Theological Research and Writing

Drew University Theological School
Madison NJ

Mondays, 4:00-6:30

Professor Liana Piehler (ex8523;; office hours by appointment)
Professor Ernie Rubinstein (ex3472);; office hours by appointment)

Link to:
Session 1: Introduction to Library-Related Theological Research
Session 3: Periodical Indexes
Session 4: Websites
Session 5: Humanities Resources for Theology Students
Session 6: Social Sciences Resources for Theology Students
Session 7: Resources in Biblical Studies, Church History, and Theology & Philosophy
Session 8: Resources in Church & Society, and Pastoral Theology


Session 2: Searching Library Catalogs & Evaluating Books

Library Homepage
Library Catalog
Research Resources


I. Introduction to library catalogs

A. What records in library catalogs do:

1. Minimally describe an item in the library

2. Indicate where an item is located in the library

3. Example: The Seminary Student Writes

B. The complexity of locations in Drew

C. Never hesitate to ask a librarian

D. What constitutes “an item”?

1. Books, journals, CDs, archival collections, websites, scores

2. Identified in the Drew catalog with icons (Go to the Catalog and search on Christmas carols)


II. Books

A. Most are still only in print form

B. But many are online

1.Google Books
2.Credo & Gale & Oxford
3. Oxford Scholarship Online
4. Ebrary
5. Dissertations and Theses

III. Fond memories of the card catalog: Nicholson Baker


IV. Libraries vs. bookstores on the arrangement of books

A. Subject classification schemes

1. Library of Congress

2. Dewey Decimal

B. Library of Congress Subject Headings


V. The logic of searching an electronic library catalog (OPAC)

A. "Searching": matching search terms to existing terms in catalog records

B. MARC format, e.g.: The Seminary Student Writes [catalog]

1. Like the phantom of the opera, it hides because it is forbidding

2. Field structure: author, title, subjects, call nos. and more

C. The 3 principal questions we bring to the catalog: title, author, subject

D. The opening search screen in Drew's catalog: title, author, subject

E. The art of searching

1. Knowing how to narrow a search that turns up too many hits

2. Knowing how to broaden a search that turns up too few

F. Limiting a key word search

1. By author, title, subject

2. By date or language

G. Title searching

1. A simple search: Seminary Student Writes

2. Two difficult searches:

a. The Source

b. Q

3. Series titles

4. Periodical titles

H. Author searching

1. A simple search: Core, Deborah

2. A difficult search

a. Soelle, Dorothy

b. Broadening by browsing

3. Broadening with the wild card "?" for names of doubtful spelling

4. Broadening by generic key word: retrieves essays in multi-author books

I. Subject searching

1. Thinking about subject search terms: free associating on synonymy, e.g. pastors

2. Key words vs. authority words=LCSH words

3. Finding LCSH words

a. In library records

b. In browse mode

c. In LCSH

3. George Boole (1815-1864) and Boolean searching

a. Broadening with OR, e.g. Quakers OR "Society of Friends"

b. Broadening with NOT, e.g. messiah NOT Handel

c. Narrowing with AND, e.g. Christian ethics AND capitalism

(1) Perform this search and click on first hit

(2) Note the subject term: “Capitalism—Religious Aspects—Christianity”

4. Controlled vocabulary searching

a. Is precise

b. Is effective

c. Can be too limiting

d. Broaden with browse subject searching

5. A general tack on subject searching: Seek the LCSH terms

a. Enter your own terms as keywords

b. Choose a relevant record among the hits

c. Find the LCSH heading for your topic in the record

d. Redo the search with the LCSH term

e. Example: Native American religion

f. Alternatively: consult LCSH

d. Be open to keyword searching, to broaden searches, as needed

6. Finding encyclopedias

J. One more broadening technique: Truncation, e.g. messia$ and mark

K. Cross-field Boolean searching with field qualifiers au, ti, su, e.g. au Niebuhr and su capitalism

L. Searching for bibliographies

1. As books, e.g. Niebuhr Reinhold and bibliography in subject

2. Within books, e.g. su Niebuhr Reinhold and bibliography

M. "Items on the same shelf"


VI. Other library catalogs

A. Public and special libraries

1. Madison Public library

2. Interchurch Center library

3. The uniformity and shareability of MARC records: Poisonwood Bible

B. A union catalog: Worldcat

1. Set up to search across different fields

2. Basic and advanced searching

3. A sample search: Methodist teachings on capitalism

a. Capitalism in subject field

b. Methodis* as keyword

c. Broaden to capitalis* and methodis*

4. Its uses

a. For Interlibrary loan

b. For when the Drew catalog is down


VII. Evaluating books

A. Scholarly vs. Popular vs. Professional books

B. University vs. trade publishers

1. Denominational, University, For-profit academic, Trade
2. Perspectives: Pilgrim, Zondervan, Baker Academic

C. Academic vs public libraries

D. The in-between case of journalism

E. Examples

1. The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown

2. The Gospel Code, by Ben Witherington

3. The Purpose-Driven Church, by Rick Warren

4. Abraham, by Bruce Feiler

5. Julian Morgenstern (1881-1976)

F. Judging books by their covers, for example

G. Judging an author's authority

1. Library Guide: Finding information on people

2. Contemporary Authors [Ref. 928 C761c3] AND online

3. National Faculty Directory [Ref. 378.12025 N277n]

H. Judging a book by reviews of it

1. Library Guide: Finding book reviews


a. Editorial (professional) reviews

b. Customer (nonprofessional) reviews

c. Example


VIII. University of Chicago style

A. Books

B. Articles

C. Websites [rule 14.254 of the Manual, on Bible]

D. Some examples


IX. The art of annotation: An annotation

A. States the thesis of an item

B. Evaluates the item according to some or all of these criteria (AACCPS)

1. Authority

2. Audience

3. Credibility

4. Currency

5. Perspective

6. Purpose

7. Scope

C. Some help from other universities

1. Purdue University

2. Earlham College

3. University of Minnesota

D. Some examples

1. A Bibliography to the book of Exodus

2. Harold Frederic's The Damnation of Theron Ware

3. David Stewart's The Literature of Theology


X. Avoiding Plagiarism

A. Guidance from Drew's Thelogical School

B. Guidance from Purdue University

C. Guidance from Indiana University

D. Plagiarism self-test

E. A Plagiarism Tutorial [including practice exercises and self-test]

F. Three stories of plagiarism

1. From the world of fiction publishing
[Dinitia Smith, "Copying Wasn't Intentional, A Harvard Novelist Says." New York Times, April 25, 2006, sec. A.]

2. From the world of nonfiction publishing
[Caleb Crain, review of White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America, by Fintan O'Toole, New York Times , Oct. 16, 2005, Book Review sec.]

3. From the world of public speaking
[Lisa Vernon-Sparks, "Plagiarism Issue Still Burns in Madison District." The Star-Ledger , August 3, 2005, County News sec.]

XI. Exercises

1. Find a book by Thomas Ogletree

2. Find a book by Dorothee Soelle

3. What book is on the shelf next to Postcolonial Biblical Criticism?

4. Does the book, Religion and Social Conflict, by Otto Maduro have a bibliography?

5. Find a book on the ethics of capitalism

6. What is the "authority heading" for the ethics of capitalism?

7. Find all the books in the library about Christology published in 2005

8. Don Saliers published an essay (in a book) called "Sounding the Symbols of Faith." What is the title of the book that contains it?

9. Find a book by Reinhold Niebuhr on the topic of war.

10. Find all the books in the library on the Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40-66).