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SSI2-146: The Good Life: Tertiary Sources

Using Subject Encyclopedias

Subject encyclopedias, handbooks and overviews are scholarly, tertiary works written by experts on a variety of topics. The articles are typically longer and more detailed than those found in general encyclopedias. The background information provides a good starting point as you begin the research process. These resources can help you with:

  • Understanding the scope of a topic
  • Suggesting ideas for narrowing a topic
  • Identifying key concepts, terms, dates and names
  • Listing subject areas related to a topic
  • Recommending sources for further exploration

In Collins Library, the print reference collection is located on the first floor, and most of the online reference collection is available in one of the databases listed below. Use Collins Library Primo Search to identify subject encyclopedias in either format; or ask a librarian for recommendations.

The resources listed on this page are of particular value to Philosophy students, as definitions and overviews found in general works may not always fit the philosophical meaning or lens.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a dynamic, online scholarly encyclopedia in which entries are kept up to date by an expert or groups of experts in the field.  The essays in this resource tend to be more advanced than those in the resources listed above.

Featured Reference Resources

You'll find it helpful to consult these reference materials as you work through the course readings and work on your research projects.  Look for the bibliographies at the end of entries to identify more scholarly sources.

Online Subject Encyclopedia Collections

Continue your research by consulting these collections of subject encyclopedias.  If you have any difficulties at all, please email Katy Curtis for assistance and recommendations.

How Can Subject Encyclopedias Help?


Subject encyclopedias provide a quick way to capture multidisciplinary lenses on a single topic. Compare, for example, the following selection of entries, all on the topic of the happiness.  For each entry, ask yourself these questions:

  • Which academic disciplines are being called upon to explore the issue? 
  • What disciplinary differences do you notice in the way the topic is covered?
  • What types of evidence are cited?
  • What kinds of research questions might this lead you to ask?
  • What additional sources does the subject encyclopedia point you to?


Group 1: "Happiness", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Group 2: "Happiness and Relationships", Encyclopedia of Human Relationships

Group 3: "Happiness", Encyclopedia of Social Psychology

Group 4: "Happiness", Encyclopedia of Political Theory

Group 5: "Happiness", Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture

Group 6: "Happiness and Pleasure in European Thought", New Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Deciphering Citations

Bibliographies at the end of subject encyclopedia entries are fabulously helpful in the research process, but how do you get from the bibliography to the actual material?


If the item is a book or a chapter or essay in a book, you'll need to look up the title of the book (not the title of the chapter!) in PrimoIf Collins Library does not have the book, or the book is checked out, you can request it from SUMMIT, with delivery in 3-5 days.

Pawelski, James O. "Happiness and Its Opposites". Oxford Handbook of Happiness, edited by Susan David, Ilona Boniwell, and Amanda Conley Ayers. Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 363-373. 

To find this item, you'd search Primo by the title of the book, Oxford Handbook of Happiness.


If the item is a journal article, you'll need to look up the title of the journal (not the title of the article!) in Primo Journal Search. If the journal is not available in or via Collins Library, you can request it from Tipasa.

Goldman, Alan H. “Happiness is an Emotion,” Journal of Ethics, vol. 21, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1–16.

To find this item, you'd search Primo Journals for the Journal of Ethics.

Practice Tracing Citations

Browse through the entry on "Happiness" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, then scroll down to the bibliography:

How would you get your hands on the work written by S.H. Klausen?

How would you obtain the work by Mike W. Martin?

How would you obtain the work by Valerie Tiberius and Alexandra Plakias?

Need Help?

This subject guide highlights only a small portion of the many resources available to you. If you're not finding what you need, don't hesitate to contact Katy!

Katy Curtis, Humanities Librarian
Schedule an appointment
tel: (253) 879-3672
office: Collins Library 140

If you can't find Katy, remember there are several ways to get help with your research

For immediate assistance, connect to our 24/7 Ask a Librarian chat service.