CTI Textual Studies
Q & A

T h e o l o g y

Q I am looking for material for a thesis in theology in the areas of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism particularly in regards to Justin Martyr's seed theory.

A The role of the CTI Centre for Textual Studies is not generally to conduct literature searches for researchers. Nevertheless, we reprint the reply we gave to this enquiry as we feel that it contains some generic advice and starting points for using IT to support research.

'Your enquiry is much more general than those we ordinarily handle. However, if we recast your question to read, 'How can information technology help me in looking for material for a thesis on theology in the areas of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism particularly in regards to Justin Martyr's seed theory', then we can offer some useful starting points.

Firstly, any self-respecting researcher will want to search their field for appropriate literature using a range of bibliographic reference databases. These provide fast, search-based access to large quantities of bibliographic references. Some cover a wide spectrum of disciplines whilst others offer in-depth, coverage for a specific area of interest. Some, such as the British Library's Online Public Access Catalogue (http://opac97.bl.uk/) are, as the name suggests, freely available on the WWW. Another such searchable database is COPAC (http://cs6400.mcc.ac.uk/copac/) which provides access to the online catalogues of some of the largest university research libraries in the UK and Ireland. Other bibliographic databases operate on a subscription basis. Your local research library should offer access to a range of these.

Secondly, it is possible to locate a wealth of materials, of varying quality and appropriateness, on the Internet. In contrast to other significant information sources, such as a research library, there is no content-oriented structure implicit in the WWW. So how does one discover useful resources? Two very different strategies are available. The first, and perhaps the most useful in your case, is to visit the type of annotated, structured index of online resources which is available at an academic gateway site. You could do worse than to visit our own comprehensive page of Internet Resources for the Study and Teaching of Theology which is available at http://info.ox.ac.uk/ctitext/theology/index.html . Similar worthy gateway sites sites are the Virtual Religion Index (at Rutgers University) (http://religion.rutgers.edu/links/vrindex.html) and the pages provided by the Yale University Divinity Library at http://www.library.yale.edu/div/electext.htm.

The second strategy available for locating Internet resources is to use a search engine such as AltaVista (http://www.altavista.com) Northern Light (http://www.northernlight.com), Infoseek (http://.infoseek.go.com) and Hotbot (http://www.hotbot.com). Searching for material on the Internet can become a frustrating activity, turning up hundreds upon hundreds of redundant material, unless the researcher becomes adept at employing sophisticated search techniques. For example, when I conducted a basic search through Alta Vista for web pages which contained both Justin and Martyr or Martyr's, I was offered a list of 3508 possible pages. These included everything from papers and course reading lists at University departments to private individuals' homepages, of which there were many, to pages maintained by organisations of many different denominations. Sifting the type of material you might find useful from these 3508 available is a hit-and-miss and a very time-consuming, task. Moreover, when I narrowed the search down to a search for pages containing inclusivism AND Justin AND Martyr I was offered only two 'hits'. One of these was a paper by an academic theologian, the other a privately-maintained homepage. This variety amongst the reources located is typical of the results that search engines will often return. To uncover appropriate resources of a manageable number, (less than 3508 and more than 2!) demands a more refined searching than that which I mention here. You would be well-advised to read and work through one of the many online tutorials in search techniques. An extremely comprehensive guide is offered by the University of California, Berkeley, Library at http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/ToolsTables.html. Ross Tyner, Research Librarian at Canada's Okanagan University College, has written a very useful tutorial, 'Sink or Swim: Internet Search Tools & Techniques', which can be found at http://www.lboro.ac.uk/info/training/finding/sink.htm.

The techniques used to undertake sophisticated searches with search engines are almost identical to those you will need to employ if you are to successfully use bibliographic reference databases. The University of Glasgow Library publishes a very useful 'Introduction to Database Search Skills' at http://www.gla.ac.uk/Library/Docs/Guides/searching.html. I would argue that these skills form part of what you might call a basic electronic literacy for modern researchers. If you are to benefit from the enormous range of electronic resources which might valuably support your research, it will be worth your while to learn and practise them.'


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HTML Author: Stuart Sutherland
Document created: 29 March 1999
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The URL of this document is http://info.ox.ac.uk/ctitext/enquiry/theo04.html