Methods in the Study of Religion: Intro

This guide is designed to assist students in Methods in the Study of Religion (REL W4905) course, taught at Barnard College by Najam Haider

Course Description and Structure

In their research, scholars of religion employ a variety of methods to analyze “texts” ranging from historical documents and objects of visual culture (e.g., icons, monuments, architectural sites, paintings, photographs) to ritual practices.  This course acquaints students with both the methods and the materials utilized in the field of religious studies.  Through guided exercises, students learn research skills for locating and identifying primary and secondary sources related to religion in different times and places. They also evaluate articles from a range of scholarly journals in order to understand the dominant modes for explaining/analyzing primary sources.  Finally, students apply these scholarly frameworks to a series of primary sources.  While required for Religion majors preparing to write senior thesis, this class is also open to students interested in developing their ability to engage with and analyze primary sources.


Course Objectives:

(a) Become acquainted with the varying research methods associated with religious studies

(b) Demonstrate mastery of a variety of research approaches from literary analysis and exegesis to ethnography

(c) Identify and critically analyze a range of primary sources including conversion narratives, travel chronicles, and canonical religious texts

(d) Engage with central scholarly debates in religious studies as revealed in academic peer-reviewed journals and supported by emerging initiatives in the digital humanities


Workshop Outcomes:

1. You will understand what an archive is and what it may include;

2. You will be able to read and understand archival finding aids;

3. You will be able to cite an archival source;

4. You will see how archives can answer some research questions but not others!