Doing Research In Philosophy

Whether you need to do research for a paper or are just interested in a particular issue, there are a lot of resources for doing research in philosophy. We'll begin with a few places to get basic overviews of an issue. Doing this can be helpful when you are first thinking about writing on a particular topic and want a brief overview of the issues.  Then we'll look at the two main resources you have for doing more detailed research: the library and the internet.

Places to get a quick, basic overview of a philosophical issue:

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - available on the internet, the Encyclopedia has numerous articles on a variety of philosophical issues.

The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by Robert Audi, (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1995). This is available in the reference section of the Dupre Library, call number B41.C35 1995. The Philosophy Department Library also has a copy. 

The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Paul Edwards (1967) - a bit dated now but an excellent general reference work. It's in the Reference Section on the First Floor of Dupre Library, call number B41.E5.

The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, edited by Ted Honderich (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995) is also useful. It's in the Reference Section on the First Floor of Dupre Library, call number B51.O94 1995.

My Philosophy Links Page contains links to a number of web sites most of which are written at an introductory level.

Local Library Resources:

How to find philosophy articles at the Dupre Library.
The main index for philosophy articles published in philosophy journals is The Philosopher's Index. It's available online via Dupre Library's databases page at Dupre also has a hard copy version in the Reference Section on the first floor of Dupre Library, call number Z7125.P452. It also indexes philosophy books.

Professor Peter Suber gives some detailed information about using the Philosopher's Index.

How to find philosophy books at Dupre Library.
Obviously, the place to begin is the online catalog, LIBIS. This can be accessed from any computer by going to the Dupre Library home page. Once you've found some books, it's a good idea to browse around where you found them looking for other books that might be useful.

Most philosophy books fall under the "B" call numbers which are up on the third floor of Dupre. However, depending on the subject, relevant philosophy books can be found under almost any heading.

How to get books and articles from university libraries around the country.
Use the Dupre Libraries Interlibrary Loan Service. However, keep in mind that it may take 2-4 weeks to get a book or article and that, while they get books for free, incredibly, they charge for articles. Click here for their home page, which gives detailed information on using ILL.

Is the Lafayette Public Library worth visiting?
Probably not as far as philosophical research is concerned. They have very few philosophy books, and most are very basic. Their books are organized under the Dewey Decimal system, and philosophy books have call numbers in the 100s. The main library is located at 301 W. Congress St. You can also search their catalog online. See the Lafayette Public Library homepage to do so.
Is the LSU library in Baton Rouge worth a visit?
Their selection of journals and books is somewhat better than Dupre. You can search the LSU Library Catalog online.
Boy, philosophy books are great. Where can I buy some?
Barnes and Noble, at 5705 Johnston St., is the only bookstore within a hundred miles of Lafayette that carries anything resembling a decent selection of philosophy books. However, you can also purchase new and used books via the internet. See my Bookhound Page for an extensive list of resources.
OK, I can find the books and articles, but which ones are the good ones?
First, you want to make sure the thing was written by someone with a Ph.D. in philosophy. But, while this is a minimum requirement, it's no guarantee that they've got it right. I have a brief list of philosophy books I'd recommend on my Favorite Books page which would be worth looking at. Also, it's a good idea to ask your instructor which books or authors he or she would recommend.

Resources On The Internet:

Finding web pages about your topic.
My Philosophy Links Page contains links to a number of web sites most of which are written at an introductory level. The Philosophy Search Engines and Links section lists a number of links sites devoted to philosophy. 

Finding full-text philosophy articles placed online by philosophy professors.

To find philosophy articles available on the internet, see the Guides to Contemporary Philosophy Papers Online section of my Philosophy Links Page.
Finding full-text philosophy articles in online databases subscribed to by the Dupre library.
A few of the databases subscribed to by the Dupre Library include philosophy journals. To find these databases, go to the Dupre Library Online Periodical Databases Page.

Reading Scientific Papers:

Sometimes, you will want to look at scientific research to help resolve a philosophical issue. This research might involves questions such as whether the death penalty deters crime, or whether abortion has any harmful physical effects, etc. If this sort of research may be relevant to the topics we are discussing in a course, I will go over how to find professional journals, etc.,  in class (be sure to keep in mind all the criteria for appeal to experts given in class!). Since these papers are sometimes quite technical, reading them can be daunting. The American Society of Plant Biologists provides a useful guide in pdf form entitled How to Read a Scientific Paper. This covers enough of the basics to help you understand what a research article is saying.


Additional resources
Anthony J. Graysbosch, et al, The Philosophy Student Writer's Manual, (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2003) - Part II contains some brief advice on doing philosophical research.