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A Guide to...Papal Documents & Church Research

This guide is a starting point for research focused on the Catholic Church, including its history, its theology, and, most significantly, documents issued by Popes and the various sections of the Roman Curia.

Find Books

Searching for books is often best done by either Keywords or Subject Headings. Start with a Keyword search and identify some relevant books. Then look at the subject headings for those books. You can follow the subject heading links in the catalog to find similar books, or you can use the terms in the subject headings to revise your search strategies.

Keyword Search: 
Pius XII biography 

Subject Headings:

You can try a Subject search in the catalog for...

...A particular pope (for example Pius XII, Pope, 1876-1958)
...A particular Church council (example - Council of Trent (1545-1563)Vatican Council (2nd : 1962-1965))

...Or, another subject representing your topic. For example: 

Catholic Church -- Government.
Encyclicals, Papal.

Popes -- Biography.
Popes -- Temporal power.
Papal States -- History.
Roman question

Print resources on the Papacy can be found in several different areas on the library depending on the focus of the resource (religion, history, etc.). The majority of the library's resources will be located in the following sections, all of which are located on the Mezzanine level of the Dinand Stacks: 

BR160 - BR 1510 Christianity - History  
BX940 - BX1745 Catholic Church - History, including lives of popes.
BX1800 - BX1920   Catholic Church -  Government and organization
DG401 - DG583.8  History of Italy - Medieval and modern Italy, 476-.
DG791 - DG800  History of Italy - Papal States. Holy See. Vatican City.
DG803 - DG817.3   History of Italy - Rome (Modern city).

Books at Dinand Library are arranged by Library of Congress Call Number. Call Numbers are used to find books in the library. Each book is assigned a call number made  up of letters and numbers, which acts like an address and tells you what shelves to look on.

  • Reference Books are in the Main Reading Room. These books must stay in the library.
  • Books whose numbers begin with letters A through G are on the Mezzanine level (1 floor down from the Main Reading Room).
  • Books whose numbers begin with letters H through Z are mostly on the Ground (bottom) level.
  • Books whose numbers begin with are in the Music Library in Brooks Hall.
  • Books whose numbers begin with Q, R, S or are in the Science Library in Swords Hall.

See the handout attached below to learn more about how the library is organized, and where you should begin looking for books.

You can also watch  this video  to learn more about how call numbers work. Or, check out the Library of Congress Classification Outline for a detailed breakdown of our call number system. 

Find Articles

  • You’ll want to use keywords instead of phrases. See if you can express each part of your topic in one or two words. Think of words that are likely to be used as subject keywords or titles.
  • Use "quotes to indicate phrases." Use  AND, OR,to build a more complicated search. 
  • If  your keywords aren’t working, think of synonyms or other ways of phrasing your topic and try those. Also remember alternate spellings. Or, try a less-specific search, with fewer or broader keywords. 

If you are searching for a "known item" (that is, a title and/or author that you already know, rather than searching for any titles on a particular topic), remember: 

  • Search for authors as Lastname, Firstname (for example, "King, Martin Luther" not "Martin Luther King Jr.").
  • If your author name is not turning up any results, try different variations on the name, for example: with or without a middle name/initial; with first initial instead of full first name; or just by last name to start. An author's name may appear differently depending on how they (or the publisher/database) have chosen to list themselves on a given publication. 
  • When searching for titles, using "quotes" around the title will be more likely to bring the item you want to the top of your search results 
  • Most databases can now handle titles beginning with "A" or "The" without too much trouble, but it is sometimes easier to leave articles off when searching. 
  • Most databases can handle punctuation, but it is, again, sometimes easier to leave colons (:) etc. out if you are searching for a title that includes one. 
  • In databases, going into Advanced Search and searching in the specific fields for author or title is often faster and easier. 

Religious Studies Databases

Historical Databases