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Quick Tips on Preparing For Research

Here is a title you might find useful:  Graybosch, A.J., et al. The Philosophy Student Writer's Manual (2nd ed. Prentice-Hall 2003)

Before you start your research in the library:

  • understand the key terms you may be using as well as the general area that interests you;
  • think about ways to narrow your topic, making it as specific as possible (unless you have been given a specific topic to research!);
  • create a thesis statement;
  • list  the main concepts (key words) included in your thesis statement (research question), then based on your readings;
  • find as many synonyms as you can for each main concept. You are now ready to start searching in the library's catalogue and databases.

When you are looking for definitions or if you don’t know much about a specific subject, reference works such as dictionaries and encyclopedias become invaluable because they contain relatively short—and understandable—articles. These articles often lay out the parameters of a subject and can assist you in trying to narrow your topic. Often such articles are accompanied by lists of readings (bibliographies) which allow you to explore your topic further.

Dictionaries

Philosophy dictionaries

General dictionaries

Encyclopedias

In addition, Oxford University Press has published a slew of handbooks on various specialized areas of philosophy. See Oxford Handbooks for full-text online access to the collection.