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Researching World Religions: Resources

World Religions Research

Independent Learning Targets

Independent Learning Targets

In our information saturated world, you'll find resources with varying degrees of credibility. When researching a topic such as religion, where tensions and beliefs can drive publishing agendas, it is especially important to find resources that are published from an unbiased point of view.  

During your research, practice looking for evidence of true credibility by asking yourself:

Do the authors have specific credentials that make them experts on the topic?

Do the authors have specific biases that may color how they view the topic?  How does this impact the information and how you might use it?

Do the authors include citations, reference lists, or otherwise note the sources they used?

World View

The history of world religion...

The video below illustrates how major world religions spread across the globe.

Religion in the world today...

This detailed map of the illustrates the distribution of world religions through out the world. Clicking on the map will allow you to zoom in on specific regions.

Map created by reddit user scolbert08

The future of world religion...  
The respected PEW Research Center recently published a study of religious trends that offers insight into possible future trends to the year 2050. You can access the study here or read a summary of it here.  Want to watch?  This video not only summarizes, but also critically critiques the reliability of the study.

The Research

Use your virtual library for research...

Student Resources in Context
Here, you'll find a general overview of the major religions along with a rich collection of different informational sources, including: reference, biography, primary sources, news, magazine features, and multimedia (images, audio, video). This is a database available to MGSD high school students.  Contact Mrs. Cowell if you'd like remote access off-campus.

Gale Virtual Reference Library
Here, we house a collection of great resources available to you (and searchable!) online.  While a general search will reveal information on religion found in sources throughout the collection, pay particular attention to these great references.This resource is available for MGSD's high school students.  Ask your teacher for the password if you'll be working off-campus.

Encyclopedia of Religion
Encyclopedia of World Biography

EBSCO High School Non-Fiction eBook Collection
This incredible collection of eBooks features many of the research titles we have in the high school library, and many many more. These ebooks are laid out visually exactly like their print counterparts (better for reading and browsing), but they can also be searched (just like the internet).  If you choose to create a personal account, you'll be able to not only save the information you find, but also take notes in the books!  Just a simple search for the term, "Islam" yielded 41 books accessible to you 24/7 from anywhere you have internet access.  No matter what you are research, imagine the possibilities!  This resource is available for MGSD's high school students. Ask your teacher how you can access this off-campus.

Explora from EBSCO
This is a comprehensive database made available to all Wisconsin citizens by Wisconin's Department of Public Instruction-Badgerlink.  This resource is an excellent source of current news, as well as other types of information.  If you have trouble accessing this from home, ask your teacher how to use your library card to get in.

Consider primary sources...

From Primitives to Zen
Compiles and compares texts from all world religions, highlighting fundamental stories such as "myths of creation and origin."

Internet Sacred Texts Archives
A useful list of the basic texts for major world religions here.

Searching the web?

Looking for information on the web? Here's where evaluating your resources is crucial.  Let's look at two common search engine hits when keying in topics related to "world religions."

Religion Facts
This site provides basic information that, at a glance, appears useful. But is it credible?

  • Who makes this site?  The "About Us" link is dead (as are many of the links). What credentials make the publisher of this site trustworthy? Is it a site for profit or does it perhaps promote an agenda?
  • If the authors are not experts, do they borrow information from experts? Who knows, since no informational citations are provided.
  • Tempted by their Try our famous Big Religion Chart, because it's "famous?" Says who?

   Steer clear of this site and others like it.

This site provides "information on a comprehensive range of issues relating to religion, faith, and spiritual matters." Published as a general information resource, the site does not provide significant citation and includes an accuracy disclaimer.

Check the information you find here against other sources! See for a more well documented source.

Virtual Religion Index
Religion on the Web 
(Wabash Center)
These sites are actually INDEXES of other sites. Indexes serve to guide people to available information. They do not, however, gaurantee credibility.

Be sure you consider the credibility of the sites you access through these indexes on their own merits, rather than on the reputation of the indexer.


Check out these websites!

The Association of Religious Data Archives
Housed and hosted by an association of major universities and their affiliates, this resource offers "democratized" access to information on religions in America.  The site features a variety of interesting tools for both exploration and research.

Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs
Offers an overview of major religious traditions and their role in politics and society around the world.  Film discussion guides to a number of cinematic movies dealing with religion are excellent.

A great collection of resources designed to be a "destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality and to explore and experience the world's beliefs."  Features faith-based news (click on channels), topics, and a religions library of background information.

The Pluralism Project
From Harvard University, this two-decade long project engages students in documenting and studying the religious diversity in the United States, exploring the ramifications of this on our culture and on world religions. Check out the section, On Common Ground, for insight into specific religions.

Religion and Ethics News Weekly (PBS)
"News coverage and analysis of national and international events in the ever-changing religious world" View current news or search by topic  Check out their multi-faith calendar of religious events and festivals.
A collaborative project published by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, the site seeks to promote religious tolerance by disseminating "accurate religious information," exposing "religious fraud, hatred and misinformation," and reviewing current controversies with the religious world. The authors of this site provide in-text citations and reference lists.

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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