Study resources

Get the most out of studying Philosophy at Manchester.

Access online philosophy resources, get help with writing essays and other study skills, and join relevant societies and groups.

Study guides

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Online resources

A vast number of philosophical texts are available online. Once you know where to look and how to access them, they are an amazing resource for finding out more about a topic, locating journal articles that you need for your tutorials or essays or exams, seeing how a particular debate has played out in the literature, etc. This page gives you some information about how to use the internet for these purposes effectively.

Internet for Philosophy tutorial

Go to the University Library's Philosophy LibGuide. Click on the tabs along the top for lots of information about online journals and books, links to databases, etc. (You can also get to this site from the library home page by clicking on 'A-Z of subjects' under 'Academic Support' and searching for 'philosophy'. And you can download the guide onto your phone if you have a camera and bar code reader app.)

Now you've done both of those, you know pretty much everything you need to know about accessing philosophy resources on the internet! However, here are a few additional handy hints.

Accessing online philosophy articles

Library catalogue/Google Scholar

The vast majority of journal articles in philosophy can be accessed online through the University Library's subscriptions. The University Library's online catalogue includes journal articles, so you can search for a given article that way (you'll probably need to use 'advanced search' or you'll get too many hits). 

A third option is to use Google Scholar. Just type the name of the journal article (in double quotation marks) and hit 'search'. If the article is available anywhere online, it should be first in the list of hits. Note that there will often be 'cited by' and 'related articles' links as well; if you click on these you'll be able to follow up the ensuing debate.

How do I log in to the publisher's website?

Some articles are freely available (often from the author's own homepage). However, normally they are only available through the journal publisher's website, and are accessible only to institutions that subscribe to the journal. UoM has a very extensive portfolio of subscriptions, so it's very likely that we have one. If you're going through the University Library's A-Z list of e-journals, you should be able to get straight through to the pdf of the article. If you're using Google Scholar, click on the link to the article or look for a 'Find it at UML' link on the right; again, you should be able to get to the pdf.

However if you're not using a campus computer you may find that your only apparent option is to buy the article. If this happens, look for the 'institutional login' button (there should be one somewhere on the page). Click on this and search for 'University of Manchester'. You should then be able to login using your normal UoM username and password, and be taken back to the journal site. (Annoyingly, it might not have remembered what it was you were looking for, so you might have to search the site for it.) If you can't find an 'institutional login' button, look for the link to login options. If there is a 'log in via Shibboleth' option, that will work too.

Or, even easier …

Set your off-campus computer/laptop up so that it can connect to the UoM 'Virtual Private Network' (VPN), by following the instructions. It's very easy! Once you've installed the VPN software, if you connect to the VPN your computer will act just like a campus computer, so you will automatically be logged in to publishers' journal sites and won't have to follow the institutional login procedure.

Top four online resources!

Well, it's a matter of subjective preference, but we can recommend:

  • Philosophy Compass: This is an online journal that publishes high-quality survey articles on philosophical topics, aimed at non-specialists. Philosophy Compass articles are a great way of finding your way around a particular debate and locating relevant texts to follow up.
  • PhilPapers: This is a huge database of philosophy books and journal articles. You can search for a particular item, browse the categories and sub-categories, and even make a personalised reading list or bibliography.
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: This is a really comprehensive online encyclopedia written by internationally recognised experts. It isn't written with undergraduates in particular in mind, but even if you don't understand everything you should be able to get a sense of the overall shape of the debate you're interested in, and there are lots of references for you to follow up. Please note that if you cite a SEP article in an essay, you need to cite and list it in your bibliography properly! Click on 'author and citation info' at the top of the article to find out how to cite it.
  • Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: UoM library now has access to this encyclopedia, which has over 2,700 philosophy articles. It includes comprehensive cross-referencing and is fully searchable. Off-campus, you will need to access it through the VPN.

Study skills and essay writing

Want to know how to write the perfect essay, how to deal with exam stress, or how to manage your study time more effectively? Then this is the page you need.

Philosophy study guide

You should already have this, but have you read it recently? It contains lots of useful and detailed information about how to write a good essay, how to prepare for exams, how to construct your bibliography and cite your sources, and lots of other things. A high proportion of students would get considerably better marks in their essays if they simply checked whether they were abiding by the Study Guide’s advice, so make sure you’re not one of them!

In addition, you might buy or get from the library one or more of the following:

  • Doing Philosophy, by C. Saunders, D. Lamb, D. Mossley and G. Macdonald Ross (ISBN 9781441173041, £14.99 or less; also available from the University Library) is a very helpful read, especially for new students. It’s a comprehensive guide to studying philosophy at university.
  • The Basics of Essay Writing, by Nigel Warburton. This is a general guide to writing university-level essays, but it's written by a philosopher.

Bibliography and referencing guidance

From 2014-15, all students should consult only the guidelines contained in the Philosophy Study Guide when writing philosophy essays. In addition, we have adopted an official policy concerning how many marks should be deducted for various levels of failure to follow the guidelines. Read the student guidance on this policy.

More on essay writing

There's lots of additional advice online about how to write a good philosophy essay. Of course, philosophers across the planet don’t all agree with each other about exactly what makes for the perfect essay, and if you come across any advice that directly conflicts with the Study Guide, you should go with the Study Guide. But by and large we’re all looking for roughly the same thing, and one or more of these guides might be more helpful to you personally than our own Study Guide.

There are loads more as well; just do a Google search for ‘how to write a philosophy essay’!

Advice on exams

Again, there's lots in the Philosophy Study Guide, but here's a spot of online advice:

One-to-one help with your written English

The University Centre for Academic English offers a one-to-one tutorial service aimed at improving your written English. You can submit a sample of work in advance and will then have a meeting of up to an hour to discuss how to improve. If you're an overseas student, you can make an appointment yourself. If you're a home (UK) student you have to be referred, so please speak to your academic advisor. Find out more.

Using internet resources

Having trouble locating philosophy texts online? See the online resources section.

My Learning Essentials

The Library's award-winning skills programme contains lots of generic advice about managing your time, reflecting on your academic development, coping with exam stress, and so on. 

Essay bank

In response to student feedback, we are making available some past essays to help you get a better sense of the kinds of things that we're looking for when we mark them.

To start with, there are two essays from last year's first-year Philosophy & Social Science course; but we'll be adding to these in due course. Please note, however, that what we're looking for is pretty much the same across all courses and levels (except, of course, that the higher the level, the higher the standard required). So you should find these useful even if you're not taking that particular course, and indeed even if you are a 2nd- or 3rd-year.

Included in each pdf is a short summary of the philosophical topic, a bunch of in-text comments, a summary of the essay's main strengths and weaknesses, and an indicative mark. Do please note that there is a lot more feedback on these essays than you can expect on the essays you submit! Our hope is that by providing very extensive feedback on a small sample of essays, you will be able to see how similar considerations might apply to your own work. Don't forget that if you want more feedback on an essay than the marker has provided on the essay itself, you can always go and see them in their office hours to ask for more advice on how to improve.

Societies and events

  • The British Undergraduate Philosophy Society (BUPS) runs an annual conference and an online journal – The British Journal of Undergraduate Philosophy – both aimed at and run by philosophy undergraduates. If you’ve written a stormingly good essay you might think about submitting a version of it to the journal, or presenting it at the annual conference. Or you might think about getting involved in the society. These will help you improve at philosophy and look great on your CV!
  • The University of Manchester Philosophy Society runs various events. Visit their Facebook group page.
  • Philosophy@Manchester is the Facebook group for the Discipline Area. Take a look, and join up if you haven’t already!