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.
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.
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. https://philosophynow.org/issues/147/Why_Youre_Probably_Wrong_About_The_Meaning_of_Life
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!)
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.