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SSI2-146: The Good Life

What is research?

Philosophy is the study of views concerning nature, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, being, knowledge, logic, and all manner of theory. Philosophers often tackle complex questions that require the examination of a variety of perspectives and resources.

Research, in philosophy and other academic disciplines, is a process.  As you encounter and sift through sources, you will find yourself shaping your argument in perhaps unexpected ways. The ultimate goal of research is not "to find the right answer," but rather, to create a persuasive argument based on your synthesis, analysis, and interpretation of the sources you use. For this reason, the choices you make about which sources to use as you craft your argument are of the upmost importance.

Types of Sources

In academic research, it's important to be able to distinguish between different types of sources. These differences often are contextual, meaning that a single source might fit in different categories depending on how you are using it and in what academic discipline you are writing.

Primary sources are the raw materials of scholarship.

Secondary sources report on or interpret primary sources.

Tertiary sources synthesize and present overviews of primary and secondary sources.

Scholarly sources present sophisticated, researched arguments using both primary and secondary sources and are written by experts.

Popular sources aim to inform or entertain and are intended for a general, non-specialized audience. In academic writing, popular sources most often are analyzed as primary sources.

Source Evaluation Activity

Imagine that you are exploring philosophical arguments about meaning and happiness. You've come across the following piece:

Vaughn, Lewis. “Why You’re (Probably) Wrong About The Meaning of Life” Philosophy Now, no. 147, Dec. 2021, pp. 12-14.

Look over this source and explore the features of the website to determine its usefulness and credibility.

(Note: You do not have to read the entire piece word for word!)

  1. What specific aspects of the article and/or website helped you determine its credibility?
  2. Is this source scholarly? Why or why not? Does this source present a philosophical argument? Why or why not?
  3. What kind of evidence does the author use to support their claim(s)? Are there quotations from other philosophers/scholars?

Lateral Reading

Watch the video on Lateral Reading (3.5 minutes) from University of Louisville Libraries Citizen Literacy Project, and reflect on how the strategies in the video compare to your own evaluation strategies. 


  1. Apply the lateral reading skills you learned in the video to the same article you previously evaluated. (You might start by searching Google for information about the publication or author and then branch out).
  2. Did lateral reading change your perspective on the credibility of this source?
  3. Would you/should you use this source in a research project?
  4. To expand on the basic information contained in this source, are there other terms/names/ideas you would like to research?