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This research guide identifies materials for basic and advanced research in philosophy. It lists a variety of sources, including databases, reference works, and Internet sites useful for the study of philosophy.

About Reference Sources

Reference sources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks provide summary and factual information. These sources generally contain well established knowledge and can provide a basic understanding on which to build. Use reference sources to:
  • Find basic concepts of a topic;
  • Get historical context and relationships to other topics;
  • Identify and define special terms used to discuss the topic; or
  • Find or verify data, facts, formulas, etc.

Key Reference Sources

Oxford Reference Online

Search for Topics in Print & Online Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

Basic Reference Sources

Use the following encyclopedias and dictionaries for finding background information, definitions, biographical information, and summaries.



Encyclopedia of Bioethics, 3d ed.
Main Library Reference QH 332 .E52 2004
An interdisciplinary, multi-volume work covering not only philosophical aspects, but also the historical, theological, scientific, and legal ramifications of a wide variety of bioethical topics and issues. The 464 essays were written by 437 scholars. Volume 5 contains an appendix of  "Codes, Oaths, and Directives Related to Bioethics." Use the index in volume 5 to identify specific topics and individuals.


Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy
Main Library Reference B 163 .E53 1997
"Presents 270 articles on major and minor figures and on topics of importance to the philosophy of Greek and Roman antiquity" (Credo Reference description).


Encyclopedia of Empiricism
Main Library Reference B 816 .E53 1997
"Entries on key figures, topics, and doctrines examine Empiricism both as a specific movement of the 17th and 18th centuries, and as a broader tendency that reflects the influence of various forms of empirical thought throughout history. Entries include extensive cross-referencing and brief bibliographies" (publisher's description).


"...covers all areas of philosophy in the Middle Ages and part of the Renaissance, ranging from 500 to 1500 CE. It contains general entries on medieval philosophers and medieval philosophies and on the key terms and concepts in the subject area, but it also provides more in-depth details and analyses of particular theories" (publisher's description).
Encyclopedia of Semiotics
Main Library Reference P 99 .E64 1998
"A comprehensive reference guide to concepts in semiotics, sign theory, and cultural studies. Three hundred entries by leading scholars in a variety of fields — from anthropology and literary theory to linguistics and philosophy — survey the study of signs and symbols in human culture. The articles cover key concepts, theories, theorists, schools of thought, and issues in communications, cognition, and cultural theory" (publisher's description).
Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment
Main Library Reference B 802 .E53 2003
Contains over 700 signed articles by scholars which examine Western society from the rise of Descartes' disciples in 1670 to the fall of Napoleon in 1815. Topical outline in volume 1; subject index in volume 4.


The International Encyclopedia of Ethics
Main Library Reference BJ 63 .I58 2013
A nine-volume set comprised of over 700 alphabetical entries, ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 words in length, written by an international roster of subject experts. Alphabetical list of entries in volume 1; subject index in volume 9.


The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences
Main Library Reference BF 311 .M556 1999
Contains 471 essays, arranged alphabetically, relating to mind and cognition, including philosophy, psychology, neurosciences, computational intelligence, linguistics and language, and culture and cognition. Each entry has an extensive list of reference and/or further readings. Name and subject indexes.
The Oxford Companion to Philosophy
Main Library Reference B 31 .O94 1995
Covers philosophers, philosophical and related terms, and philosophical movements. The focus is on Western philosophy, although non-Western philosophy is included. Includes appendices of logical symbols, maps of philosophy, and a chronology of philosophy.
While far from complete, this refereed source is intended to be constantly evolving, with new entries added regularly. Many entries have lengthy bibliographies.