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PHIL 3500: Christianity & Philosophy: Introduction

Christianity & Philosophy class page | Course description: Philosophical study of Christianity from its origins to the present, including Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism.

PHIL 3500 Research Strategies

The purpose of this guide is to assist Dr. Fredericks' PHIL 3500 students in finding appropriate resources to support a thesis in the final essay assignment. Topics in this guide include:

Finding the Right Search Terms: Subject Headings

Before conducting a search in any index or catalog, it is often useful know the language that librarians, catalogers and indexers use to describe a topic. The most widely-used descriptors of topics in the English language are published as the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).

For any subject, look up the word you know in the LCSH. The word you know might be just right, but if it isn't the LCSH provides guidance to find the best choice. UF means "Use For," or "your term is the preferred term." USE means "there is a different, preferred term." BT means "Broader Term," or "another term includes your term." NT means "Narrower Term," or "there are other, more specific terms within your term." Scan the entries to get ideas about how your term fits into the general scheme of knowledge about the subject. The variations in wording may help you broaden or narrow your searches later in the investigative process.

Scholarly Resources

What makes something scholarly? There is no one strict definition. However, there is general agreement that a scholarly resource usually has certain characteristics:

  • The content is related to a topic that is investigated and studied in all, or most, academic institutions
  • The resource is transparent about its authorship, its publisher or other sponsorship, its date and where it fits into its field of research (and each of these has some form of authority or validity: the author provides her or his credentials, the publisher or sponsor has a reputation in the field; the author describes the need that the resource addresses)
  • The writing style is formal, avoids the first and second person forms of address, and assumes that the audience is reasonably familiar with the subject
  • The work discloses its own origins; it includes citations to other works, there may be a literature review, charts, graphs, numerical analyses or other indicators that the author has developed the content within a framework of prior research
  • Frequently, there has been a review process for the content prior to its publication (a peer review or an editorial review)

The good news is that most resources that you find through UNT Libraries are scholarly. There may be occasional exceptions, but these should be obvious (for example, a daily newspaper, a magazine with clearly popular interest, or a work of fiction for the book trade).

Primary Sources

Primary sources are works that are closest in time to the start of an idea or event. A primary source provides a direct insight into the topic based on the reporter's experience of it.

Examples include original historical documents, creative works, and artifacts. In the context of religion and philosophical studies, primary sources are usually works that first describe an experience, a concept or a way of thinking about an issue:

  • The Bible
  • On First Principles of Origen
  • City of God of Saint Augustine of Hippo
  • Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas Aquinas
  • Works of Martin Luther

Most primary resources related to early Christianity are freely available online. See the On the Web tab in this guide for links to them. 

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