Answered By: Josh Waltman
Last Updated: Feb 02, 2017     Views: 1288

This is a very challenging topic to research using journal articles only, especially "peer reviewed" journal articles as the assignment calls for. Moreover, there are a variety of databases and search methods you will need to use when searching for this topic since there aren't many journal articles out there on it. So, below are several search strategies and suggestions in order to find resources that are relevant.

Before searching for journal articles, though, it would be helpful to familiarize yourself with the issues surrounding the topic. You could use your textbook and class lectures to do this. You can also utilize a number of e-books in our collection to research the topic in order to get a better handle on it. I would recommend:

  • "A History of the Popes" available here
  • "History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity" available online here
  • "A Short History of the Papacy in the Middle Ages" available here

Please check to see if your assignment states that peer-reviewed articles are required. If other scholarly sources are acceptable, you might consider using these books as resources. At the least, these will be helpful in providing information on the topic as you do your research.

As far as searching for articles is concerned, the first database to search for articles is one entitled "JSTOR." To find and use this database, please follow these steps:

  1. Go to the library home page.
  2. Select "Collections" at the top-middle and then choose "Databases" from the box that appears.
  3. Next, click on "J" underneath the heading labeled "Browse by Letter" on the left.
  4. You will then be able to select "JSTOR".
  5. Once in the database, you will want to try searching using search terms that are both broadly relevant and specific to key events, people, and issues. You could search for "papal primary," for instance, but you will also want to search for synonymous phrases like "papal growth". Also, recognize that you can search using synonymous terms. For instance, you could search "papal OR papacy OR popes". Another tip would be to search for events like the "Council of Florence" which is a key event during this time period or you could search for "Leo the Great" who was an important pope during the rise of papal authority during this time.

Here are a few article titles that look like they may be helpful and are accessible through JSTOR:

  • "The Earlier Growth of Papal Jurisdiction"
  • "The Popes and the Constitution in the Eigth Century"
  • "The Problem of Papal Primacy at the Council of Florence"

You might also try searching in the database company called "Ebsco" to find relevant articles. Some of our best religious databases are part of the Ebsco collection of databases.  You can search several of them simultaneously. Here are the instructions:

  1. Go to the library home page. Click on the option “Collections” in the top middle. Then, select “Databases.”
  2. On the next page, click on the link labeled "Ebsco Quick Search," which is underneath the heading "Featured Resources" in the middle of the page.
  3. Now you will see the Ebscohost interface. Click on “Choose databases”.
  4. A box will appear, and you will need to choose the relevant databases for your search. Select the following by clicking on the check box beside them: “Academic Search Complete”, “ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Serials”, “Christianity Periodical Index”, “New Testament Abstracts”, “Old Testament Abstracts”, and “Religion and Philosophy Collection”. Make sure these are the only ones checked and all other databases are unchecked. Then click on “OK.”
  5. Type in your key search terms in the search bar in the top left of the page and then search. As far as search terms, you will want to employ the same sort of strategy that is mentioned above in "number 5" of the "JSTOR" database instructions. Use synonyms and key phrases. Here is an example of general search you might perform. Once you click on it, please note the below instructions before continuing.
  6. Once you get your search results (or select the URL above), you will want to avoid using the limiter that appears on the left labeled "scholarly (peer-reviewed)" as this will remove key articles from your results. For this topic, there may be reputable "scholarly" articles which would be acceptable for the assignment but are not technically "peer-reviewed". So, you will instead want to select the option in the left-hand margin labeled "Academic Articles" to ensure you are getting reputable journal articles, not popular-level articles. This option will be underneath the heading labeled "Source Types" on the left.

Please let us know if you have any questions about these search strategies. The library can be reached via email at or phone at (434) 582-2221.