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Check list

Check list for critical research on religious diversity


  1. What are the operational terms of your project (religious diversity, religious pluralism, religious plurality, religious field, multi-religious society, multi-faith, multiculturalism, superdiversity or other)? Is religion central or peripheral to your study?   
  2. How do you define the term(s) and if you use more terms how do they relate to each other?
  3. How is ‘religious’ understood? In terms of beliefs, practices, values, symbols, institutions?
  4. What are the boundaries of the concept? And how do you deal with terms such as spirituality?
  5. Is your terminology/definition/categorization based on emic and/or etic perspective?
  6. Are you including groups resisting the designation as religious?


  1. What methods are you using to study religious diversity? Are you using quantitative data, qualitative data, or micro, macro, longitudinal style/ multi-sited, comparisons?
  2. What is the unit of analysis of your research? (Individuals, worship places, organisations, rituals…)
  3. How do these methods inform each other? Could the use of mixed methods or innovative methods be of help?
  4. What are you finding to be the strengths and weaknesses of these methods for your research?
  5. How does your research treat individuals who profess multiple religious affiliations and those who conflate their religion with their national or ethnic identity? What do you consider a member of a particular religion and what criteria do you use for it?
  6. How does your research treat intra-religious differences?
  7. Does your research take into account different “spokespersons” or interlocutors for religious organisations? Is there any gender or age bias? How do you deal with it?
  8. How does your choice of focusing on majority or minority religion(s) influence your choice of methods?
  9. In what ways do you method reckon with difficulties of accessing minority groups? And of accessing majority groups?
  10. Do you take into account issues of confidentiality? How do you deal with it?


  1. What is the scope of the study (in terms of space and time)? Does your data cover the scope sufficiently? Which are the criteria used to decide the scope of the research?  
  2. What is the political context? Who holds an interest in religious diversity? Is religious diversity a controversial subject?
  3. How does changing understanding of private/public religion inform your study?
  4. What is the role of the media in forming categories of religious diversity?
  5. What is the role of the academia in forming categories of religious diversity?
  6. What is the role of the state, law and human rights in forming categories of religious diversity? Do you for instance use census data or other types of ‘official data’?
  7. How does conceptualization/categorization of religious diversity have impact on the empirical field of religious diversity?


  1. Does the research focus on dominant groups or does it include less visible groups and organizations with ambiguous religious identity?
  2. What limitations and relationships have you assumed when using broad categories to define religious groups such as Buddhist, Christian and Muslim?
  3. How are unbelief/non religion/spirituality being assessed? Are these phenomena included in your understanding of religious diversity?
  4. Does your research focus with the differences between religious groups or also on commonalities?


  1. Beyond diversity which operational concepts (identity, ethnicity, race, cosmopolitanism, secularization, citizenship, social cohesion) are you using?
  2. Is your research informed by human rights discourses and law?
  3. Are new categories and/or definitions of religion necessary?

Funding/institutional logistics

  1. Is there pre-existing research on religious diversity in your area (government , policy organization, academic)?
  2. Are you using the same categories as this research?
  3. Does the way your research is funded set limitations for your study? Does it influence the perception of and reaction vis-à-vis the project by the field?
  4. How do you negotiate your accesses to the research field? How does the funding/institutional logic affect the relationship of the researcher with the researched?


  1. What is the overall aim of your study?
  2. How will it be disseminated?
  3. What will be the consequences for the people you study in terms of for instance inter-religious relations, government policy, educational reform, resource development, media access and representation, religious literacy?
  4. Does your work on religious diversity have implications that need ethical consideration?
  5. Have you planned to offer something in return to the researched field?