Using the Topic Search in the Theological Journals

In Monday’s blog post we looked at some ways you can use the author field to find articles written by a particular person in the Theological Journals. As helpful as that is, you likely don’t always go hunting for articles with a particular author in mind. More often you’re probably interested in finding articles that relate to a specific topic you’re studying. This is where the topic search is very helpful.

Every article’s title, subtitle, and main headings have been tagged as topics, so topic searches in the Theological Journals function much like a field search would (i.e., searching only certain portions of text within a larger unit). So a search for topic(justification) limits the search to just the articles’ titles, subtitles, and headings and turns up 65 articles. This kind of searching enables you to easily generate a list of very relevant search results rather than having to work through every article that simply mentions the word justification.

But what if you want to be even more specific in your topic searching? Topic searching in the Theological Journals does not support multiple word topics, so you couldn’t do topic("justification by faith"), even though there are articles with that exact phrase in their titles and headings. Do you have to wade through all 65 hits you got from the topic(justification) search? Fortunately, there is another way to be more precise in the your topic searching.

To find articles containing both "justification" and "faith," you would simply use the search topic(justification) topic(faith).

Instead of 65 articles, we get 22.

You can use as many topics in a single search as you want, enabling you to be as precise as you want. For example, topic(justification) topic(faith) topic(works) would really narrow your results down, turning up a single article ("’A Right Strawy Epistle’: Reformation Perspectives on James" by Timothy George) that contains these three words in one of its headings: "For James ‘Justification by Works’ Refers to the Demonstration of Faith in Deeds of Love." So you can easily be as broad or as narrow as you want as you search the Theological Journals.

Using the topic search like this can also be a quick way to look up a particular article when you don’t know the precise title or location. Let’s say you’re looking for a particular article by Douglas Moo, and you know it has "works" and "law" in the title, but you can’t remember the exact wording or where it’s located. You could do author:moo, which gives you 8 articles in under 10 seconds, or you could do topic(works) topic(law) and get 6 articles in under 5 seconds. Either way you have what you’re looking for very quickly.


  1. Philip Spitzer says

    Are only second level subtitles tagged? Using an excel file I created I came up with 191 total finds for “Justification”, 61 for “Justification” & “Faith” and 4 for “Justification”, “Faith”, and “Works.”

  2. It looks like I never updated my TJL collection to include the new stuff from TJL 10. With my collection updated, here are the numbers I get:
    topic(justification): 76
    topic(justification) topic(faith): 23
    topic(justification) topic(faith) topic(works): 1
    They still doesn’t match your numbers, so I’m not sure if that’s due to certain levels of headings not being tagged or what.
    If you provide me with your 4 hits for “justification”, “faith”, and “works”, that might help us find our answer.

  3. Philip Spitzer says
  4. It appears that not all headings were tagged as topics. I’ll report these and see if they can be updated.
    Thanks for pointing this out.

  5. Jarred Edgecombe says

    I tried out the topic search on the TLJ and it worked great! However, I have the new A.W. Tozer collection, and I haven’t been able to bring up any topics from that collection. I even searched:
    and that search didn’t have any results. Is the A.W. Tozer collection not tagged topically?