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This guide is for students taking Dr. Cook's "American Christianity" course (RLGN 1106).
See also the main Religion library guide. Just click the "Home & Reference" tab at the top of this page.
The reference collection is usually the best place to start researching a topic. Reference books will provide background information, bibliographies of further readings, and often ideas for search terms to use, or for directions in which to take your research.
The 15-volume Encyclopedia of Religion (call number REF BL 31 .E466 2005) is often a good place to start. You can look up a denomination in the index, or read the entry on "Christianity in North America" (volume 3, pages 1708-1717). This book is also available in PDF in the Gale Virtual Reference Library database.
Religion books, both in reference and on the lower level, are in BL to BX range (BR for Christianity, BX for Christian Denominations, e.g. Mormonism in the BX 8601-8695 range). For a breakdown of call number ranges, see the Library of Congress breakdown of call numbers.
Some other reference books that may be of interest:
Encyclopedia of Christianity (REF BR 95 .E8913 1999; article on "United States of America" in vol. 5, pp. 625-632)
Encyclopedia of American Religions (REF BL 2525 .M449 1999)
Handbook of Denominations in the United States (REF BL 2525 .M425 2010)
Contemporary American Religion (REF BL 2525 .C655 2000)
Encyclopedia of the American Religious Experience (REF BL 2525 .E53 1988)
Encyclopedia of American Religious History (REF BL 2525 .Q444 2001)
Encyclopedia of Religion in the South (REF BR 535 ,E52 2005)
Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America (REF BL 2525 .M45 1986)
Biographical Dictionary of American Cult and Sect Leaders (REF BL 2525 .M448 1986)
Columbia Sourcebook of Mormons in the United States (REF BX 8611 .C63 2014)
For demographics on religious denominations, see pp. 62-64 of Statistical Abstract of the United States 2014 (REF HA 202 .S89 2014)
Use the online catalog to locate books, e-books, DVDs, "streaming video," etc.
Generally the most effective way to search for books on a topic is a "Subject" search--but first you have to identify the subject heading(s) for your topic. A quick-and-dirty way to do this:
(1) Type your topic, e.g. "Mormonism," in the "Title" search box.
(2) Choose a book that looks good, click on its title, then click on "Catalog Record."
(3) Look for the subject heading(s), e.g.:
Subject: Mormon Church
(4) Click on the "Subject" link, or paste the words into the "Subject" search box.
For the history of Christianity in America, try subject searches such as "United States - Church History." We have many books on the lower level you can check out, including:
Histories of American Christianity (call number BR 515 .E935 2013)
The Relgious History of America (BR 515 .G3 2002)
Gods in America: Religious Pluralism in the United States (BL 2525 .G827 2013)
World Religions in America, 3rd edition (BL 2525 .W57 2003)
Also, in the reference area: Columbia Sourcebook of Mormons in the United States (call number REF BX8611 .C63 2014)
You can also do a "Words or phrase" search. The truncation symbol in the online catalog is $; thus, fundamentalis$ retrieves "fundamentalism," "fundamentalist," and "funadamentalists."
You'll probably want to use the "Advanced search" page. To restrict your search to scholarly journals, click on the "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" box. You can also restrict your search to "English," by date, etc.
Remember that in most databases, your search terms must match exactly those in the database record, so avoid long strings of words (such as "denominationalism's effect on Christianity in America"). You will usually retrieve only records that have all the words you type in the search box, in the same order, in the title or subject headings, or abstract (if any). Use single words or short phrases, and combine your search terms by using Boolean operators: “AND,” “OR,” or “NOT.”
For more tips on searching in databases, see the Lewis Library Reference LibGuide.
Use truncation to retrieve multiple forms of a word. Mormon* will retrieve "Mormon," "Mormons,"' "Mormonism" etc. Most GALILEO databases use * as the truncation symbol.
Look at the full record for articles you retrieve and note the subject terms, which may help you find relevant articles more quickly.
If an article isn't available in full text:
If there's a "Full Text Finder" link, it should take you directly to the article.
We may have the journal on the shelf; ask the reference librarian, or check the Library Periodical Holdings.
If we don't have an article, we can usually obtain it from another library on interlibrary loan. See or e-mail the reference librarian (but try to allow time for us to get it).
If you have a citation for an article and want to see if we have full text online, use the Journal Locator database. (Type the journal title in the search box).
For more detail on locating full text, see the Lewis Library Reference LibGuide.
JSTOR also has full text of numerous scholarly journals in Religion (you can restrict your search to Religion journals by using the "Advanced Search"), but ATLAS is the best place to start; it has more complete coverage and more recent articles.
If you have a question or if we can help in any way, please ask us or e-mail us using the ASK YOUR LIBRARIANS box on this page!