What's the Difference Between JSTOR and the ATLA Religion Database?

July 29, 2016

JSTOR (short for "journal storage") is an online archive of hundreds of the most highly respected academic journals in many academic disciplines, including 41 journals in its religion collection.

The American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Religion Database covers more than 700 journals in religion and theology, with full-text access to more than 100 titles that were digitized through the ATLASerials (ATLAS) Online project.

These collections vary greatly in size, and there are other significant differences to note:

Where are the latest issues? The latest three to five years of many journals in JSTOR are unavailable. The ATLA Religion Database includes current issues, with coverage back to 1881.

How do I browse scholarship on a topic? The ATLA Religion Database adds human-generated keywords to describe the general subject of each article; JSTOR's article citations do not. In the ATLA Religion Database, for example, you may search for information about Buddhist ethics and easily find more than 600 citations, including an essay comparing Levinas and Śāntideva, although your search words do not literally appear as a phrase in the text. This type of search simply cannot be done in JSTOR.

How do I find obscure topics? In JSTOR, you may find obscure words and phrases in full text. This is an excellent option if, for example, you are studying the introduction of the term "postmodern" in the Harvard Theological Review. In general, however, if you often rely on JSTOR, you may be missing a wider range of literature.

Which should I use? You should select the tool or tools that fit your research objectives, rather than have strict devotion to one tool in all situations. Harvard students, faculty, and staff have access to hundreds of specialized search engines for finding scholarly articles.