Online Research

Doing biblical or theological research presents its own unique challenges, and doing this research for distance education courses can present additional obstacles. Particularly, some distance learning students may live quite a distance away from a substantial library or other resources normally provided within a campus environment. If you find yourself in this situation, consider using one or more of the following options to aid your research.

Suggestions for additions or other changes to this page are welcomed here. But I’m gradually integrating this material and a good deal else into a single, unified guide to the Internet as a research library for biblical studies. To get this guide’s latest version, click the button below.

  • Journal Databases: Even if your school’s library is not within reasonable day-trip distance from where you live, as a student at that institution, you may be entitled to use any journal databases to which your institution’s library subscribes. Particularly valuable for biblical or theological research is the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) database to which your institution’s library may have access through a service like EBSCO or FirstSearch. To access these services, go to your institution’s website and locate the library page. These services can help you find a good number of journal articles, many with their full text available for download in PDF or HTML format. EBSCO users of the ATLA database should also find at the top of the EBSCO page a “Scriptures” link. Clicking this link sends users to a page from which they can “drill down” to search for resources that reference a particular biblical text(s). Through services like EBSCO and FirstSearch, you should also be able to request from your institution’s library an ILL of any journal articles that you might need. Frequently, your library may be able to mail or email you these articles once they arrive. If you do decide to use your institutional library’s ILL service, you may want to email them the first time to confirm any special instructions they might have for you to request mail or email delivery of your article once it arrives. When requesting resources through ILL, however, do note that it may take several weeks for the library to receive the article that you requested and send it to you. [Return to top.]
  • Google Scholar: A beta search engine designed especially to find scholarly material on the Internet. Sometimes, if you cannot find a PDF file of an article to download through a service like EBSCO or FirstSearch, Google Scholar may be able to find the article you need on another website. [Return to top.]
  • Other Resources: Some other websites may also provide access or references to resources relevant to certain writing projects
  • Tools and Suggestions for Organizing, Processing, and Communicating Research – For advice about communicating research effectively in an academic essay, please see this site’s posts about writing and the Theological Writing page. For free tools that may help you organize process your research, as well as collaborate with others, in addition to this site’s comments on research, please see the following:
  • Evernote – Evernote has a desktop and a web client that will let you save text and screenshots to your account. Evernote will let you search any text in your account, and it will attempt to recognize text in images (e.g., screenshots) and render this text searchable also. Evernote will also let you share notebooks among a group of collaborators.
  • Dropbox – Dropbox will create a folder on your computers harddisk, and any files that you have moved into this folder Dropbox will automatically backup whenever they are updated and closed again. Dropbox will also let you share and collaboratively edit files with other users. Note: Dropbox does not, however, presently support real-time collaboration. If you and someone else are working on the same file at the same time, Dropbox will save both files separately, and one person will need to review and combine the changes into a single file.
  • FoxIt PDF Reader and PDF X-Change – Both FoxIt and PDF X-Change will let you mark up or annotate PDF documents with things like highlighting, underlining, and text notes.
  • Google Docs – Google Docs is a web application office suite that allows real-time collaboration on documents that can be shared among multiple users. Sharing seems to work best with or other Google Mail addresses. Email accounts are, of course, also available for free.
  • RapidTask – RapidTask is an online to-do list with collaboration and group task assignment capabilities.
  • Zotero – Zotero is a bibliography management tool that currently comes as an extension for the Firefox browser. In the current version, you can import bibliography information directly from library catalogs and journal databases, and you can also create “Groups” to share bibliographic information with a group of collaborators. [Return to top.]