PhilPapers is a free directory of online journal articles and books for philosophy. It covers journals in many areas of philosophy, as well as archives and personal pages of academic philosophers. Here are a few useful tips for using PhilPapers:
- Use categories. If you’re not sure what to research, or can’t think of search terms try browsing by category for ideas. From here you can start off with a very general area of philosophy and narrow it down by selecting more detailed topics and subtopics until you find the one you want. Alternatively, if you have already found an item that is of interest to you, you can click on the categories which have been assigned to the item to find similar articles.
- Use the Advanced search. The best way to begin searching harder with Philpapers is by using the advanced search page. The advanced search allows greater flexibility and precision in searching. These include the ability to search a particular field, use brackets, phrase searching (by placing terms in quotation marks) and boolean operators (e.g. You can use + and – as on Google). However, unlike most databases it does not support truncation, because all words are automatically reduced to their stems.
- Word order matters. The order you enter your search terms can change the search completely. Do you want to search a phrase with the words in a certain fixed order? There are two ways: Phrase searching using quotation marks works in almost every database, including Google. Or use the ‘exact phrase’ search box in advanced search.
- Search within Research Areas. To cut out irrelevant results try searching within a particular category or subcategory. To do this, browse the categories until you find your area of interest, then use the ‘Search inside’ search box at the bottom of the page to restrict your search to that area.
- Use Filters. You can exclude irrelevant search results and category listings by checking the boxes on the right hand side of the screen. For example, you can restrict your search to published works, or freely available work only. You can also set up your own list of preferred journals and display only items from those journals.
- Set up a user account. Although you don’t need to do so, by creating a Philpapers account you can use many additional useful functions. These include saving searches for later use, setting up content alerts, creating personal reading lists and bibliographies, and participation in the discussion forums, among other things. It’s very quick to do.
- Set up RSS feeds. One simple way of keeping up with the latest research in you area is to use RSS feeds. You can set up RSS feeds or email alerts for new items on Philpapers by browsing or searching for your topic and then selecting your preferred alert method from the ‘Monitor this page’ box on the right of the screen.
- Install the Philpapers plugin. There is a convenient PhilPapers search plugin for Firefox, developed by Chris Richards which allows you to search Philpapers from your toolbar.
Please see their introduction to Philpapers for more information. Let me know if you can think of other handy hints!