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Gen Ed 1123: Islam and Politics in the Modern Middle East


temple  baal shamin palmyra syria 

Temple of  Baalshamin,  Palmyra (Syria).

This 2000 year old edifice, one of the jewels of ancient architecture and part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, was destroyed by the Islamic State, sometime between May 2015 (when IS took control of the Syrian city) and Sunday, August 23, 2015, when Western news outlets reported that it had been blown up.  

Subsequently, ISIS released photos of the destruction on social media.  Photos courtesy of The Guardian.

Librarians' Core Database List for SW 54


For research in religion, history, politics, and on the Middle East region more broadly, these library databases provide the most reliable, accurate, and comprehensive record of the books scholars are publishing and the ideas they're debating and discussing in important and influential journals. 

The items they identify are "premium content" -- and by and large, that means you won't ever be able to get free access to them via Google Scholar or by simply searching on the "open" web

Additional Database Suggestions, by Subject

Africa Wide Information

A multidisciplinary database that brings together research on the continent in its many forms (journals, books, conference proceedings, etc.). Essential for those interested in research on Africa from multidisciplinary perspectives.

Index Islamicus

A database that identifies scholarship produced in European languages in all disciplines related to Islam and the Muslim world, current and historical. Geographically, its coverage extends beyond the Middle East, ito also include research on the other main Muslim areas of Asia and Africa, plus Muslim minorities elsewhere. Produced by SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

ABSEES [American Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies

Includes some scholarship on Turkey and the Ottoman Empire.

International Political Science Abstracts

A database that identifies the political science literature published in journals around the world. Articles are always accompanied by an English language summary, even if the article itself is not.

Military and Government Collection

A collection of magazines, news sources (including the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs), academic journals and other content, such as country reports. Military history, military policy, military sciences and military technology are major emphases.

PAIS International [Public Affairs Information Services]

A database for identifying the published academic literature on public and social policy issues around the globe.



Philosopher's Index

The well-respected database for research on and about philosophers (including many political and religious thinkers), as well as on all branches of philosophy, ancient to current.


A larger and more comprehensive online database than Philosopher's Index, but its linked full text is still somewhat spotty. 

Religious and Theological Abstracts 

Although a smaller resource than the ATLA Religion Database (see above), RTA covers some journals that ATLA does not.  Its strength is also in its helpful, objective summaries of the articles and other research materials it contains. To identify full-text availability for materials that you find here, enter the article title and author (or some combination of the two in HOLLIS+.  Or ask a librarian about your access options.


Reports and Think Tank Publications


Council on Foreign Relations: Middle East and North Africa

An independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher  founded in 1921, the CFR is dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. Materials available include expert analysis, books, articles, interviews, timelines, podcasts, and more.


CIAO [Columbia International Affairs Online]

CIAO is the most comprehensive source for theory and research in international affairs. It publishes a wide range of scholarship from 1991 onward that includes working papers from university research institutes, occasional papers series from NGOs, foundation-funded research projects, proceedings from conferences, books, journals and policy briefs.

View CIAO contents on the Middle East, filtered by political geography.

International Crisis Group Reports and Briefings

The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based NGO founded in 1995, is generally regarded as the world's leading source of information, analysis and policy advice on preventing and resolving deadly conflict. Crisis Group’s analysts are drawn mostly from experienced former diplomats, journalists, academics and NGO staff, often leading world experts in their areas. ICG field analysts produce research briefings and reports explaining the whys and hows of crisis hotspots, provide policy prescriptions and advocate for interventions. The ICG website allows you to browse by Middle East  region (like the Middle East and North Africa), search by publication type, view and download multimedia presentations.  Some information available in Arabic as well as English.



A Harvard Library-owned database that provides timely, updated information from nearly 500 public policy think tanks, non-governmental organizations, research institutes, university centers, advocacy groups, and other entities. Among these are Brookings Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Middle East Research Council,  and the U.S. Institute of Peace. 

Many of these publications are not ever published in scholarly journals, though they contribute to and influence policy research and discussion, and can be labor-intensive to track down individually.

Putting Sources to Work: Kinds of Evidence

The experts at the Harvard Writing Program offer some succinct tips for thinking about the purposes that sources can serve within a paper.

Hover over each tip for information on common ways of using sources to:

1. Establish what’s at stake.
2. Provide context.
3. Provide support.
4. Provide keywords.
5. Provide counter-argument.
6. Advance your argument.
7. Complicate your argument.

Source: Harvard Writes: Evidence & Analysis
Your course Writing Guide also has good information on how to work with secondary sources [p.5.]