Seminar in Theological Research

Librarian's Corner

  • Topics
  • Find Books
  • Find Scholarly Articles
  • Find Reference
  • Search Strategies
  • Keyword vs. Subject Search
  • Using Thesauri & Subject Headings
  • Citations
  • QuickLinks
Explore a Topic or Refine Your Thesis Statement

Use Database Subject Headings

To search and browse for your topic and related terms or get ideas on how to narrow a broad topic, use the database subject headings.

Subject headings, thesauri and descriptors, also called "controlled vocabularies," are lists of pre-defined, carefully selected words and phrases that describe the general content of an information unit, such as a book, an article, or an essay. Using controlled vocabulary in a search gives targeted, relevant results.

Identify the major concepts of your thesis or research topic then use an appropriate subject index to locate, explore and select descriptors for each concept of your thesis statement. Combine subject and keyword searching.

Example (view pdf):

1. Go to ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials database.

2. Click Indexes in the blue top menu bar.
ATLAS Subject Headings
3. For "Browse an Index" choose Subjects All and key in your term in the "Browse for" text box. Click the Browse button.

4. Review the list of terms. Click the checkbox in front of the terns(s) to include in the search, and then click Add to move the terms into the searching text box. ATLA Indexes

5. Click Search. Or, to add more subject terms to the search, repeat #4 above (key in your terms and click the Browse button.)

TIP: Do a keyword search, retrieve a record that looks relevant to your topic, and then note and/or use the subject descriptors listed in the article record. Click on any descriptor for a new search on that subject.

Find Books and eBooks

Search the library Catalog

When looking for books or ebooks, use broad keywords and subjects that identify your topic(s). In the library catalog, try a subject search for your topic. Then, click on a subject in the list to view the book titles.

Search Examples
keyword search: eschatology and 21st century
author search: hebert david
subject: eschatology

Search eBook Databases
eBook titles are included in the library catalog with links to the ebook, but you may prefer to search an ebook database instead of using the library catalog.
ebrary (ebook database) : ethics/ christian ethics
arrow Create a in a personal Bookshelf to store and manage your ebooks.
See: Quick Start Guide | Tutorial | apps (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch) | Download options
· To search the entire collection, type a simple search or click "Advanced" for multiple field and text box options.
· To browse and/or search by specific subject area use the "All Subjects" link at the top of the ebrary page.
· To narrow your title results list click a subject, or several subjects, at the top of the page.
· To open the ebook, click the title or book jacket image.
· To view the most relevant chapters from all the books, click the Chapter Results tab next to the Title Results tab.
· To use the Text-to-speech function: After you have found a book, click the ebrary Reader button to open a book in ebrary's reader. Choose the "Speech" tab. Highlight text to be read or just click the "Read the selected text button" for the page to be read.
eBook Collection (EBSCO's ebook database)
Finding Journal Articles
Before you begin your research, it may be beneficial to create a personal account "Folder" in EBSCO to store and manage your information. When you find items to match your research needs add them in your folder for later use. See EBSCO's training video. (YouTube, 4.52 mins)
1) Access a database.
If you are off campus, use the Off-campus link on the library page and login with your ORU network login. (Your username is your ORU email address without
Academic Search Complete (multidisciplinary database)
ATLA Religion Database (subject database)
Once in the EBSCO interface, click the "choose databases" link (shown below) to choose a different database or select and search several databases, simultaneously.
EBSCO Choose Databases
2) Search.
Use several keywords and subject headings that describe concepts in your thesis statement.
concept 1 AND concept 2
Jesus AND priesthood
Jesus AND "high priest" AND (Leviticus or Hebrews)
Include subject headings or thesaurus terms to optimize your search results.
3) Evaluate your result list.
Sort your results list. Relevance is usually the default display so you may choose to sort by date for the most recent articles to appear at the top of the list.
Add limiters, such as date, peer reviewed, subjects, language, etc.
Use the available subject headings and subject options.
4) Evaluate the articles.
Click the title to view the full record. If available, read the abstract to see if the article is relevant to your topic. Look for additional keywords to search and (or) ways to narrow your topic. Consider the subject headings for the article. Read the bibliography.
5) Expand and improve your search.
First, change or edit your search query. (See the Searching tab above for search operators and how they function.)

Second, consider other appropriate databases. Include other theology or subject database; search multiple databases simultaneously. In the EBSCO interface, click the Choose Databases link (shown below) to select and search additional databases simultaneously.
EBSCO Choose Databases

Use a subject library guide for additional databases, resources and search tips see the database list. For tips on how to "Search Scripture Reference" see that tab on the Theology and Religion library research guide.

6) Read full text.
Click HTML, PDF, Linked Full text or similar link. Or, click the Check for Full Text link to see if it is available elsewhere in the Library (i.e., in another database, hard-copy in the Library, microform).
7) Manage your information: cite sources, save your articles and searches, as needed.
arrow Create a Folder in EBSCO to store and manage your information. The EBSCO Folder is a personal information management tool to save articles, save searches, create citations lists, write notes, and more. Create a folder then sign in to your folder. Note: Items added to the default folder are NOT saved; you must be signed in to your folder to save articles.
See also:
Key Points: Search Strategies and How to Find...Articles
Tutorials & Help for EBSCOhost and Gale
Reference and eReference

The Reference Collection includes commentaries, handbooks, atlases, theological and religious dictionaries and encyclopedias, and more. Use the library catalog and online full text reference databases to find biblical or theological encyclopedias of dictionaries and other reference materials.

ReferenceBrowse the Reference Collection

Books are shelved in Library of Congress (LC) call number order, so similar subjects will be shelved next to each other.

Note: Reference books cannot be checked; however, some titles may have a duplicate in the main collection that is available for checkout. Search the title you need in the library catalog to see if the book is located elsewhere in the library and availability for checkout.

See: Library of Congress Classification Outline (select class B) | ORU Modified LC Outline
Assistance is available at the the reference desk.


Use the Theological Reference Books library guide

The research guide identifies types of resources, such as "Encyclopedias and Dictionaries," "Biblical Studies," "Art and Symbolism," and "Practical Ministry," then lists reference book titles for each along with call numbers and links to connect to online full text reference works, when available. Use the call numbers to identify and browse relevant sections in the reference collection.


Search the ORU library catalog for Reference Materials Examples:

  • Try a library catalog subject search for your topic. From the list of subjects that come up, click a subject to view the book titles. Change "Search in the: View Entire Collection" to "Reference Collection."
  • Try a search for:
    church*, theolog*, Christian*, religio*, bibl* or missions AND encyclopedia or dictionary

Get the Citation -- Go to the title record in the library catalog, click How do I Cite this?, and then select a citation style, such as Chicago/Turabian: Humanities. Copy/paste/edit the citation, as needed.


Search Reference Databases
Note: ebook titles are included in the ORU Library Catalog with links to the full text.

Biography in Context
Full text biographies and news stories in dictionaries, encyclopedias, and journal articles about persons throughout history.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library: Church Fathers (CCEL) Open Access
Provides searchable full text.
Early Church Fathers is a 38-volume collection of writings from the first 800 years of the Church. This collection is divided into three series, Ante-Nicene(ANF), Nicene and Post-Nicene Series I (NPNF1), and Nicene and Post-Nicene Series II (NPNF2)."
In the ORU Library--Church Father's call number section is BR.60...LRC-R
For Church Fathers
Search: In the ORU library catalog or ebrary, try a subject search for Fathers of the Church or an author search for a church father.
See: author search-Augustine of Hippo (library catalog - author search)
See: subject search-"Fathers of the Church" (ebrary - subject search )
Credo Reference Center ORU
Full text entries for 600+ ereference books.
See: church history Mind Map example
To view book titles: Click Find a Book (top menu) then Religion (left menu).
Gale Virtual Reference Library ORU
Titles Include:
· Contemporary American Religion, 2 vols., 2000
· A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations, 2005
· Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd ed., 22 vols., 2007
Features 21,000+ entries on Jewish life, culture, history, and religion. Includes the entire 16-volume print edition of the Encyclopaedia, the Year Books and the Decennials that followed, and a distinguished selection of updates. Written by Israeli, American and European subject specialists.
Special Feature: Use the Encyclopaedia Judaica Listen icon for text-to-speech or MP3 download.
Also available in print in the library-- Call #DS102.8.E496 2007 LRC-R.
· Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2 vols., 2004
· Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, 2 vols., 2004
· Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2d ed., 10 vols., 2006
· Encyclopedia of Religion, 2d ed., 15 vols. 2005
· Encyclopedia of Religion in America, 4 vols., 2010
· Encyclopedia of Science and Religion, 2 vols., 2003
· Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics, 4 vols., 2005
· New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2d ed., 15 vols., 2003, and supplements
· New Catholic Encyclopedia Supplement, Jubilee Vol.: The Wojtyla Years, 2001
Jewish Encyclopedia 
Free on the Web
Also available in the library, call number DS102.8.J65 LRC-R.
Search Strategies
Operator (Boolean)
Use key terms for searching
AND   Use to search different concepts together. Each term or concept added with "and" produces fewer results.

children AND evangelism

OR Use to link similar terms; group with parenthesis; produces more results         (children OR child)
AND (evangelism OR evangelize)
NOT Use to specify a term you do not want in the search results.

        (children OR child)
AND (evangelism OR evangelize)
NOT school

Excludes results with school.

Truncation (*) Searches the ROOT of a word ended with *

AND evangel*
NOT school*

Searches: child, children, evangel, evangelism, evangelical, evangelized, etc.
Excludes results with school and schools.

Use fewer concepts Increases number of results child*AND evangel*

Searches: child, children, evangel, evangelism, evangelical, evangelized, etc.

Use more concepts Decreases number of results         child*
AND (outreach OR evangel*) AND inner AND city
Phrase Search Use quotation marks; Refines search         child*
AND (outreach OR evangel*) AND “inner city”
AND “New York”

Proximity Search:

NEAR: Finds words that occur "near" a specified range of each other. Use when only word RANGE is important.
inner city N5 new york

Searches: inner-city in New York or New York's inner city

Proximity Search:

WITH: Finds words that occur near a specified range of each other. Use when word ORDER and RANGE are important.

inner city W5 new york

Searches: inner-city in New York but not New York's inner city
Subject Field
Some database may include any or all three. Subject fields, indexes and thesauri are specific and unique to a database and its content. Respectively, they are used to divide information in related subjects, categorize and group database content, and offer collections of "controlled vocabulary" that includes synonyms, related terms, and narrower and broader terms.
Look for limiting options on the database search screen.
Examples: Full text • peer reviewed • date • related terms • language • subjects


Searching Keyword vs. Subject Headings

Keyword vs. Subject/Thesaurus Searching

Whereas the common keyword search is based on an exact word match, a subject or thesaurus search locates records by assigned subject or descriptors.

Searching with controlled vocabulary in a subject index or thesaurus allows you to more precisely retrieve relevant information on your topic, illustrates relationship between related terms and helps you identify synonyms and broader and narrower terms.

Keyword and subject terms searching can be combined. For example, rather than guessing what keywords to use consider doing a thesaurus (controlled vocabulary) search first. Review and assess your results. Then, add a keyword search to the query or use Search History to combine searches.

Try a keyword and subject search then compare the results.

  • Go to ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials or Academic Search Complete.
  • Do a keyword search for a term that describes your topic. Review the results.
    Note: For a keyword search, use the default search field, "Select a Field (optional)."
    Example: st augustine (~841 results, in ATLA Religion)
  • Do a subject search in ATLA Religion database.
    1) Click "Indexes" in the top menu bar.
    2) Select an index to browse.
    3) Key in the term used in the above search.
    4) Browse the list of subjects and mark those that are relevant. Click the Add button to enter the subjects (ZU)into the search text box.

  • Example: Subject All -- augustine, saint, bp. of hippo (~1,360 results, in ATLA Religion)
  • Compare the results.
Using Database Thesauri or Subject Headings

Identify all the major concepts of your thesis or research topic. Then use the thesaurus or subject index to locate, explore and select descriptors (also known as subjects) for each concept of your topic.

Sample research topic:
What is the impact or significance of social media for ministry and churches?

In the Communication & Mass Media Complete database:

1. Click Thesaurus in the top menu bar.

2. Type social media in the Browsing text box and select a browse function, such as Relevancy Ranked. Click Browse.

3. From the list,
-- To display details of a term, click the term to view details such as broader and narrower terms and the scope note.
--To add terms to the search, mark the box(es) in front of the term(s), click the Add button to move the thesaurus terms into the search text box, and then click Search at the top of the page.

4. Click Search or browse for another descriptor to add to the search string. EBSCO Thesaurus

Sample search results:


Most databases have tools that create citations in several formats, such as MLA, APA and Turabian. Try the tools listed below to copy/paste/edit citations, as needed to match your assignment requirements. Always check the citation references for accuracy with the ORU Research & Writing Manual (choose the Bibliographic Examples tab) and your professor's requirements.


If you use a book from the library, do a title keyword search in the library catalog, access the record, and then click How do I Cite this? (circled in the image below) Select the correct citation style, such as Chicago/ Turabian, then copy/paste/edit the citation.

Library Catalog citation link Go there.


ARTICLES in the EBSCOhost Platform

For a single citation in an EBSCO database, click the article title to access the detailed record. Click the "cite" button in the right toolbar then choose the recommended style. (The "Tools" menu is only available on the detailed item record; it is not on the results page.) Copy, paste, and edit the citation to match the Research & Writing Manual style requirements. (See the comparison at the end of this page.)

EBSCO citations Go there.

For multiple citations use the EBSCO folder:

The EBSCO Folder is a personal information management tool to save articles, save searches, create citations lists, write notes, and more. Create a folder then sign in to your folder. Note: Items added to the default folder are NOT saved.

  1. After you add the articles to the folder, click Folder has items at the top of the page.
    In the folder:
  2. Click checkboxes to mark items to be cited.
  3. Click the Print icon (in the right toolbar).
    In the Print Manager window:
  4. Uncheck HTML Full Text box and Search History, if showing and checked.
  5. Choose a Citation Format.
  6. Click Print (items are reformatted for printing). Print or cancel, then save or copy/paste/edit the citations.


Examples below provide a content comparison between an EBSCO citation for Chicago/Turabian, Humanities style and the ORU Research & Writing Manual style. Edit EBSCOhost citations accordingly. Please note that the citation examples below do not include proper indentation.

Online article: Righteousness, Human and Divine by Carl Graesser.

Example of EBSCOhost citation format for Chicago/Turabian Humanities:

Graesser, Carl. "Righteousness, human and divine." Currents In Theology And Mission 10, no. 3 (June 1, 1983): 134-141. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 23, 2014).

Sample citation from the ORU Research & Writing Manual (online version, p. 100; print, p. 99) and as updated by Dr. David Hebert:

Graesser, Carl. “Righteousness, Human and Divine.” Currents in Theology and Missions 10, no. 3 (June 1, 1983): 134-141. ATLA Religion Database, EBSCOhost (23 January 2014).

Database QuickLinks
More Information = vendor's database description
OneSearch (EBSCO's Integrated Search Interface)