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Please use our new Research Guides at

Be sure to update any links or bookmarks to point to the new guides.

For more assistance, contact: Elise Ferer, Liaison Librarian, 245-1085.


Research Essentials

How to create bibliographies, identify search terms, and find good sources.

What is a Good Source?

During the course of your research, it is important to consult a variety of sources, including print and digital. On-line resources are quick and convenient in that they can be accessed outside the library, but they do not represent the complete range of information available in any discipline. Many of the rich resources owned by the Library, both primary and secondary, are available in print. A librarian can help you locate appropriate resources for your topic.

Good researchers don't ignore a possible location or lead. Some sources you discover may not be available in Dickinson's collection. When beginning the research process, be sure to build in enough time to order materials through Interlibrary Loan.

A good researcher is defined by the willingness and ability to follow leads and being able to quickly evaluate a source for its reliability and usefulness. Clues to important and reliable information come from many places. Secondary sources are often good places to start the research project, as their footnotes and bibliographies can provide you with leads to primary sources and other important secondary works.

Primary and Secondary Sources

A primary source is an account by an eyewitness or the first recorder of an event - or documents produced at the time an event occurred. A primary source may be printed or electronic material and can include diaries, letters, memoirs, personal papers, public documents, field research reports, minutes of meetings, news footage, newspaper articles, speeches, oral histories. Primary source material can also include creative works such as poetry, music, or art, and artifacts such as pottery, furniture, and buildings. Dickinson College owns primary material in fields such as Native American and scientific history, and the history of Dickinson College. The Library also has many indexes and databases which will help you locate primary material.

A secondary source is a document which is derived from, or based on, study and analysis of primary sources. These are works that are not original manuscripts or contemporary records, but which critique, comment on, or build upon these primary sources. They interpret and analyze primary sources and provide the background necessary to understand the primary sources. A secondary source may be printed or electronic material and can include reviews, criticism, editorials, analyses, encyclopedias, textbooks, histories, and commentaries. Most scholarly journal articles are secondary sources which provide analysis, interpretation, or evaluation.

How to Start Looking for Sources

Developing a list of keywords for your project is vital for your bibliographic search, for your note taking and for shaping your final paper. A keyword is simply an important word or short phrase relating to your research. Keywords can be a person's name, a book title, a place, an organization or a subject. You can often use keywords to conduct a search of the library's catalog, electronic databases, or printed indexes. As you begin to research your topic, you will discover additional keywords that describe your subject.

Subject Headings
A subject heading is a specific word or phrase used to find and organize books and articles by topic. Subject headings are different from keywords in that they are specific terms assigned to a subject by an organization. For example, the Library of Congress supplies subject headings for books owned by Dickinson College (and other libraries), and the company that provides the Philosopher's Index database supplies subject headings for the articles indexed in that database.

These subject headings, also known as subject descriptors, may not be what you would expect. You might, for instance, go to our catalog and search for autobiographies. The Library of Congress often uses the term "personal narrative" instead of autobiography.

Library of Congress Subject headings can often be found on the page of a book that provides the publisher's information. The subject heading can then be used to search for a book or article when copied exactly as printed. Another way to figure out what the key words or subject descriptors are for your subject would be to enter the title of a book on the subject that is in our library. Then click on "catalog record" and look at the bottom of the record to find the subject descriptors.

In the library catalog and many electronic databases, an item's subject(s) will be hyperlinked, so that you can click on the subject heading to find similar items. You also might want to note the exact words for future use.

This is an example of a book in the library catalog with numerous subject headings:

Being and Knowing: Studies in Thomas Aquinas and Late Medieval Philosophy

Maurer, Armand A. (Armand Augustine), 1915-

Publication info: Toronto : Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, c1990.

Physical description: x, 496 p. ; 24 cm.

Series: (Papers in mediaeval studies,ISSN0228-8605 ; 10)

Bibliography note: Includes bibliographical references.

Personal subject: Thomas, Aquinas, Saint, 1225?-1274.

Personal subject: Siger, of Brabant, ca. 1230-ca. 1283.

Personal subject: Dietrich, von Freiberg, ca. 1250-ca. 1310.

Personal subject: Henry, of Harclay.

Personal subject: Jean, de Jandun.

Personal subject: Francis, of Meyronnes.

Personal subject: William, of Ockham, ca. 1285-ca. 1349.

Subject: Knowledge, Theory of.

Subject: Philosophy, Medieval.

Corporate author: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.

Keeping Track of Your Sources

As you begin your research project take a moment and think about how to keep careful records of where you have searched (what catalog or database) and with what keywords. The system needs to be flexible and dynamic since your project may change focus and you need to adapt. What you want to avoid is repeating work (since you may not remember doing a search one month later) or leaving a hole in your research (e.g., by searching a database or site early on with one idea and then never returning after you have changed directions). You also need good recordkeeping from the start in order to keep track of your citations!

Expanding or Narrowing Your Search

Words such as AND, OR, and NOT are used to combine search terms to broaden or narrow a search in an electronic database. AND will narrow your search; for example, the search "cats AND dogs" returns items that contain both the terms cats and dogs (both terms must appear in the record). OR will broaden your search; for example, the search "cats OR dogs" will return items that contain either the term cat or the term dog - both not necessarily both. NOT will exclude specific items, thereby narrowing your search slightly. For example, the search "medieval history and (Italy NOT Florence)" will exclude any items on medieval history dealing with the city of Florence, but will include any other books or articles written about medieval history in the rest of Italy.

How to Find Materials on Philosophy in the Waidner-Spahr Library

Finding Books

Use the library catalog to search for books owned by Dickinson College. Once you find a book you want, you will need to print or write down the call number for the item in order to locate it on the shelves.

In our library, books that are available for checkout are located on two floors of the library. You will find all books with call numbers beginning with A through F on the east wing of the main level of the library. All books with call numbers beginning with G through Z are located on the third floor. All reference books (non-circulating dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.) are located on the main level of the library behind the computer workstation area.

A map of the Waidner-Spahr Library is available here.

For more information about how books are arranged, please read the next section, Library of Congress Classification System.

Use WorldCat to search for books that are owned by other libraries worldwide.

Library of Congress Classification System

At the Waidner-Spahr library, we organize and shelve our materials using the Library of Congress (LC) Classification System. The call numbers of books shelved according to this system always start with one or two letters, and are completed with a mix of decimal and ordinal numbers and more letters. For example, call numbers beginning with B always denote materials that deal with philosophy, psychology and religion. More specifically, call numbers beginning with BD always denote materials on speculative philosophy, and further, items with call numbers between BD95 and BD131 are used for materials that deal with metaphysics. To see the complete LC classification outline, follow this link: Library of Congress Classification Outline.

An example of a typical call number is this:

BD111 .H275 2000

The Restitution of Metaphysics

Errol E. Harris

Using Journals

Journals are publications that are printed on a regular basis - usually monthly, weekly, or semi-annually. Journals are also known as periodicals or, more simply, magazines. If you are not searching for a specific journal, but are looking for a journal article on a specific subject you should be searching in a database.

Your professors at Dickinson will usually require you to use scholarly journals for your research.

A scholarly journal has a narrow subject focus. The articles are written by experts in the field who are conducting original research, or writing reviews or essays; and the articles are often reviewed by the author's peers. Articles in scholarly journals may include bibliographies (citations to books and articles) and abstracts (short summaries of the article). Scholarly journals usually have a serious "look," including few if any ads or pictures. They may, however, include graphs, charts, or diagrams. Scholarly journals are usually available only by subscription.

Scholarly journals may have the additional requirement of being peer-reviewed, which means that a panel of experts will review all articles submitted for publication.

A popular magazine is meant for entertainment or informational purposes. Authors are usually professional writers, but not experts in any particular scholarly field. Magazines will include lots of photographs and advertisements. The subject material will be wider in scope than that of most scholarly journals. Popular magazines usually do not contain bibliographies or abstracts. These are the types of periodicals you can find at a newsstand.

An index or database is the tool to use when you are looking for scholarly articles that have been published in scholarly journals. Indexes may take the form of printed books, which are usually arranged alphabetically by subject; or electronic databases, which can be searched in a variety of ways (by keyword or author, for example). The subject-specific pages on this Philosophy Pathfinder will suggest the most appropriate indexes to use for your specific search. The Dickinson College Library does not own every journal covered in every index. You may have to use interlibrary loan to obtain an article.

The Journal Locator is a searchable, alphabetic list of all the journals that Dickinson College owns in any format. It will tell you what issues of each journal we own.

To search for journals dealing with philosophy, first access the Journal Locator. Change the selection box under "Browse Journals by Subject" from "--Please select a subject category--" to "Religion and Philosophy." Then click on the search button. Most of the databases will allow you to perform a search within each individual journal once you choose one.

Most of the printed journals owned by Dickinson College are located on the lower level of the Library, east wing (the side closest to the HUB) . Journals are arranged in alphabetical order by title. When you locate a journal title, be sure to read the details of the the record to make sure we own the specific issue or years you need.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries on Philosophy

Dictionaries and encyclopedias are helpful in finding basic information about your topic area. They may also serve as sources of inspiration to you as you search for new topics to research. The following list is not comprehensive. Search the library catalog, for more encyclopedias and dictionaries. Refer to How to Find Materials on Philosophy in the Waidner-Spahr Library above for tips on how to best perform a search, or contact your librarian for assistance.

General Encyclopedias


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a dynamic reference work and is a publishing project of the Metaphysics Research Lab at the Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI) at Stanford University. Each entry is maintained and kept up to date by an expert or group of experts in the field. All entries and updates are refereed by the members of an Editorial Board before they are made public.


Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2nd Macmillan/Edwards edition) B51. E53 2006 & Online

Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy REF B51 .R68 1998


General Dictionaries:

The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy -- B21 .B56 2003

Dictionary of World Philosophy -- Available Online.

Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion: Eastern and Western Thought -- REF B41 .R43 1996

The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy -- Available Online.

The Hutchinson Dictionary of Ideas -- REF B41 .H88X 1994

The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy -- Available Online.

A Dictionary of Philosophy -- Available Online.

A Hundred Years of Philosophy -- B1615 .P3 1967

Dictionary of Philosophy -- REF B791 .B76 1999

Western Philosophy

The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy -- REF B41. C66 2005

The Columbia History of Western Philosophy -- REF B72 .C593 1999

The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy -- REF B41. B79 2004

The Edinburgh Encyclopedia of Continental Philosophy -- Available Online.

The Handbook of Western Philosophy -- B804 .H17 1988

Non-Western Philosophy

Key Concepts in Eastern Philosophy -- REF B121 .L43 1999 Also Available Online.

Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy -- Available Online.

Indian Philosophy A-Z -- REF B131 .B323 2005

Guide to Buddhist Philosophy -- REF B162 .I53 1985

Guide to Indian Philosophy -- B5131 .P68 1988

Classical & Medieval Philosophy

Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy -- Available Online.

The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy -- REF B171 .A79 1967A


Greek Philosophical Terms; A Historical Lexicon -- REF B49 .P4

Talking Philosophy: A Wordbook -- REF B49 .S63 1990

Idee w Rosji = Idei v Rossii = Ideas in Russia: leksykon rosyjsko-polsko-angielski -- B4201 .I34 1999

Primary Sources

Masterpieces of World Philosophy -- B75 .M37 1990


The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia -- REF Q174.7. P55 2006

The Philosophy of the Grammarians -- REF B131 .E5 1990

Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment -- REF B802 .E53 2003

The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics -- BH39 .R677 2005

Philosophy in the 20th Century: Catholic and Christian -- BR100 .M35

The Philosophy of Law: An Encyclopedia -- REF K204 .P49 1999 Also Available Online.

Finding Journals and Journal Articles on Philosophy

An index is a specialized database that organizes information about the locations of articles in journals/magazines, reports and newspapers; and book chapters, papers in conference proceedings, and book reviews. Indexes provide the complete bibliographic citation of an article, including the title of the article, author, name of the journal, volume number, the pages of the journal in which the article can be found, and a short summary, or abstract, of the article. Some indexes are in book form, and some are electronic databases. Some electronic databases, including The Philosopher's Index Online, do NOT provide the complete text of articles. For tips on how to effectively search databases, and how to find journals that are not available on-line, contact your librarian, or consult the section on finding journals above.


Philosopher's Index
Provides indexing and abstracts from books and journals of philosophy and related fields. It covers the areas of ethics, aesthetics, social philosophy, political philosophy, epistemology, and metaphysic logic as well as material on the philosophy of law, religion, science, history, education, and language.
Humanities Full Text
Covers journal articles in the humanities, archaeology, art, classics, film, folklore, history, journalism and communications, linguistics, literature, music, performing arts, and religion.
Humanities and Social Sciences Retrospective
A bibliographic database that cites articles from English-language periodicals. Coverage includes a wide range of interdisciplinary fields covered in a broad array of humanities and social sciences journals.
An interdisciplinary archive of over 600 journals in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
Project Muse
Search journals published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Biographical Resources on Philosophers

American Philosophers


Biography and Genealogy Master Index
Biography and Genealogy Master Index is the first place you should look when seeking biographical information on any living or deceased person worldwide. It is an electronic index to over 13 million biographical entries in 3,400+ biographical reference works.
American National Biography (ANB)
Nearly 20,000 biographies, revised three times per year.
Dictionary of Literary Biography
Includes biographies of American Philosophers before and after 1950

British Philosophers


Dictionary of National Biography
Biographies of people who shaped the British Isles.
Biography and Genealogy Master Index
Biography and Genealogy Master Index is the first place you should look when seeking biographical information on any living or deceased person worldwide. It is an electronic index to over 13 million biographical entries in 3,400+ biographical reference works.
Dictionary of Literary Biography
Includes biographies of British Philosophers from 1500-2000


The Dictionary of Eighteenth-Century British Philosophers -- REF B1301 .D527 1999

Non-Western Philosophers


Biography and Genealogy Master Index
Biography and Genealogy Master Index is the first place you should look when seeking biographical information on any living or deceased person worldwide. It is an electronic index to over 13 million biographical entries in 3,400+ biographical reference works.


Great Thinkers of the Eastern World -- REF B5005 .G74 1995

Thirty-Five Oriental Philosophers -- REF B5005 .C65 1994 Also Available Online.

General Biographical Resources


Biography and Genealogy Master Index
Biography and Genealogy Master Index is the first place you should look when seeking biographical information on any living or deceased person worldwide. It is an electronic index to over 13 million biographical entries in 3,400+ biographical reference works.


Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Philosophers -- B104 .B5 1996 and Available Online.

Great Thinkers of the Western World -- B72 .G74 1992



Biography and Genealogy Master Index
Biography and Genealogy Master Index is the first place you should look when seeking biographical information on any living or deceased person worldwide. It is an electronic index to over 13 million biographical entries in 3,400+ biographical reference works.
Dictionary of Literary Biography
Includes biographies of Medieval Philosophers.


Women Philosophers: A Bio-Critical Source Book -- B105 .W6 K47 1989

A Catalogue of Renaissance Philosophers (1350-1650) -- REF Z7125 .C3 1982

Bibliographic Resources on Philosophy

Analytic Philosophy of Religion: A Bibliography, 1940-1996 -- BL51 .W65 1998

The Collaborative Bibliography of Women in Philosophy -- B105 .W6 C65 1997

Philosophy; a Select, Classified Bibliography of Ethics, Economics, Law, Politics, Sociology -- B63 .M38 1970

An Annotated Bibliography of Philosophy in Catholic Thought, 1900-1964 -- B804 .M35 1967

Websites on Philosophy

The American Philosophical Association
The American Philosophical Association is the main professional organization for philosophers in the United States.
A bibliography of work in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of cognitive science, and the science of consciousness. Compiled by David Chalmers and David Bourget, Australian National University.

Citing Sources and Plagiarism

College Policy on Citing Sources

It is necessary for you to give proper credit to all of the resources you use in your research papers. Plagiarism is a violation of Dickinson's Student Code of Conduct, and is a specific form of cheating defined in the code as follows:

1) To plagiarize is to use without proper citation or acknowledgment the words, ideas, or work of another. Whenever one relies on someone else for phraseology, even for only two or three words, one must acknowledge indebtedness by using quotation marks and giving the source, either in the text or in a footnote.

2) When one borrows facts which are not matters of general knowledge, including all statistics and translations, one must indicate one's indebtedness in the text or footnote. When one borrows an idea or the logic of an argument, one must acknowledge indebtedness either in a footnote or in the text. When in doubt, footnote. (Academic Standards Committee, November, 1965)

You should include appropriate citations in all of your research. Your professor will direct you as to what style he or she prefers.

How to Cite

Philosophy professors may ask you to provide citations in the APA (American Psychological Association) format. The library has resources for any citation format you may require.

Please consult our Citing Sources page for further guidance.


Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
BF76.7 .P83 2010 -- This book is available on the main level of the library can be checked out.

Web Sites
The following web sites are continually updated.
The American Psychological Association's online resource for the APA citation style.
Citation Styles (MLA, APA, Chicago, CBE)
An all purpose web site from Bedford/St. Martin's publishers. It is contained in Online: a Reference Guide to Using Internet Sources.
Writing with Sources
The Expository Writing Program at Harvard University.


The following web site will help you understand what plagiarism is.

What is Plagiarism? Georgetown University defines plagiarism, paraphrasing, and copyright. How to cite web resources, and what to do if someone helps you with your research.