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Divinity Library Research Tutorial

The tutorial is designed to give you hands-on experience using many electronic resources so that you can become a more effective user of information resources. It follows a case study model in which one subject is researched using a number of different information resources; it also contains links to other online help files.

It will take you about half an hour to go through the tutorial. The tutorial is divided into two main sections. The first section provides an introduction to using the library's ORBIS catalog. The second section offers suggestions on searching for journal articles. Each section is further divided into subsections. While it is recommended that first-time users go through the tutorial from start to finish, you can access the separate sections below if you want a refresher on these specific ways to search.

Our sample topic for this tutorial will be prayer in the public schools.

For some topics, you may need to go to an encyclopedia or other reference work first to get a general sense of the relevant background and issues. The Divinity Library's Research Guide for Christianity includes information about numerous encyclopedias, or you can utilize the word "encyclopedias" in the keyword searching techniques described below to locate relevant works.

Using the ORBIS online catalog to find resources

This section of the research tutorial focuses on using ORBIS, Yale's online catalog, to locate an overview of the terminology, major issues, and historical background of your topic.

Keyword Searching

When researching a topic like prayer in the public schools in Orbis, it is often best to start with a keyword search. Depending on how you construct this search, you may get too many records or not quite enough, but you can use information in the records you retrieve to refine your search.

To get an idea of the Yale's holdings in the area of prayer in public schools, connect to ORBIS, type prayer and public and school? in the box and select Keyword as your type of search:

Orbis keyword search

In our keyword search, "school" is truncated by placing a "?" at the end of the word. Truncating certain words makes keyword searching more efficient because it will find variant forms of a word, e.g, school, schools and/or schooling.

Limiting by library location is another keyword searching technique that is sometimes useful; To limit by location, click on the More Limits button:

Orbis More Limits

Then choose Divinity from the list of collection locations:

Orbis Limit to Divinity

Your keyword search should have resulted in several "hits". Each number in the far left column of the results page links to a bibliographic record in which the words prayer and public and school are found. You can sort your list of results by publication date if you want to see the most recent material available:

Orbis sort by date

At this point, depending on what aspect of prayer in public schools you decide to pursue, you can refine your search. A good way to refine your search is to use the subject headings attached to the records you found through your keyword search. Select an item of interest in the results list by clicking on the number to the left of the entry, which will reveal a brief view of the record, including subject headings (click on the Long View button at the top of the screen to see more information about an item). The TITLES button on the top of the page will return you to the results list.

If you looked through the first few records it is likely that you saw both religion in the public schools and prayer in the public schools listed as subject headings.

Subject Searching

Connect again to ORBIS, and do a subject search. Change the search category from "keyword" to "subject", then type in religion in the public schools or prayer in the public schools.

If there is a subject heading that fits your topic well you can click on that subject heading in a record and Orbis will automatically perform a subject search.

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Finding articles on your topic

There are various electronic indexes that can help you identify journal articles, newspaper articles, and other materials not found in Orbis. All of the databases can be found in the Database & Articles Searching page of the Yale University Library's web site.

These databases will not always give you the full text of an article online. If you are given only a citation for an article, it may still be available in full-text from another database. Look for the yalelinks button and click on it to see if the article is available in full-text from another database.

If the article you want is not available in full-text through any of the library's databases, you will have to see if it is available in print. Search the ORBIS catalog for the journal title (NOT the article title) by using Journal/Newspaper/Magazine Title as the search type. Be sure to note which library holds the journal, and whether or not it has the specific issue in which the article you want is located.

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ATLA/ATLAS Religion Database

The most important and comprehensive database for religious studies is the ATLA/ATLAS Religion Database. The database includes a full range of index citations to journal articles, essays in multi-author works, and book reviews from ATLA's print indexes. Approximately 15% of citations now have full text available through the ATLAS project. An instructional guide for using the database is available at Instructional Guide: the ATLA/ATLAS Religion Database

Because of licensing agreements, you will be able to connect to this database only if you are on the Yale campus, connecting from off-campus with a Yale Virtual Private Network account, or connecting through the Remote Authentication Proxy Server. For more information on setting up off-campus access, please go to the Off-Campus Access information page.

Occasionally you will get this message: "USER LIMIT HAS BEEN REACHED for ATLAS Full Text Plus." This is because Yale has a limited number of simultaneous users for ATLAS, the prefered database. If this should occur, you can still access ATLA, containing only citations (without full-text) by going to http://search.epnet.com/login.asp?profile=atlai.

The database has been set to open onto the Advanced Search tab. From here, you'll see a set of search boxes. Type prayer in the first search box and public schools in the second search box. Leave the dropdown box in front of the second search box set to and. Leave the dropdown boxes to the right of each search box set to Select a Field (optional). Then hit the Search button.

ATLA Search Boxes

In Advanced Search, leaving each search term set to Select a Field (optional) is the same as doing a keyword search. You can also opt to search by subject, by changing the dropdown boxes to the right of the search boxes from Select a Field (optional) to SU Subjects. A keyword search searches every field in the record for the search term; a subject search searches only the subject field, and so will return fewer records. However, a keyword search may return records that are not relevant to your topic, whereas the results of a subject search are more likely be directly relevant to your topic.

ATLA Subject Search

In this case, both kinds of searches bring back a list of results. The database also provides you with clues on how to narrow your search by suggesting possible topics for you. The suggestions are located in the column to the left of your search results. In this case, one of the topics the database suggests is public schools and religion. Clicking on this subject link will pull out only those results from your search that have public schools and religion in the subject field.


To see the full record for each result, click on the highlighted title of the result. You may note that some of your results will have

ATLA Full Text


PDF Full Text


HTML Full Text

Clicking on any of these links will bring you to the article in full-text.

If the record in the database does not provide you with a direct link to full-text, you may still be able to obtain the article in full-text through another database. To find out if full-text is available through another database, click on the Yalelinks button to see if the article is available in full-text from another database.

Yale Links in ATLA

A window will pop up and will indicate any other databases that have the article in full-text. Click on the GO button to access the database.

Yale Links to other databases

If the article you want is not available in full-text through any of the library's databases, you will have to see if it is available in print. Search the ORBIS catalog for the journal title (NOT the article title) by using Journal/Newspaper/Magazine Title as the search type. The ATLA/ATLAS Religion Database also indexes essays in multi-authored works and book reviews, as well as journal articles. You want to make sure to using the Journal/Newspaper/Magazine Title search type only for journal articles. Journal articles are indicated in the ATLA/ATLAS Religion Database by Publication Type: Article, while essays in books are indicated by Publication Type: Essay and book reviews are indicated by Publication Type: Review. The title of the journal is indicated by Source: as is the title of the book within which an essay is located.

Examples of articles and essays

Your search in ORBIS should let you know whether or not the journal is at available at one of the Yale libraries. If it is, be sure to note which library holds the journal, and whether or not it has the specific issue in which the article you want is located. Note the location and call number for the journal, go to that library, and retrieve the issue from the shelf.

Finally, if the journal is not available at any of the Yale libraries, you may be able to obtain the article through Interlibrary Loan (ILL).

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Searching in other religion databases

There are a number of other databases that provide access to articles in the the field of religious studies and theology. A brief list of some of the more important databases for religious studies is available in the Databases for Religious Studies & Theology section of the library's instructional guide for Finding Articles.

The Research Guide for Christianity provides access to databases for finding articles within the field of religious studies & theology organized by subject area (i.e., Bible, Church/Denominational/Ecumenical, Church History, etc.) on its Index and Abstracts page.

You can also identify databases in the areas of religious studies & theology by using the Multi-Database Search and selecting Religion or one of the subcategories within the field of religion. For more detailed instructions, see the Multi-Database Search section of the library's instructional guide for Finding Articles.

Finally, go to the Electronic Resources for Religion page of the library's website for detailed descriptions of the Divinity Library's article databases and other electronic resources.

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Searching in other subject databases

You may not want to limit your search to just religion oriented databases. For a subject like prayer in the public schools you might want to search in a database that focuses on history, for example.

To search across a set of databases in the area of history, go to the Find Articles link from the library's home page and then click on the Multi-Database Search tab.

Multi-Database tab

Next, select the subject area within which you would like to search. In this instance, we will search on history.

History databases

A set of subtopics within the field of history appears. You can either search across databases just in the subject area of history, or you can opt to search within a narrower field. In this case, let's select the subtopic of United States.

Search in U.S. history

A number of databases will be suggested for your search. You can opt to search across all of them by leaving them all checked. You can also uncheck those databases that you don't want to search.

When you're ready to search, hit the GO button next to the search box.

Search in U.S. history

For more detailed instructions on using the Multi-Database Search, see the Multi-Database Search section of the library's instructional guide for Finding Articles.

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Searching in multidisciplinary databases

There are a number of databases that cover several disciplines, including religion. A list of some of the interdisciplinary databases recommended for topics in religious studies, see the Multidisciplinary Databases section of the library's instructional guide for Finding Articles.

The default search for the Find Articles link is set to General and searches across the following multidisciplinary databases:

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Searching on the Internet

Care must be taken in searching on the Internet for information on your topic. Unlike both the print resources found in the library and the electronic databases provided by the library, freely available Internet resources have not necessarily been published by reputable academic publishers nor have they been selected by librarians with expertise in their subject area. Nearly anything can be posted on a website, and just because it is available online does not mean it is valid or authoritative.

However, this does not mean that you cannot find good resources on the Internet; the key to doing so is to carefully evaluate what you find on the web. If you use web resources, be sure to ask these questions:

To develop your skills in evaluating and identifying authoritative resources in the Internet, try one of these online tutorials:

For doing general research on the Internet:
Internet Detective
Learn the Net
For researching religious studies and theology on the Internet:
Internet for Religious Studies tutorial

Yale librarians have "filtered out" many of the best web sites and put links to them in the Subject Guides that they have developed. Recommended Internet resources for Christianity are available in the Selected Internet Sites and Electronic Texts page of the Divinity Library's Research Guide to Christianity. Other Internet resources in the area of religious studies are available on the Selected Internet Resources page of the Research Guide in General Religion. Other subject guides developed by Yale University librarians are available on the Research Guides by Subject page of the library's web site.

For our sample topic of prayer in the public schools we might try one of the free web resources recommended in the the Research Guide to Christianity. The resource we will use will be the Association of Religion Data Archives. This resource may be helpful for our topic because it provides results from numerous studies and surveys on the attitudes of people both in the United States and elsewhere on topics related to religion. The ARDA website provides a search box to search the site; type in public schools in the search box and see what results come up:

ARDA search box

The results of our search come up with a number of promising studies and surveys on our issue of prayer in the public schools:

ARDA results:quickstats

ARDA results:surveys

If you're unsure of which free Internet resources would best work for your topic, don't hesitate to ask one of the librarians for assistance.

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This file last modified 9/15/09.
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