Finding Background Information: Religious Studies

   General | Buddhism | Christianity | Islam | Judaism | Hinduism | Other Religions

When you are doing research on a topic, you will often encounter unfamiliar terms, or familiar ones used in a specialized way. DICTIONARIES can provide a quick definition and often some elaboration on the uses of the term. ENCYCLOPEDIAS provide background information on unfamiliar subjects, leading you quickly to key ideas and sources in developing your topic. Many encyclopedia articles will also include brief bibliographies which will lead you to further sources of information. HANDBOOKS may also give background through brief articles on various topics, definitions, addresses, and other factual information. A selection of dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks covering Religious Studies topics follows. The resources include both general and specialized subject reference tools.

General Works

  • Britannica Encyclopedia of World Religions (2006)
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religion (2003)      
    • This dictionary is also available in print       REF: BL80.2.C74 2000
  • Credo Reference Guides: comprehensive reference guides that explore a variety of resources for Christianity, Eastern Religions, Islam, Judaism, Religion, and World Religions. Use the tabs at the top to browse through the guides.
  • Credo Reference Premium  Database
  • Eerdman's Handbook to the World's Religions    REF: BL80.2.E35 1994
  • Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology    REF BL715.R65 2010
  • Encyclopedia of Religion        REF: BL31.E46 1987 16 vols
  • Encylopedia of Religion and Film       REF: PN1995.9.R4E53 2011  (Online version: )
  • Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature
  • Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals and Festivals     REF: BL31.E47 2004
  • Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion   REF: BL458.E53 1999
  • Finding God in Cyberspace  Gateway site which serves as an annotated guide to print and electronic resources on religions and all aspects of religious studies. "...provides a selective listing of the best Internet resources of interest to religious studies scholars and students of religion." Also lists search engines for finding relevant information on religious and spiritual topics and provides links to other selected guides.
  • Internet Sacred Text Archive  This site consists of "significant primary texts relating to religion and mythology." Includes Eastern, Western, Traditional, and Esoteric texts as well as writings by Charles Darwin, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, and others.
  • Man, Myth & Magic: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion, and the Unknown       REF: BF1407.M34 1997 21 vol.
  • Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions  BL2525.M449 2009  REF
  • Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions   Contains entries for "historical and legendary figures, religious movements, divinities and supernatural characters, ritual implements, place-names, theological concepts, and other ideas connected in some way with religion."  REF: BL31.M47 1999
  • Religion-Online  A database of fulltext resources designed "to assist professors, scholars and general 'seekers' who are interested in exploring religious issues," this site aims "to develop an extensive library of hundreds of entries, presenting many different points of view, but all written from the perspective of sound scholarship." Over 5,700 articles and chapters in a variety of subject areas are available. The site is searchable, or can be browsed by the author, book, and other indexes from the site map.
  • Science, Religion, and Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Controversy        REF BL240.3.S37 2007  v. 1&2



  • New Catholic Encyclopedia     REF: BX 841.N44 2003 15 vol.
  • The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church        REF: BR95.O8 1997
  • The New Interpreter’s Bible.   Each volume covers Biblical books beginning with an introduction and includes a bibliography and outline of the Biblical book, critical notes, and a commentary.     REF INDEX: BS491.2.N484  1994 12 vol.
  • The Eerdmans Analytical Concordance   Concordances list all occurrences of words and phrases in the Bible     REF: BS425.W48 1988
  • The Oxford Companion to the Bible (2012) E-Book  or in print at  REF BS440.M434 1993
  • The Oxford Guide to People and Places of the Bible  E-Book
  • The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church   REF: BR95 .O8 1997
  • The Catholic Source Book      REF: BX842.C33 2000


  • A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature     REF: BL1105.D75 1997
  • Handbook of Hindu Mythology       REF: BL1111.4.W55 2003
  • Historical Dictionary of Hinduism     REF: BL1105.S85 1997



  • A Concise Companion to the Jewish Religion  E-Book
  • The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism  REF BM176.E34 2010
  • Encyclopedia of Judaism          REF: BM50.E63 1989
  • Historical Dictionary of Judaism       REF: BM50.S65 1998
  • Reader’s Guide to Judaism       REF: BM50.R43 2000
  • Academic Jewish studies Internet Directory   Gateway site to over three hundred resources for the study of Judaism. Includes research institutes, libraries, archives, Internet sources, and RAMBI (the electronic index to periodical articles in Jewish studies which is an extremely useful site). Updated biweekly with a sidebar showing the status of all links.

Other Religions

  • Controversial New Religions    BP603.C66 2005
  • The Encyclopedia of Native American Religion              REF: E98.R3 H73 1991
  • Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements (2006)  E-Book or in print, with call number  REF BL31 .E453 2005
  • Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions           REF: BL2525.L49 1998
  • Cults in America: A Reference Handbook                REF: BL2525.L486 1998

Created by: Sharon Clark, B.A., M.L.I.S.
Date Created: May 2001

Revised by: Suzanne Jones, B.A., M.L.S.
Revised by: Meghan Landry, BA, MLIS
Date Revised: 10-March-2016