under "Research Tools")


Librarians can help with the following:

  • Developing strategies for narrowing a research question
  • Deciding which subject area(s) to browse for databases on the library website
  • Choosing the best database(s) for your research
  • Identifying keywords to search in the databases
  • Citing your sources correctly

You are welcome to contact me with any questions about your research for this project. My email address is, and I work at the research help desk (on 2nd floor by the elevators) off-and-on throughout the week.

Or, approach any Augustana librarian for help at the research help desk: in-person, or by phone (309-794-7206), email (, or the "Ask an Augustana Librarian" chat box on the library's home page.


Page created by Stefanie Bluemle, research librarian for history, religion, and philosophy. Updated December 2014.