UMGC Library

Philosophy: Search Tips

A Library Research Guide

Search Tips for Philosophy

How do I choose keywords for my searches?

  • Words to include
    You would want to include, the main ideas of your research question, for instance you could use a philosopher's name and their work and/or philosophical idea or theory.
  • Use quotation marks
    If the name is longer than one word, you can optimize your search by putting quotation marks around the title. Using quotation marks will ensure that the database finds results that use that exact phrase.  
  • Use AND
    To search for multiple concepts at the same time, you need to link your search terms with and. This strategy will narrow your search. 
Nietzsche and "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"

Found too many results?

  • Add more keywords
    If you find that you are retrieving too many results, try adding more keywords to further narrow your topic.
Nietzsche and "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" and existentialism

Found too few results?

  • Use OR
    At times you may not find much information on the subject have chosen. In this case you can try broadening your search by using or to link your terms. This strategy will broaden your search because it will return results that mention either Nietzsche or existentialism
Nietzsche or existentialism

  • Look for more general information 
    If you are still having trouble finding enough information, try looking for more general information about your topic.

Reference or Background Reading

When you first start learning about a new topic it can be helpful to do some background reading to find reference material or encyclopedia articles that will cover a topic more broadly to give an overview or introduction. For Philosophy, the following databases are good places to start looking:

In the Gale and Oxford databases, start searching for background reading by typing a philosopher's name or a philosophical idea into the search bar.

Search results of existentialism in Gale eBooks


Search results of Nietzsche in Oxford Reference


In LION to search for background reading, type your keyword into the search bar and select "Reference Works" under "Content Type" before clicking Search.

Search in LION for Reference Works

You can also filter your results in LION to be reference only by selecting "Reference Works" in the left column of the search results page.

Filtering to Reference Works in LION

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