Skip to Main Content

Philosophy Graduate Student Portfolio Papers Guide

Guide for portfolio papers


Conducting research on philosophical topics and figures can be overwhelming. Where do you begin? The following resources are a few relatively quick ways of becoming familiar with the available body of research.

These resources are presented with a few caveats, which have to do with institutional and societal pressures that affect visibility. 

First, whenever you search for resources--in the library or otherwise--what you find is contingent upon how the search engine you use identifies relevant material (in library language, this is broadly called metadata or, more specifically, classification/subject headings). These headings are applied according to very specific rules

A proviso is attached to the following resources and advice: academic libraries (including Emory) typically use Library of Congress Classification and Subject Headings. These systems were created in the early 20th century, and were designed to support a very specific kind of research in philosophy, i.e. a historiographical or historicist approach. Although these systems have been updated and expanded since their creation, they still maintain patterns that identify aspects of work salient to that mode of research--and not others. Thus, if you are interested in, e.g., phenomenological, feminist, deconstructive, critical philosophy of race, or any number of other modes of reading texts, you may find these systems to be of limited to no use.

Handbooks & Compendiums

Handbooks or compendiums on the figure, school, or topic you are researching will often contain essays by scholars in the area on major areas of research and debate. The editor's introduction may also be especially useful, as these generally serve to contextualize the essays in the volume relative both to each other and to broader philosophical discourses.

Handbook series of note include:

Recent Publications

Although there may not be a book specific to exactly the topic you're looking for published within the last few years, familiarizing yourself with what is being put out as scholarly work by major academic publishers is a good way to (1) see what topics are being worked on by scholars in the field and (2) what other, older works are being cited by these scholars.

Examples of major academic publishers include:

Note that it may also be helpful to consult specific publishers for particular areas, e.g. presses that specialize in Continental Philosophy include:

Introductory Articles

A number of encylopedia-type articles aim to summarize main points of a topic, figure, idea, etc. while suggesting possible avenues for further research.

Three peer-reviewed sources online include:

Depending on your area/approach, you may also want to consult more specialized volumes, such as the following:


Although they can quickly become outdated, bibliographies--especially annotated bibliographies--provide the researcher with a curated list of books, articles, and other resources that enable focused, informed research. One good online example:

Two disadvantages of bibliographies worth keeping in mind are that they can suffer (more or less) from biases in selection by the author of the article, and they tend to focus on "major issues" and "major works," thus omitting less well-known works that may nevertheless be more relevant to your research.