Why Writing Works

Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts

Research in Philosophy

Dr. Maureen Sander-Staudt

Finding credible sources

For modern sources the gold standard is that the piece is published in peer reviewed academic journal, or if it is a book, that is published with a reputable press (University Presses, Routledge, etc.). For older sources (30 years or more) the standard is in part the reputation of the author, which can be determined by the treatment of the author in the literature by other respected philosophers. But philosophy is unique in that any idea is fair game providing it can be defended with reasoned argument, and older sources are not necessarily less credible than contemporary sources.

Primary scholarly journals

This depends primarily on the branch of philosophy in question. Key journals tend to indicate their specialty in their titles-- for example, Ethics, is a key publication in ethics Journal of Social Philosophy, Journal of Business Ethics, and most others, clearly state their foci. What makes a journal reputable includes its length of publication, selectiveness, editorial board, and reputation.

Trade publications

There are few trade publications in philosophy, as philosophy is largely an academic pursuit. However, one reputable trade publication is Teaching Philosophy.

Non-scholarly writing

Philosophy is becoming more open to popular and non-scholarly writings, which is reflected in the publication of popular print magazines (e.g. Philosophy Now, New Philosopher), and the increase of blogs and websites relating to philosophy.

Open Internet resources

There are more blogs and websites starting up today, but they are not as common or as useful as academic journals and university based websites. There are many internet lecture recordings, and some of these are more acceptable than others. It is important to check the affiliation and credentials of these lecturers and bloggers.

Government agencies

Government agencies play only a marginal role, but such agencies may be cited, or may draw upon philosophical writings to clarify a legal or political concept, or policy. Some philosophers may cite governmental agencies, laws, or policies to clarify or support an idea, examine a precedent, or call for reform.

Statement of ethics and research

There are several codes of ethics which pertain to the scholarly and pedagogical pursuits of philosophy. The main moral obligation in the teaching of philosophy is to do so for the benefit of students, and not to proselytize one’s personal views. Philosophy is the one discipline that also self-reflectively contributes to codes of ethics and research. Like any discipline, there may be ethical problems with plagiarism, confirmation bias, marginalization of unpopular or uncommon ideas, and cronyism in publication.


Philosophy: Disciplinary Perspective

Writing in Philosophy

Reading in Philosophy

Documentation in Philosophy