Philosophy 28 - 2.4.1 Start with a Strong Foundation

When you are learning a new concept or writing a paper, you probably do some internet research to locate information about the topic. However, as you probably know, not all internet sources are reliable. Philosophy students are fortunate to have two online philosophy encyclopedias that provide excellent information about a wide array of topics. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides good general topic coverage of the major areas of philosophy. The IEP is a traditional encyclopedia, and its articles are written for new students without a lot of prior knowledge. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides in-depth, up-to-date articles on a wide range of topics and includes both general and specific coverage. The articles in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy are well written, but they typically go into greater depth and sometimes include technical terms or information you will have to look up. These articles provide an excellent, free introduction to a wide range of specific topics in philosophy. As with all encyclopedia entries, students should start with the article itself and then move on to sources cited in the article. Think of these articles as an entry point into research.

Wherever possible, read articles and books written by philosophers on the topics you are interested in. You can usually find these resources at your college or university library. You may want to cast a wider net on the internet itself by tapping into YouTube channels, podcasts, and other websites that can help you understand philosophical issues or provide information for philosophy papers. However, be discriminating when selecting material. In this section, we will outline some tools and habits that can make you a better, more critically engaged online researcher.

Finally, many instructors in philosophy will encourage their students to engage only with the assigned texts in the class. This can be a valuable technique for learning philosophy since philosophical thinking is cultivated by serious, critical engagement with good philosophical writing. If you can learn to engage directly with primary sources (texts written by philosophers about philosophy), you will be a better philosophy student. However, we acknowledge that most students are accustomed to using the internet for research when they are learning something new. So this section is intended to provide some guidance for students who want to supplement their class readings with information gleaned from online sources.

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The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax