ATLA Religion Database

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Welcome to the tutorial for the ATLA Religion Database.

ATLA refers to the American Theological Library Association under whose auspices this database is created. This database is the premier database for articles, book reviews and essays on religion. Its coverage extends to 1949 with some indexing back to the 19th century.


Advanced Seaerch First Steps

The screen to the right should come up as Advanced Search. This gives  you more options and allows you to control your search. If it does not click on the link which says Advanced Search to reconfigure the page.

The first boxes allow you to use the Boolean operations "And", "Or", "Not." "And" may be the most simple to use. It means that both terms must appear in the item to be retrieved.

The last box allows you to broaden or narrow your search. It gives you options such as search for Authors, search in the Text of the article, in the Abstract (a short summary) of the article, for Subject or for Scripture Citation.

Subjects are controlled vocabulary terms, determined in advance by the database. If you change Select a Field to Subjects and start typing in a subject in the field of religious studies the database will suggest those terms. For instance, typing in faith will bring up suggestions for subjects. One of which is Faith. Another is Faith and Reason. These are major concepts and areas of research in the field.

Scripture Citation allows you to search for items which discuss specific passages in Jewish and Christian scriptures (e.g. Amos 2:8).

You might note other options on the Advanced Search page. One is full-text. If the article is not held full-text in this database you will be redirected to other sources by means of the Find Article button. So it is not recommended you click on full-text as you will not pick up those articles held elsewhere. Searching for related words, searching only for articles with abstracts (a brief description of the content of the article) and the other options are decisions you must make. But it is probably best to set few of these limitations at first.

If your professor has asked that you find materials only within a specific date range you can set that range. And you should check the box next to Scholarly (Peer reviewed) Journals if your assignment is to find only reliable, authoritative scholarly articles on your topic.

Advanced Search First Steps (continued)

We will search under Faith as a Subject and Catholicism in all fields. Other than clicking on Scholarly (Peer reviewed) Journals we will set no limitation. The articles discussed here may not be identity to the ones which come up in your search since the Religion Database is constantly adding new articles.

There are also many possible outcomes. We will try to walk through most of them.

Advanced Search Accessing the Items

One option is that the item is held full-text in the database. A PDF or HTML icon will appear underneath the citation. Clicking in on should bring you to the article.

Another option is that you see a button telling you to Find Article under some citations.

It appears under this article.

Clicking on the Find Article button allows you to see in which database the journal is held. In cases where we only have print copies you should be taken to the catalog.

In this case we are told this article is available in JSTOR.

The PDF is the usually the preferred version since it is a photographic image of the article containing all information and pagination. HTML versions, if available, might be explored also since  they sometimes contain hyperlinks to other articles and/or a recording of the article so that it may be listened to instead of read.

Accessing the Article More Complicated Case

Searching now under Faith and Judaism.

We get the following article.

When we click on the Find Article box underneath the citation we are told that this is not held at Hofstra and we must use Interlibrary Loan.

This is a free service which will try to get the article or book for you from another library. It is best to have created an account in advance. If you have such an account merely clicking on the link should transfer most of the information needed to make a request in to a form that can be immediately submitted. Please make sure the page range is correct in your request.

Interlibrary Loan

Finally if the item is a book and not an article Journal Finder should supply a link suggesting you try the Hofstra University catalog. If Hofstra University Library does not own the book you may use Interlibrary to request it.

A Word on Boolean Searching (And, Or, Not)

ATLA Religion Database uses Boolean searching which means searching with And, Or, Not. Using Faith and Catholicism gets you all articles which contain both terms. In the example we used Faith would be searched among the official subjects assigned to the article and Catholicism would be searched in the text of the article and in all other fields, including subjects. This is a somewhat limited search and might be useful for that reason. Using Or gets you articles containing either term. These articles do not have to overlap and such searches, as a rule, produce a large number of articles. It is usually not useful in database searching as it produces too many divergent articles. Using Not excludes certain articles. It is usually best to use the Not command in the last search box.


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