This guide explains how to start researching your topic.
Encyclopedia and bibliographies give a useful starting point to find background information on your topic. The most useful ones for philosophy are:
If you're looking for a specific aticle or paper, the easiest way to track it down is by using Philpapers. This is a directory of online philosophy articles and books by academic publishers. If the article is available online through the University's subscriptions you'll be able to get it by clicking on the title.
You could also try iDiscover. Select the 'Articles and online resources' radio button, then type a few words from the article's title into the search box. If the article is available online (and many of them are) then you should be able to get to it directly by clicking 'Full text available'. If it isn't online, then iDiscover will tell you where copies of the print journal can be found.
You can see the whole list of journals the university subscribes to via the iDiscover Journal Search. Other useful ways to search for journal articles include Google Scholar, Project Muse and JStor (this only covers some journals).
When you find a useful article, check its list of references to find more information on that topic.
If you're looking for articles on a given topic be careful with your search terms, and try synonyms if you're not getting the results you hoped for. You can:
Alternatively you can search a database which just covers philosophy articles:
However, with Google Scholar it can be very difficult to ensure that you don't find far too much irrelevant material.
This might be the whole topic of your research or just one area or argument.
Identify the keywords and phrases from your sentence or question.
Think of possible synonyms, variant spellings and related terms for each of your key concepts. Consider whether there are useful broader and narrower terms relating to your topic. Encyclopedia and dictionaries can be helpful to identify useful terms.
You might find too many references on your topic, so think about ways that you could limit your search. Most databases will allow you to limit your search in these ways:
More information on Philosophy eresources is available here.
You can use certain search commands that will improve the effectiveness of your search in most databases. Check the database help screens for more information.
Use quotation (speech) marks to search for phrases where word need to appear next to each other (e.g. specific terminology, title of books and names). "Raven paradox"
Use a truncation symbol (*) to search for variant spellings and word endings e.g. ethic* finds ‘ethic’, ‘ethics’, ‘ethical’...etc.
Use a wildcard symbol (?) to replace any single letter within or at the end of a word to search for variant spellings of words or plurals. e.g. Globali?ation’ finds British or American spelling
Use search operators (also called Boolean operators) to combine your search terms. Type the operators in capitals.
AND (or +) combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms.
OR combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. (Philpapers uses | instead)
NOT (or -) excludes a term, but if you're not careful you can also exclude useful items.
Words representing the same concept should be bracketed and linked with OR. Groups of bracketed terms can then be linked with AND e.g. (ethics OR morals) AND animals
Once you've found some useful articles and assessed these, you may have to search again using different terms or a different database.
If the results are not on target you can:
Examples of good extended essays and dissertations are available to consult in the library. Please ask for them at the library issue desk.
Some examples of dissertations which were awarded Firsts are available here.
For any material you consult it is a good idea to record what you find, and where and when you found it. This will make it easier to acknowledge your sources correctly and retrace your steps if you need to.
For more guidance see the Referencing guide.