How do I do a good literature review?
June 23, 2010 9:20 AM Subscribe
How do I do a good literature review for a research paper in philosophy? I have access to good resources, but I really want to make sure that I cover everything that's been written on the topic. How can I put myself at ease while making sure I don't miss a beat?
posted by superiorchicken to Education (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a 2nd-year philosophy undergrad, and I'd really like to start doing research before I get anywhere near graduate school. But I've been struggling to get started, since I have no idea when I can say I've read enough to say something substantial about a topic.
My interest lies mainly in the history of philosophy. Right now, I'd love to do a paper on Kierkegaard. I've scoured SEP, JSTOR, the Philosopher's Index, and the academic library at my institution. I've found and indexed all of the papers/books I have free access to. But how do I make sure that I'm covering all my bases? I simply can't tell whether or not, even if I read much of this material in a guided fashion, I will yet be able to write a good paper on anything in specific. I understand that I can't possibly read or find everything, but how do I alleviate these fears?
I'm especially worried that I'm missing books that have been written on the topic, for example. I don't mind not having a paper or something, as long as I know information about it that an index like Philosopher's Index can tell me. But such resources don't generally index books, and I know that my academic library doesn't have nearly all of the books there are to be found. Interlibrary loan takes a long time, and I'm not sure what assurance WebCat can give me about my field of research. So a second question: how do I make sure I'm covering all of my bases when I dont' have access to a specialized library on a thinker or a topic?
All of these concerns are generally the same, though. So to put it bluntly: when I do research in philosophy, what kind of wrangling is required with my resources before I can be confident enough to write something about my topic?
Any advice on writing research papers in philosophy is welcome. Thanks!