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PHIL 430: Philosophical Methodology: Finding Secondary Sources

Best Practices for Identifying Scholarly Secondary Sources

Selecting the best or most appropriate finding aid for identifying sources depends almost entirely on the context of your research project.  There is no single database or web search interface that will work for every research context; instead, you'll need to match your specific research needs to a variety of options. 

1. Start with the information provided in tertiary sources!

  • Look up specific titles of books in Primo, or journal titles (not article titles) in Primo Journal Search.
  • Use the entries in subject encyclopedias to identify the academic fields interested in the topic; then identify the appropriate subject database(s) to search.
  • Use the vocabulary in the subject encyclopedia entries as search terms in databases.

2. Do an author search in Primo or a subject database. Which scholars are working on your topic? Many researchers will write about the same topic throughout their career. Searching by an author's name may help you gather additional information.

3. Mine the bibliographies and footnotes in other secondary sources. You may find one secondary source that is not quite right for your project; however, it may cite another scholarly source that would be just right!

4. When searching Primo or a database, pay attention to the subject headings in your results. You can use the vocabulary or click to do a new search for that heading.  You'll be surprised at what you discover this way! 

5. Select the best sources, not just the most convenient sources.  This may mean requesting a book from SUMMIT and/or an article from Tipasa, both of which take about two to five days to arrive.

Search Primo

General Primo Search Tips

  • Use the pull-down scoping options to search Collins, Summit and Articles OR Collins and Summit, OR just Collins.
  • Use quotes to search for "exact titles".
  • Use the filters on the right side to quickly narrow your search.
  • Sign in with your Puget Sound username and password to gain access to online resources and request items from other libraries.

Searching for Books

Use Primo to find resources on your topic at Collins Library and beyond. You will have plenty of time to request materials via Summit or ILL for your project, so start early!

  • When you find an item that seems relevant, look at its subject terms to find similar items. To do this, check the "Item Details" and simply click on one of the subject headings listed in the record for the book; the next screen will list all the books that share this subject term.
  • To find the library location of a book's call number, check the location chart.

Book Reviews

By consulting book reviews of the scholarly works you are reading, you can gain a better understanding of the place of a particular work within the field.  Here are a few tips for locating book reviews:

  • Check to see when your book was published. If it was published more than twenty years ago, and you aren't finding reviews online, you may need to look beyond online sources and check print indexes.
  • If you're having trouble finding a review, check with a librarian for help and to cover all your bases, but remember that some books are never reviewed. If that's the case, think about what that might mean about the book's scholarly importance.
  • In many databases, you can specifically limit your search results to just reviews; see below for specific tips.

For philosophy books, start with the resources below and branch out as needed.

Searching for Articles in Primo

Locating individual articles in the library catalog is a little like looking for a needle in a haystack. For this reason, searching for the journal first is often a more effective way to find an article. To locate a specific article from a citation, follow these steps:

  1. Type in the title of the journal in the Primo search box. Limit the "Material Type" to "Journals"
  2. Find the record in our library catalog and determine whether the journal is online or in print.
  3. Locate the correct year, issue, and volume number.
  4. Locate the article within that issue using the table of contents or the page numbers indicated in the citation. 

Philosophy Databases

These subject databases may be especially useful for your research project in this class.

Interdisciplinary Research

If your research question has been approached from other disciplinary frameworks, you may wish to familiarize yourself with that scholarly literature, with the aim of showing how a philosophical approach can add to our understanding of the issues.  Use the Research by Subject pages to explore more options.

Google Scholar Cited Reference Search

Google Scholar can help you find articles which have cited an article that you have found. Frequent citation is often (but not always!) a marker for a particularly influential scholarly work. 

Using citations to search for scholarly literature can help you think more broadly about your research topic within the larger discipline, and help you answer the following questions:

  • Who/what are the big names and articles in this area?
  • Who is this research in conversation with?

Step 1: When looking at search results, check for the 'Cited by X' link underneath each result. That will tell you how many subsequent articles (that Google Scholar is aware of) have cited this particular article or book.

Step 2: Click that link, and you will be taken to a new set of results, all of which have cited the original article, which will still be listed at the top of the page. 

Tipasa: Interlibrary Loan

If your article is not available at Collins Library, you've got another option to getting it. Use Tipasa, our interlibrary loan service.

Tipasa is linked to your library account so you'll need to log in to use it.

Once you are logged in, either go directly to Tipasa and manually enter the information, or, if you're using a database, look for a shortcut link to automatically fill out the form, like this:

Interlibrary Loan Link

Allow at least a week for the article to come. If your article is delivered in electronic format, you'll receive an email with a link to follow as soon as it's arrived. If it's delivered in paper, you'll receive it right in your campus mailbox.