Getting Started

There are two ways to contribute to the DRH. You can:

  • create a new entry based on your own scholarly expertise,
  • comment on entries by using our Affirm/Challenge/Comment feature on any existing answer.

Creating an Entry

Step 1: Define the details of your entry

Create a name for the religious group you have chosen

What is the name (or names) of the religious group that is your focus? (By “religious group” we mean a community or network of people who share common practices, beliefs, and/or institutions, but who are not necessarily conscious members of an explicitly recognized group; e.g. church, monastery, religious commune, religious intellectual community, sect, or other religious group.) The best names for religious groups are often quite descriptive (e.g. Pauline Christianity) and will be easy for other scholars in your field to guess immediately which population and tradition you are envisioning. You will be able to tag your group with formal tradition designations (e.g. Buddhism, Assyrian Religions) from our Tree of Religious Groups.

Write a brief description of the religious group

Explain the parameters you used to delineate the religious group of your choice. Here are some examples:

Robyn Walsh, for "Literate Religious Specialist"

A Literate Religious Specialist (LRS) is a figure who offers an interpretation of literature or other texts with reference to god/the gods or related supernatural agents for the purpose of generating some form of social capital or profit. In the case of the Greco-Roman world, a LRS it a member of an elite literate class, pervasive throughout the ancient Mediterranean, whose knowledge of literate and intellectual conventions (e.g., rhetoric, interpretation, allegory) allows them both to offer their unique interpretations of religious literature and other texts, and to interact with other such specialists within a larger network of cultural producers.

Edward Slingerland, for "Warring States Confucian Thought"

This is a somewhat artificial "group." The aim of this entry is to document a set of ideas circulating in Warring States China, and exemplified in a group of elite received texts (notably, the Analects, Mencius and Xunzi), supplemented by some recently-discovered archeological texts. The map is suggestive only, covering an area where it is likely these texts circulated. The number of adherents is almost entirely made up, being extremely hard to estimate. The authors of these texts clearly had identified disciples or followers, but never constituted a large-scale, clearly-demarcated group. On the other hand, the ideas were widely circulated and influential.

Define a time range

The purpose of the time range for your religious group is to indicate the period during which one finds general consistency of beliefs and practices, specifically those beliefs and practices targeted by the database questions (see a draft of them by clicking here). Keep in mind that you can specify more limited or more expansive time ranges for individual questions if necessary.

Select a type or category of entry

The default, and currently only, option here is “religion.” Those interested in perusing answers or questionnaires for historical polities or natural geographic areas should write to us at We are hoping to re-introduce a Polity poll in the near future.

Select the status of participants

Choose from three status options for the participants in your religious group: elite, religious specialists, or non-elite. You may choose to create a group that targets one, two, or all three of these sub-groups, as is appropriate. “Elite” refers to the social elite, or those people seen as having the most power and influence in a society, especially on account of their wealth or privilege. “Religious specialists” may include shamans, priests, ascetics, or any other class of individual recognized as having an exceptional role in relation either to the divine or within a religious tradition (they need not be full-time). “Non-elite” refers to individuals who are in neither of these categories, i.e. lay populations. “Non-elite” is also the default choice for societies without distinctions in status of participants.

Step 2: Add organizational tags to your group

Select those tags or labels that best describe or encompass your religious group. These tags serve an organizational function, not an analytical one. They will help other contributors who are browsing the entries in the Database of Religious History find your contribution. You can add your own tags within the tree, though any added tags are subject to the approval of our regional editors. If you would like to suggest another change to be made to the list of tags, please write to us at or write to the editor with whom you are in contact.

Step 3: Define a map

The purpose of the map for your religious group is to indicate the region across which there is general consistency of beliefs and practices among adherents, specifically those beliefs and practices targeted by the database questions. Keep in mind that you can specify a more limited or more expansive geographical range for individual variables if necessary.

There are four ways to define your map:

  • Draw a map using our polygon tool. Give your map a name (e.g. City of Rome) and provide a description (e.g. the city of Rome as delineated by the Servian Walls). Then simply point and click on the map to create as many or as few (at least three) vertices as are required to delineate an appropriate space on the map. Be sure to “close” the polygon by clicking on the first vertex as your last point.
  • Use an existing map. Search for pre-existing region files by using the polygon tool to plot points on the map. This will filter out all region files except those that fall within the zone you drawn. Alternatively, filter by keyword.
  • Upload a map file. The DRH supports file formats of Google Maps, ArcGIS, and similar suites (.kml, .shp).
  • Ask for our help. If you have any trouble with the three options above, we will be happy to create a map for you. Simply describe the region meant to be circumscribed by your polygon, upload a photo or PDF of the map you would like to use, or direct us to an online or print publication (including page number and figure number where appropriate) to use to create your map for you.

Step 4: Begin answering the questionnaire

At this point you’re ready to begin answering the questions on the questionnaire. Begin with filling out standard sources which serve as background for your entry and then move the various sections of poll. All of your answers are saved automatically, so you can always take a break and come back to pick up where you left off. When you record an answer for your entry try and leave some clarifying comments and references in the comments box for each answer to help the reader understand your justification for choosing an answer.

Step 5: Publish your Entry

Once you’ve exhausted your source material and expertise in answering as much of the poll as you can, you’re ready to publish your entry and make it available on the DRH. At this point it’s worth having a quick conversation with your editor to see what they think of your progress.