Term Paper (Whitfield, Fall 2010)

last modified 2017-12-22T13:04:34-04:00

Note: This guide focuses on library resources for your CHR 250 term paper assignment. Additional course-specific resources are available on the Christianity Subject Librarian page.

Start with a Question

Keeping with the theme of pilgrimage, the term paper will be more interesting if you approach this asking and answering a question rather than simply forging ahead to write enough to meet the 12 to 15 page requirement. For example:

  • why Lourdes?
  • who might chose Mecca over Lourdes, and why?
  • what character traits are consistently exhibited in a pilgrim?
  • how is a 21st century pilgrim different from a 15th century traveler?
  • what does it take to be a pilgrim?

By December 2 you will complete a term paper. The purpose of this guide is to help you identify articles and books for your paper. The same search tips should work whatever topic you choose for your term paper. A few tips are also provided to help along the way.

ATLA Religion with ATLA Serials is your first stop for identifying articles

1. includes more than 550,000 article citations, 232,000 essay citations, and 511,000 book review citations with full text provided for more than 266,000 articles and book reviews in over 130 journals selected by leading religion scholars
2. coverage begins in 1949 although indexing for some journal titles extends back into the nineteenth century
3. produced by the American Theological Library Association … ATLA (adding the full text serials give you the S)

ATLA has several special indexes that are a good place to help you refine your question as you settle on a topic.

Topical search

Similar to a subject search, this special index provides an opportunity to view possible index terms. This is a good reminder to think of possible keywords to use when refining your topics. For example: adding sacred space or shrine as well as peer-reviewed articles can help you limit your topic. Believe it or not, a 12-15 page paper is really not that long.

1. click on the indexes tab near the top of the screen


2. click on the drop down box on the lower part of the screen and select topical terms
3. type pilgrims in the browse for box
4. click browse
5. review the list, noting the number of available citations for the terms on the far right of the screen
6. freely put check mark(s) in box(es) that appeal to you
7. click add to get a list of all citations


8. click search in the top box to execute the search on the selected term(s)
9. look at the left-hand side of the screen to explore ways of narrowing your search results


Scripture Search

ATLA recently enhanced this search to make it much easier. You can browse the books in canonical order and drill down to the chapter and verse level. Selecting an entry at the book, chapter, or verse level now executes a search for all records indexed with that book, chapter, or verse—no more clicking all the boxes that include the specific scripture! More about this feature when we talk about the exegetical paper.

Read, Read, Read

Once you have identified articles by either subject or scripture, you will need to read several articles to narrow down your list of sources. ATLA also has an option for Linked Full Text (remember the S?), so select the Linked Full Text, HTML, or PDF icon.


No full text listed? There are other options for finding these articles, so don’t give up!

Full-text electronic journal list

  • list of all electronic journals available to Mercer students
  • make sure you have the complete citation (title, volume, number, date, and page numbers) before searching
  • enter journal title and click search
  • follow the links (journals often appear in more than one database) to identify full-text
  • if specific volume/year is not available online, click on the link to view print holdings of the title

Library Catalog

  • the library might have a subscription to a print copy of the journal
    * remember you can use the "Check the Library Catalog for print copies of this title" link and go directly to the catalog without leaving the eJournal title tool
  • click on the option to search by journal title and type the journal name in the Journal Title browse box
  • journals are arranged alphabetically by title on the first floor of the Tarver Library
  • you can also limit a journal title search to a specific location which can be a bit confusing, so ask for assistance if you get confused.
  • articles in journals only available from Swilley (Atlanta campus) can be requested using Interlibrary Loan

Interlibrary Loan

  • if all else fails, we can order a copy of the article for you through Interlibrary Loan--this takes time (up to 2 weeks!), so don’t leave it to the last minute
  • the pre-populated form prepop.jpg in the database makes this a quicker process
  • we can also identify libraries who subscribe to the journal--perhaps a road trip can be planned?

Search Additional Databases

Other databases can also provide articles for your search.

Religion & Philosophy Collection is a dependable second stop:

1. 300 full text journals, including more than 250 peer-reviewed titles, with full-text information going back to 1975
2. broader focus than ATLA yet narrower than Academic Search Complete

Academic Search Complete is a good source for more general articles:

1. over 7,000 full text journals, including nearly 6,000 peer-reviewed, with PDF content going back to 1887
2. indexing and abstracting (not full-text) for over 11,000 journals, books, reports, conference proceedings, etc.
3. broadest focus of the three databases

Some of your topics may also be included in subject-specific databases, such as art, literature, and history. Check out the entire range of customized web pages created by Subject Librarians.

Remember, you are specifically instructed to use a variety of sources. If you are not sure of the viewpoint expressed by the journal, a Google search might reveal some interesting information. For example, a Google search on the journal Dialog reveals that it is published by the Lutheran church.

Don't Forget about Books

Books can also provide sources for your papers. While some books are listed in ATLA, remember to search the Library Catalog to find books and e-books on your selected subject.

1. start with a keyword search, for example, pilgrimage

2. from the results page, select a title that looks promising

3. click on the subject headings to find other books on the same topic

4. you can request that a book in Atlanta or one of the Regional Academic Centers be sent to you here in Macon



As with the articles, you are specifically instructed to use a variety of sources. Much can be learned from looking at the publishers of the books you identify.

Interlibrary Loan is also an option, if the books you identify from a bibliography are not available in the Mercer Libraries. Note: this takes time, so plan ahead.

Tips, Tricks, & Ideas

1. Build on the work of others. How? Look at the bibliographies/list of resources listed in books and articles to identify other possible sources. Using the title of the journal or book, search the library catalog to determine if the Mercer Libraries have a copy.

2. This is not rocket science. It truly is not, but it does take some time and patience. Start early, the more you search the more familiar you will become with the resources, and be sure and ask for help before you get frustrated.

3. Pace yourself. This takes time, so do your research early to allow time for items to arrive from another Mercer Library or through Interlibrary Loan, and remember your dates:

  • proposal due October 5 (while exegesis paper rough draft is due October 7)
  • draft of 8 pages due November 4 (while exegesis final paper draft is due October 21)
  • final draft due December 2

4. The full text electronic journal list can be a bit confusing, until you get used to how it works:

  • look carefully at the available dates, not every journal is available from volume 1 or to the current issue
  • once inside an issue, try using the option to sort by page number rather than by author

Need more help?

You may request a Research Consultation (link above) where we will spend time working on your idea. You can schedule as many as you need. One note of caution: examples of your searches will be helpful when we meet to talk about your paper. If you haven't done any advance work, I suggest doing some before asking for additional assistance.