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SSI2-128: The Philosophy and Science of Human Nature

Getting Started with 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

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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.

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 Reference Collections

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 love. 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: "Love," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Group 2: "Love, Typologies," Encyclopedia of Human Relationships

Group 3: "Love," Encyclopedia of Social Psychology

Group 4: "Love, Philosophy of," Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences

Group 5: "Love," Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Group 6: "Love, Western Notions of," 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 Primo. If 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.

Elster, Jon. “Emotion and Action,” Thinking About Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions, edited by Robert C. Solomon, Oxford UP, 2003, pp. 151-162.

To find this item, you'd search Primo by the title of the book, Thinking About Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions.


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 interlibrary loan.

Bagley, Benjamin. "Loving Someone in Particular." Ethics, vol. 125, no. 2, 2015, pp. 477-507.

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

Practice Tracing Citations

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

  1. How would you get your hands on the work written by Kieran Setiya?
  2. How would you obtain the work by Neil Delaney?
  3. How would you obtain the work by Martha Nussbaum?