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Guide to Research and Writing for the Academic Study of Religion

Web Directories

Another way to find information on the Internet is to use directories. Directories differ from search engines in a few major ways though the differences between them are becoming more and more blurred. Directories are compiled by people rather than automated spiders. The Web pages selected are then catalogued by subject and organized into information hierarchies. When using a directory, you generally browse their information hierarchies starting with the most general area of your topic and working your way through the pyramid closer and closer to your specific subject. For instance, if you were searching for information on the Kabbalah, you would first select the general topic (usually religion), then a more specific topic (such as Judaism) and continue down until you found the topic you were looking for. Some directories, however, do have search capabilities as well which will be covered shortly.


Just as the information you retrieve from search engines is affected by the way they function, so is the information in directories. Important characteristics of a directory:

  • Context
    Web pages are evaluated and catalogued to be included in the directory so virtually all information will be in its appropriate context. This means that if you are looking for Edward Said you will not find Web pages in which something was said by Edward. However, how topics are organized varies from directory to directory so you may have to try a few different routes before finding your topic. For instance, religion is under society in the WWW Virtual Library ( .
  • Quality
    The Web pages in directories are all reviewed and evaluated by the people creating the directory. Often directories are created by subject experts but not always. Regardless, you will retrieve fewer poor quality Web pages with a directory than with a search engine, but that doesn't mean they will be academically sound. Remember to evaluate Web pages independently before using them!
  • Browse Capabilities
    A directory is structured in a way that allows you to browse through a topic. This can be very useful when you want to get an overview of a topic or come up with ideas for research in a particular area.
  • Currency
    Human powered directories are never as current as search engines as they simply cannot keep up. There will be more broken links in directories than you will get in a search engine and no information at all if you are looking for breaking news.
  • Size
    Directories have fewer Web pages catalogued than search engines since each page has to be evaluated and catalogued individually, however, remember that most of the pages will be of better quality.
  • Annotation
    Some directories annotate their web pages which allows you to make a quick judgment about whether or not the Web page is worth investigating further.


 TIP - If there is a search box, you may find this an easier way to locate directory listings on your topic.


It is important to evaluate  directories. There are many different types of directories ranging from the commercial to the professional and the academic.   DMOZ  is a directory that was maintained by volunteers  as as "the definitive catalog of the web" up to 2017.  There is also Best of the Web.

Subject-Specific Directories

Some directories are focused entirely on one topic and these are likely to be your best bet for finding sources for research. Some of these directories can provide you with quick links to primary resources, secondary resources, bibliographies, teaching and study material, newsgroups, religious organizations, and databases (e.g. article indexes).

Keep in mind that sometimes directories in fields related to religious studies can be helpful. For instance, a more general humanities directory such as Voice of the Shuttle ( may be useful, especially when you are doing a topic that straddles disciplinary boundaries.   The following religious studies directories are a great place to start:

Finding Directories

There are a few other ways to find directories on the Web:

  • Search Engine
    Use a keyword for your general topic as well as a keyword such as guide, directory, or gateway. e.g. Confucianism and (guide or directory or gateway)
  • Directories
    Use one of the general academic directories and look for guides, directories or gateways.