Once you have at least a question and perhaps a working hypothesis along with a few tentative reasons for supporting it, you can start looking for the data you’ll need to support your reasons and test your hypothesis.*
Researchers in Stone-Campbell studies will find very helpful one online tool designed to facilitate this kind of search. Restoration Serials Index is an on-going collaborative effort across many libraries and archives affiliated with the Churches of Christ and Christian Churches. Begun in 1974, RSI relies on the efforts of dozens of librarians and interested volunteers to index serial literature (periodicals of many kinds, from weeklies to monthlies to quarterlies and the occasional recurring special event such as a lectureship). For many years the fruit of this labor was available only in print volumes issued on a triennial basis. For over a dozen years it has been available on-line.
The project’s four goals are:
–to facilitate access to periodical literature produced by members of the Churches of Christ and historically related groups
–to encourage and facilitate scholarly research about Biblical teachings and restoration of New Testament Christianity
–to document the broad spectrum of thought among Churches of Christ and historically related groups stemming from the nineteenth-century movement to restore and unify the church of the New testament
–to serve the needs of those who have an interest in what adherents of these groups are thing and saying**
The online index now covers dozens of periodicals, with coverage (in places) from 1940 to the present, all indexed by author, title and subject. A particular value of RSI for researchers is the level of expertise behind the index. Operating out of expertise and training in the field of information science, they understand the value of indexing thoroughly, accurately, consistently and with a standard approach across all journals. The compilers have provided reliable ways to access the content of these journals. Search by author, subject, keyword and more, to locate information that could be useful for your project.
When you need specific information from an author, or a particular article on a question or a range of articles on a topic across time, RSI will reward your search. This the best way to currently access the content of these periodicals, short of turning page-by-page. While RSI does not offer full-text content, it does a fine job of getting you a good ways down that road. The journals indexed in RSI are widely available and your local library can assist through its InterLibrary Loan department.
*Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, 7th ed., ed. Wayne C. Booth et al. (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2007), 24.
**Marsha Harper, Melissa Johnson, Erma Jean Loveland, Craig Churchill, Eds. Restoration Serials Index: A Subject and Author Index to Selected Periodicals and Lectureships, 2000. (Abilene: Christian College Librarians, 2001), iii.