Religion and Culture Colloquium

Course Number: RE690

Subject: Religion and Culture

Scholarly sources - introductory tutorials
Database searching tips

Regardless of what you are searching for, or which tools you use, keep in mind the following tips (although be aware that not all databases support each of these options)

  1. Tutorial: Developing a research question
  2. Consider word variations and synonyms
    • think about how others might refer to your ideas
    • e.g, death rituals --> death OR dying OR funeral OR mortuary 
    • Tutorial: Using search words effectively
  3. Search Tactics


    What is the tactic?

    What does the tactic do? Examples
    Boolean AND

    Use AND to ensure that all terms appear in every search result.

    heterodox AND gnostic

    Boolean OR

    Use OR to ensure that at least one term appears in every search result.

    Tutorial: Better searching using AND, OR, NOT 

    indigenous OR aboriginal

    Phrase searching Use quotation marks to find more than one term in a row.

    islamic law


    Use an asterisk* at the end of a term to include multiple endings. (sometimes $)

    Tutorial: Better searching using truncation


    religion, religions, religious, religiosity, religousness

    Wildcard Use a question mark ? within a term to search for variations of a single character.


    decolonize, decolonise


    Use NEAR/n to search for terms within n words of each other

    • (sometimes ADJ/n)
    "music therapy" NEAR/5 child* OR adolescent*
  4. Employ search limiters (available limiters depend on the database)
    • peer reviewed, article type, date
  5. Identify key publications and authors
    • note citations, and cited references, repeated author names
  6. Document and track everything you do in the steps above


Research example


Tutorial: Finding scholarly articles on a topic

  • Start at the Religion and Culture Subject guide
  • Researchers rely on curated collections of content according to discipline. Some of the most helpful databases for your research can be found on this page
  • If you are conducting interdisciplinary research, you may want to consider either using those listed on the Interdisciplinary Subject guide, or consult a guide under the subject of your choice on the Subjects page
  • The library has over 400 different databases that you could consider
Theses and dissertations
Grey literature

Grey literature is information produced outside traditional scholarly publications. It includes reports, policy briefs and reports, major research papers, white papers, working papers, government documents, speeches, etc. 

There is no single database that covers grey literature well, so Google is helpful in cases like this. Consider the following tips when searching Google, often using these in combination:

Other resources for graduate students

As mentioned in the Colloquium workshop:

  • WorldCat: world's largest library catalogue; request materials outside of Omni libraries through interlibrary loan
  • Graduate student workspace (Waterloo library, 3rd floor)

Not mentioned, but helpful: