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 
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religion  
    • Also available in print  BL80.2.C74 2000 STACKS
  • 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.
  • Eerdman's Handbook to the World's Religions   BL80.2.E35 1994 STACKS
  • Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology   BL715.R65 2010 REFERENCE
  • Encyclopedia of Religion 
  • Encyclopedia of Religion and Film   
    • Also available in print  PN1995.9.R4E53 2011 REFERENCE  
  • Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature
  • Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals and Festivals  BL31.E47 2004 REFERENCE
  • Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion  BL458.E53 1999 v. 1&2 REFERENCE
  • 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  BF1407.M34 1997 21 vol. REFERENCE
  • Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions 
    • Also available in print BL2525.M449 2009  REFERENCE
  • 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 REFERENCE
  • 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  BL240.3.S37 2007  v. 1&2 REFERENCE


Related Research Guides: Asian StudiesPhilosophy, History


  • New Catholic Encyclopedia
    • Also available in print  BX 841.N44 2003 15 vol. REFERENCE
  • The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church  BR95.C7O8 2005 REFERENCE
  • 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.  BS491.2.N484 1994 12 vol., Index  REFERENCE
  • The Eerdmans Analytical Concordance to the Revised Standard Version of the Bible  Concordances list all occurrences of words and phrases in the Bible.  BS425.W48 1988  REFERENCE
  • The Oxford Companion to the Bible 
    • Also available in print  BS440.M434 1993 REFERENCE
  • The Oxford Guide to People and Places of the Bible 
  • The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church  BR95.C7O8 2005 REFERENCE
  • The Catholic Source Book  BX842.C33 2000 REFERENCE

Related Research Guides: PhilosophyHistory


  • A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature  BL1105.D75 1997 REFERENCE
  • Handbook of Hindu Mythology  BL1111.4.W55 2003 REFERENCE
  • Historical Dictionary of Hinduism    
    • Also available in print  BL1105.S85 1997 REFERENCE

Related Research Guide: Asian StudiesPhilosophy, History


Related Research Guides: PhilosophyHistory


Related Research Guides: PhilosophyHistory

Other Religions

Related Research Guides: Asian Studies, Philosophy, History


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
Revised: May 27, 2022