How to Locate Existing Information


More research concerning unreached peoples is becoming available daily, much of it on the World Wide Web. We have prepared several lists of WEB sites rich in unreached people information which may be accessed at Internet/Email<> Information. A detailed description of how to find additional research from university library sites and other sources is also available at the Brigada WEB site.


If you have access to a large library, here are some aids to making the most of that resource. University libraries, particularly those with a strong program in the social sciences and/or international affairs generally have the most detailed information.

1. Before going to the library:
Perhaps the essential first tool is Operation World, Patrick Johnstone, editor. You may find this popular book at your local Christian bookstore or order it from the William Carey Library of the U.S. Center for World Mission (1-800-MISSION for $10.00 each, plus $2 handling per order). Then, check the Bethany<> Unreached People Prayer Project to find out if a prayer profile already exists.

2. Library Tools:
Acquaint yourself with the librarian and the library resources, especially the emphasis and holdings in the areas of:
  • Periodicals (Use the Reader's Guide, Christian Periodical Index and Social Sciences Index and especially note entries for anthropological journals.)
  • Reference section (See Library<> Research Tools for a list.)
  • Cataloguing system (On computer or card catalog.)
  • Government documents
  • Special collections
  • 3. Helpful Hints for Searching the Library:
    Unless the library just happens to have a special collection dedicated to your people group or geographical region, you will probably need to focus on the periodicals and the catalog system. The periodicals are important for two reasons--few ethnic groups ever have whole books dedicated to them, and most books are out of date almost before they are published. Walk through the periodical room and browse through the titles, especially the section on anthropology. When you find a journal that looks promising, pull out several of the more recent volumes and find a good seat! Search the table of contents for key words relating to your segment. This is a lengthy process and you will probably need to make several long visits to the library.

    Keep a list of the journals in which you have found articles. Note the full description of any references listed at the end of such articles and try to locate them. Note the authors who have contributed, and then check out what other titles they have done. Authors tend to specialize on a group or location. Do not assume that because the title of a journal is in French or Dutch that the articles are in that language. Some of the best English articles on Indonesia can be found in French and Dutch journals.

    In deciding what articles to read, start with a specific item and be small in scope. After going through what you can find on the specific, expand and go through the process again. This process also applies for catalog searches. For example, if you want something on the Bugis of Indonesia, start only with material with their name on it. Then expand and begin to look for material on Java or Sulawesi or Celebes, and then on to Indonesia, and even social sciences of South East Asia. Remember that many nations/places have had name changes in recent times. Look up the old names as well as the new. Success will come as you continue to look. Don't be hasty in giving up the search!

    Government documents and publications from special interest groups can also be valuable sources of information. However, care needs to be taken in interpreting the information, as often governments have vested interests in the way the information is gathered and what is actually presented. Special interest groups also have a tendency to exaggerate their particular focus so the material needs to be evaluated carefully.

    The most valuable government documents are usually census data and publications directed at foreign investors. Census data is tedious, but if worked through carefully a great deal of insight can be gained. In digesting government statistics the important question to ask is in terms of density and frequency. Density asks the question, "Is 1000 miles of paved road a lot or a little in this particular situation?" Frequency asks the question, "How many television sets does this make per capita?" Frequency and density are only measures of public use and the degree to which needs are met. Do not become more concerned about the method of measurement than the actual situation.

    Determine a search procedure. You will use this procedure in each of the following areas. It is important to look for (or at least keep an eye out for) information on more than one group at a time. Most people groups interact with others or are part of a larger cluster of people, so you will usually come across associated material during your search. Taking note of it will save a lot of time in the future. Unless you are looking for a large group, it is unlikely that you will find what you want immediately because the information will be hidden in some volume or periodical. Remember that your choice of key words on which to base the search is critical, and the more you learn about a group the more key words you will have to search with. Start with what you know and continually expand.

    Talk to the reference librarian and explain what you are looking for and what you have already found. The more you know, the more the librarian can help you. Often certain collections of books are kept in locations that will require librarian assistance. If you have more money than time, you may be able to hire a libararian to do research for you, just as doctoral candidates sometimes do.

    Be aware that often the greatest amount of useful data is found only after you have exhausted the standard sources.

    4. Evaluating the Information:
    When you have found some useful information on a particular people, it would probably be most convenient to photocopy it for later study at your own leisure. When photocopying material, please ensure that you also copy the title page of the reference along with publication information. This is necessary if you wish to go back to the reference for further information, compare conflicting information, or support your conclusions.

    The information you gather will provide a picture of the particular people. It may be a little sketchy depending on  how hidden the group is. As you read, keep in mind some basic issues such as:

    Thanks to Allan Starling, Gospel Recordings, Inc., for permission to use his material on library research as the basis for this article.

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