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Working on a Theology or Biblical Studies Paper? Be Sure to Use Journals!

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To their detriment, many students writing academic papers fail to consult scholarly journals.  Journals are valuable to research for a number of reasons.  (1) Journals generally contain very focused, specialized studies on a particular topic or issue, and at times may delve more deeply into a specific issue than a book covering the same subject area. (2) Through articles and book reviews, journals provide a window into current research in a particular field.  It is important to remember that good academic writing is not solely conversant with older sources of information (though older sources can still prove helpful), but demonstrates awareness of recent developments and avenues of inquiry. (3) They preserve the history of thought, or a record of trends, in a given discipline.  By searching a particular topic in a database (such as ATLA or JSTOR), and paying attention to titles and publication dates, one can often trace historically the conversation about a particular topic.  Many times, journals will publish articles with titles such as “Recent Trends in the Study of Old Testament Wisdom Literature,” or “Recent Research in New Testament Textual Criticism.”

Rolfing Library has a sizeable collection of theological journals.  Some of the more commonly used journals for biblical studies and theology include: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Bulletin for Biblical Research, Journal of Biblical Literature, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, International Journal of Systematic Theology, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Pro Ecclesia, Revue Biblique, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, and Tyndale Bulletin.  Additionally, Trinity Journal is published every fall and spring by Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Accessing information in journals can be done in various ways.  One of the most productive ways is to use a database such as ATLA, which is a database of published works pertaining to the theological disciplines, though other databases will occasionally prove useful.  Searching ATLA for articles on a particular subject (click here for a helpful tutorial on using ATLA) will often present a list of entries, including the name, volume, year and page numbers of the journal in which they are published.  Many times (but not always!), these entries will have full text pdf files attached that you can download to your computer for free.  In cases where there is no full text file, you will need to search for the journal title (not the article title) in TrinCat to see if a hard copy is available in the library.  Rolfing Library’s journals are located, in alphabetical order, on the shelves on either side of the stairwell, directly behind the main desk.  Articles in journals that we do not own may be acquired through ILLiad, depending on availability.

Unfortunately, journals cannot be checked out of the library.  However, you may make photocopies of articles in the library.  Photocopies are $0.07 per page for TIU students.  You may also use one of our book scanners to make an electronic copy free of charge.

If you have questions about theological journals, using ATLA or locating articles, don’t hesitate to ask for help at the Reference Desk.

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Author: Lance Higginbotham

Lance Higginbotham is a PhD Candidate in Theological Studies (Old Testament) and Teaching Fellow in Interdisciplinary Studies at TEDS. He also works as a Reference Assistant at Rolfing Library.

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