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Research Starter - CLDR 301: Research

Citation Help


The ATLA Religion database is the premiere religion database offered through Squires Library and offers several valuable tools that will enhance your research process.  See the list below to view each tool individually.

Use the multiple search boxes in the ATLA Religion Database to create a search strategy and search for multiple terms that describe your search topic. Watch the instructional video below to see how to complete an Advanced Search.


Using the Scriptures tool in ATLA will help you easily identify sources that are about a specific Biblical text.  This tool allows you to search for resources that are about a specific book in the Bible, a certain chapter in a book in the Bible, or even a key verse in the Bible.  You can also limit these resources by entering additional search terms to your scripture search. Watch the instructional video below to see how this tool in action.


Using the Indexes tool in ATLA will help you easily identify sources that are about a specific topic.  The ATLA Index works much like an index in a book, find your topic and then see where information about that topic is located.  For our purposes, using the Index tool to search by subject will be most beneficial.  Watch the instructional video below to see how this tool in action.


Another helpful tool in ATLA is the thesaurus.  Using the Thesaurus tool in ATLA will help you identify other subject terms that are related to your search topic.  This tool is similar to the ATLA Index tool but is different in that it will help you broaden your search outside of your original keyword search.  Watch the instructional video below to see how this tool in action.  

Create a Search Strategy

To find resources about your topic, create a search strategy.  Make a list of key phrases that you can enter into the library search.  Remember, searching for sources is an exercise in trial and error.  Try different combinations of words and try thinking of different words and phrases to express the same ideas.  If you get stuck, please reach out to the library for help.  We love the challenge of hunting for resources!

There are a lot of resources out there!  The trick is finding the resources that actually deal with your research topic and address the subject of your paper.  To accomplish this seemingly daunting task, you need to develop a search strategy. 

  1. Come up with keywords that deal with your research topic and perform a keyword search in the library's databases for these terms.
  2. Mix and match these keywords with other aspects of your research.  As you add more search terms, your result list will become smaller but more concentrated to your area of research.
  3. When you find a resource that meets the need of your research, look at its subject terms to find other similar resources and to identify other search terms that you can add to your search.  Here are just a few examples.

Choosing an interesting research topic is your first challenge. Here are some tips:

  • Choose a topic that you are interested in! The research process is more relevant if you care about your topic.
  • Narrow your topic to something manageable.
    • If your topic is too broad, you will find too much information and not be able to focus.
    • Background reading can help you choose and limit the scope of your topic. 
  • Review the guidelines on topic selection outlined in your assignment.  Ask your professor or TA for suggestions.
  • Refer to lecture notes and required texts to refresh your knowledge of the course and assignment.
  • Talk about research ideas with a friend.  S/he may be able to help focus your topic by discussing issues that didn't occur to you at first.
  • Think of the who, what, when, where and why questions:
    • WHY did you choose the topic?  What interests you about it?  Do you have an opinion about the issues involved?
    • WHO are the information providers on this topic?  Who might publish information about it?  Who is affected by the topic?  Do you know of organizations or institutions affiliated with the topic?
    • WHAT are the major questions for this topic?  Is there a debate about the topic?  Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?
    • WHERE is your topic important: at the local, national or international level?  Are there specific places affected by the topic?
    • WHEN is/was your topic important?  Is it a current event or an historical issue?  Do you want to compare your topic by time periods?


Background information can help you prepare for further research by explaining all the issues related to your topic, especially when you're investigating a field that's unfamiliar to you. Tips:

  • Check for background information in: dictionaries, handbooks and encyclopedias.
  • Look for facts in: statistical guides, almanacs, biographical sources, or handbooks.
  • Collect keywords or important terms, concepts and author names to use when searching databases.
  • Start thinking in broad terms, then narrow down your topic. 
  • Look at bibliographies to guide you to other sources of information (books, articles, etc.)

Too much information?  Make your results list more manageable.  Less, but more relevant, information is key.  Here are some options to consider when narrowing the scope of your paper:

  • Theoretical approach:  Limit your topic to a particular approach to the issue.  For example, if your topic concerns cloning, examine the theories surrounding of the high rate of failures in animal cloning.
  • Aspect or sub-area:  Consider only one piece of the subject.  For example, if your topic is human cloning, investigate government regulation of cloning.
  • Time:  Limit the time span you examine.  For example, on a topic in genetics, contrast public attitudes in the 1950's versus the 1990's.
  • Population group:  Limit by age, sex, race, occupation, species or ethnic group.  For example, on a topic in genetics, examine specific traits as they affect women over 40 years of age.
  • Geographical location:  A geographic analysis can provide a useful means to examine an issue.   For example, if your topic concerns cloning, investigate cloning practices in Europe or the Middle East.

Not finding enough information?  Think of related ideas, or read some background information first.  You may not be finding enough information for several reasons, including:

  • Your topic is too specific.  Generalize what you are looking for. For example: if your topic is genetic diversity for a specific ethnic group in Ghana, Africa, broaden your topic by generalizing to all ethnic groups in Ghana or in West Africa.
  • Your topic is too new for anything substantive to have been written.  If you're researching a recently breaking news event, you are likely to only find information about it in the news media. Be sure to search databases that contain articles from newspapers. If you are not finding enough in the news media, consider changing your topic to one that has been covered more extensively.
  • You have not checked enough databases for information.  Use our A-Z database listing to find other databases in your subject area which might cover the topic from a different perspective. Also, use excellent searching techniques to ensure you are getting the most out of every database.
  • You are using less common words or too much jargon to describe your topic.  Use a thesaurus to find other terms to represent your topic. When reading background information, note how your topic is expressed in these materials. When you find citations in an article database, see how the topic is expressed by experts in the field.

Once you have a solid topic, formulate your research question or hypothesis and begin finding information.

If you need guidance with topic formulation, Ask Us!  Library staff are happy to help you focus your ideas.

Courtesy of the MIT Libraries

Related Research Starters

These research starters, supplied by Salem Press through the library's EBSCO Discovery Service, provide an excellent place to begin your research.  Each research starter gives a brief summary of the leadership style and each includes a bibliography.  Use these research starters to become more familiar with the different styles of leadership and to look for words, terms and phrases that might help you develop your search strategy.   

Remember: the bibliography or works cited page of any work is a vital resource; it can lead you to other credible resources to use in your research!

Authentic Leadership

Authoritarian, Democratic, and Laissez-Faire Leadership

Coalition leadership

Collaborative Leadership

Collective leadership

Corporate Leaders as Volunteers

Critical Skills: Leadership

Education Leadership Policy

Executive Leadership

Inclusive leadership

Instructional Leadership

Leadership and Motivation

Leadership and social psychology

Managerial Leadership

Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Participative Leadership

School Leadership

Servant leadership

Shared leadership

Situational leadership theory

Strategic leadership

Student Leadership

Toxic leadership

Transactional leadership

Transformational and Transactional Leadership

This guide exists to aid you in locating resources that will enhance your research about Christian Leadership.  Here you will find highlights of the most relevant databases, including search strategies to help you get started in your research.  You will also find a list of a few key resources. Please use the "Chat with a Librarian" instant messaging service during library hours or contact the Distance Learning Librarian at should you need additional research assistance.

Your assignment:

Write a paper developing an integrated definition of Christian leadership.
The structure of the paper should be as follows:

  • ​Introduction (Includes Thesis)
  • Biblical Foundation: You should be able to identify key passages that will contribute to your understanding of the definition of Christian leadership.
  • Contemporary Leadership Theory: You should be able to identify leadership theories that contribute to your understanding of the definition of Christian leadership.
  • Leadership Development in the Local Church: You should be able to identify elements of leadership development that will contribute to your understanding of the definition of Christian leadership.
  • Conclusion (Restate your Thesis)

The paper proposal (Due at the end of Week 3) should be 2-3 pages in length, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font with 1-inch margins, and written in the Turabian (SOR Manual of Style) format.

The final paper should be 10-12 pages in length, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font with 1-inch margins, and written in the Turabian (SOR Manual of Style) format.


A thesis is simply a statement or claim, which needs to be supported or proven.  In the case of this particular assignment, the thesis should be your proposed definition for leadership with reference to how you will support this definition.

What your thesis should NOT be:

  • Your thesis should not be a question... What is leadership?  This is not a thesis statement; it is the question your thesis should be answering.
  • Your thesis should not be a simple observation... Leadership is important in the local church.  Really?  Your thesis statement should have more substance to it.
  • Your thesis is not the title of your paper... Leadership in the local church: three reasons why it is important.  Your thesis statement needs to be more specific, providing a clear roadmap for your reader about what to expect from the rest of your paper.

What your thesis SHOULD be:

  • Succinct... The thesis statement should be one sentence, two at the most, and should be located (typically) at the end of your introductory paragraph.
  • Focused... The thesis statement should tell specifically what your paper will discuss.  This is a one (or two) sentence summarization of your entire paper.  
  • Arguable... You want people to be able to agree or disagree with the claim you are making in your thesis statement.
  • Supportable... The rest of your paper is going to be written to support the claim you make in your thesis statement; make sure you have something to write about. 

Thesis for Proposed Paper:

You should be able to formulate a proposed definition for leadership that is supported through the text of the rest of your paper.  Begin with answering for yourself the question of what leadership is... then tell the reader why you think so.  Your "why" will be support drawn from the other required parts of your paper.  Your thesis might follow this layout: 

  • Definition of leadership supported by
    • reference to a Biblical Foundation for your definition,
    • indication of what different leadership theories support your definition,
    • and mention of how your definition of leadership is evident in the local church.
  • Leadership could be defined as (your definition here) which is established in (Biblical Text here), explained through (leadership theory here), and demonstrated by (action from local church).


Having trouble getting started on your paper?  The resources included on this page can help.  The videos in this box explain what academic writing is, what the structure and organization of an academic paper should look like, how to incorporate resources into your paper to support your ideas and some rules to remember as you write your paper.  

Please note, some of these instructional videos reference the MLA Style of citation and formatting.  You will be using the SOR Style of Writing Guide as your citation and formatting style, which is a bit different.  Please follow the citation and formatting rules outlined in the SOR Manual of Style.    


Not sure where to begin?

We recognize that many students will begin their search by performing an internet search for their topic.  So, let's learn how to determine if the information you find on the web is appropriate to use in your research. 


Let this be a beginning step in your research, not the only step.

Is the resource you've found on the web a good resource?  How can we tell?

  • Use the SIFT method to determine the credibility of information found on the web.
    • Stop - do not engage with the text until you get enough context about the text to determine if it is worth engaging with.
    • Investigate the source -
      • who is the author? 
      • what is the purpose of the source?
      • is it possibly written with a bias?
      • has it been reviewed and approved by experts in the field of study?
    • Find better coverage - find other resources about the topic from reliable sources.
    • Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context - backward searching.

Modified from Mike Caulfield's SIFT (Four Moves), which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Why might an Internet search be a good place to start? Discovery 

  • Learn the basics about your topic
  • Use what you have learned to inform your research.
  • Create a list of keywords related to your topic.
  • Develop your keywords in relation to what you want to learn about your topic.
  • Use the library's databases to provide direct access to academic, peer-reviewed materials.

What makes a good resource?

Relevancy - Does this source deal specifically with your topic?

Scope - Does this source only mention your topic briefly or does a substantial portion of the resource discuss your topic?

Currency (as applicable to the topic) - When was this piece written? Does the age of the source affect its relevancy to your topic?

Credibility/Reliability - Who is the author?  Do they have the authority to speak about this topic?  What are the author’s credentials?  Has this resource been reviewed by other experts in this field of study?  

Purpose - Informative vs. Persuasive. What is the intention of this source? Is the author trying to persuade you or is the author presenting information? Is there a bias you should be mindful of?

When choosing a resource, it is important to determine the credibility and reliability of that resource.
To do that, we recommend the C.R.A.P. test: 


  • What is the publication date?
  • and how does this date impact your topic of research?
    • Remember, newer doesn't always mean better.  The need for currency depends heavily on the topic of your paper. 
    • If you are evaluating a website, the publication or copyright date will help you determine if the site is current.  If you can't find a date on a website, beware; the information on the site might very well be out-of-date.  Broken links are another sign that the site has not been updated recently.  


  • Does this resource actually deal with your topic?  
    • Be careful that you aren't choosing a resource just because it has your keyword somewhere in the title or contents. Make sure the work has a substantial portion that directly addresses your research topic.
    • Ask yourself, "Does the resource primarily deal with the topic I am researching?"


  • Who is the author of the resource?  
  • Do they have substantial academic or professional experience and credentials that give them the authority to speak on this topic?
  • Does the resource provide references for the included information?
  • Was the resource published by a reputable organization?
  • When you are evaluating a website, web addresses that end in .gov and .edu are typically more authoritative than .com sites.  


  • Why was this resource written?  To inform?  To persuade?  
  • Consider the sponsoring organization associated with the resource. 
  • Be aware of any bias that the author may have toward your subject that could taint the authority and reliability of the information provided in their work.


Sources are divided into two main groups; primary and secondary.  

  • Primary sources provide a firsthand account or insider's look at a specific person, a specific time period, or a specific event.  If a primary source could speak to us it would say, “I was there; this is my experience or my experiment.”  Examples of primary sources include diaries, personal journals, autobiographies, memoirs, personal correspondence, interviews, speeches, newspaper articles or news footage from a specific time in history, official records, original photographs, creative works such as plays, poetry, music, or art, and also original research data.  Primary sources can be documents, photographs, film or video footage, and objects/artifacts. Please note that primary source does not necessarily equal factual source.  Primary sources provide firsthand accounts of an event, experience, or experiment.  It is up to you, the researcher, to evaluate each of those accounts individually to build an informed, knowledgeable, and well-rounded assertion about your topic.   


  • A secondary source is an interpretation or analysis of one or more primary sources.  If a secondary source could speak to us it would say, “I wasn’t there but I have studied the topic and these are my thoughts on the matter.”  Examples of secondary resources include such publications as biographies, commentaries, criticisms, textbooks, articles, and critical essays.  



The first book on the left, I am Not Spock, was written by Leonard Nimoy and is his personal account of his experiences of portraying the character of Spock in the television series Star Trek.  The next book, Star Trek: Movie Memories, was written by William Shatner who portrayed the character of Captain James T. Kirk and discusses his experiences during the creation of the Star Trek films.  Each of these sources says to us, "I was there; this is my experience."  These are primary sources.

The last book, Star Trek as Myth, is a collection of essays about Star Trek.  This book is comprised of the different authors' interpretations and analysis of the mythology of the television series and films.  This book says to us, "I wasn’t there, but I watched Star Trek and these are my thoughts on the matter."  This book is a secondary resource.

Peer-reviewed simply means that the article’s content has been checked by other experts in that specific field of study for accuracy and reliability.  These resources are also often referred to as scholarly articles or academic articles.

5 Clues that the article is peer-reviewed:

  1. References – always look for a list of works cited, a bibliography, or a reference list
  2. Author – educational and professional credentials provided
  3. Abstract – a short summary highlighting the content of the article
  4. Audience – content written using specialized terminology
  5. Graphs and Charts – visually communicated empirical data

Courtesy of the MIT Libraries

Plagiarism is the act of using someone else's words or ideas and claiming them as your own.

Plagiarism is theft and has serious consequences in the academic world as well as in the professional world, so it is important that you understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.  

When you use someone else's words, word for word, and do not use quotations and a citation to identify that these words were either spoken by or written by someone else, this is plagiarism. This is the most blatant form of plagiarism, but there are other practices that also constitute plagiarism.  When you restate in your own words someone else's words or ideas but do not cite the information or give credit to the person who originally had this thought, this is also considered plagiarism.

Plagiarism is not limited to words.  It is important that you also give credit to artists and photographers for any images that you may utilize in your work, be it included in a research paper or a class presentation.

Did you know that you can also plagiarize yourself?  Recycling your own written material to fulfill the requirements of another class is considered plagiarism.  If you want to expound upon previous research that you have conducted, contact your instructor prior to beginning the assignment to see if you might be able to use your former research as a basis for, not a replacement for, your current assignment.

Direct Quote – using someone else's words, word-for-word.

Using someone else's words, word-for-word is acceptable only if you include quotation marks and citation information.

If you do not use quotations and a citation to identify that these words were either spoken by or written by someone else, you are plagiarizing!

Use direct quotes sparingly and make sure your quotes have a purpose. 

When you do choose to include a quote, you should also always include your analysis of the quote. 

Don’t end your paragraph with a quote.  Always add your interpretation of the quote that is of equal or greater value than the original thought.

Paraphrasing – restating in your own words someone else’s words or ideas. 

Paraphrasing is an effective way to incorporate the thoughts and ideas of others that support your research.  To paraphrase is to put into your own words the thoughts and ideas of others.  Remember, even though these are your own words, since the idea or thought originated from someone else, you must cite your source!

Paraphrasing can be difficult for students because, typically, the original author has stated his or her thoughts so eloquently that we feel incapable of accurately representing the meaning of their words if we change the dictation of their thoughts. However, to fully incorporate other's words, thoughts, and ideas, you must be able to tell in your own words why this idea applies to your research.

Tips for paraphrasing:

Being able to properly paraphrase requires having a firm grasp of your topic.  To avoid inadequate paraphrasing, make sure you understand what you are reading and/or researching.  This may require speaking with your professor about the text or it may be as simple as making sure you are reading enough of the text to truly comprehend what the author is discussing.

Paraphrasing means to put an idea into your own words, which will include incorporating your own syntax.  Changing only the words of the original text and not the sentence structure is not true paraphrasing. 

Some ways to avoid improper paraphrasing:

Avoid copying and pasting information into your paper unless you plan to use the text as a direct quote.  Remember, direct quotes should be used sparingly and with purpose.

Avoid looking directly at the original source text when writing your paper.

It is better to read the original text, lay it out of eyesight and then try to explain in your own words what you just read. 

Think of paraphrasing as a phone call to a friend.  Your friends don’t want you to read your textbook to them, they want to hear in your own words what you have been studying.  Try to explain it to them; this is paraphrasing.

Citations help us to avoid plagiarizing another person's words or ideas.

A citation provides the opportunity for your reader to locate your sources if they would like to learn more about your subject.

A citation proves that the ideas you have are supported by others in the academic community which lends validity to your paper.

A citation notifies the reader of your paper:

Who – who wrote or spoke these words or ideas originally?  Who originally created this picture or graphic?

Where – where (in what source) did you locate these words, ideas, or images?

More specifically, to cite a source is to provide your reader with the following information:

Author’s or Creator’s Name

Title of Work

Publication Information (Publisher, Date, and Place of Publication)

Page Number(s) if applicable

Medium of Publication

In-text citations are especially important.  It is not enough to simply list at the end of your paper the list of your references.  You must cite the quoted or paraphrased section as soon as it appears in your paper.     

Citations vary depending on citation style which often varies by discipline.  However, some rules remain constant across disciplines:

You should always cite a direct quote or paraphrased passage.

You should always provide either in-text citations, end-notes, or footnotes.  Providing only a bibliography or reference page is not acceptable.

Take a moment to review the flowchart below to see if you are guilty of plagiarism.  You might be surprised!

Click here to take the tutorial so you can learn more about what plagiarism is and how to avoid it!

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