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Epistemology PHIL 3213

Strategies, tips, and links to locate and gather resources for your research projects and other course assignments

Search for St. Thomas

Searching for St. Thomas Aquinas in databases, library catalogs and even using a resource like Google, can be challenging, frustrating and rewarding. Here are some tips while searching:

  • Google is a search engine that casts a very wide net using your search terms. This means that you will often have:
    • lots of results that may or may not be relevant
    • natural language searching that looks for the presence of your search terms
    • advertisements and biased results
    • a wide variety of sources, including:
      • blogs, church/religious websites, journal articles, translations of writings, opinions, and more
  • Databases are limited to articles, essays, reports, conference proceedings with content limited to content from a variety of publishers. This means that you will often encounter:
    • fewer results
    • a highly advanced indexed structure that uses controlled vocabulary
    • results that are intended to be used for research purposes
    • some difficulty in finding what you're looking for
  • Library catalogs are limited to items purchased by the library, mostly books, that are usually available to view and check-out. 
    • It's important to remember that we can borrow books from other libraries for you to use. So if you are unable to locate exactly what you need in Dugan Library, just ask and we'll be happy to get an item from another library for you!

Locating Secondary Sources on St. Thomas Aquinas

Librarian Tips and Advice:

  • Searching for people can be tricky, and searching for people with titles (like 'Saint') can be trickier.
  • Keep in mind, that secondary sources would indicate that you are looking for Aquinas as a subject, not as an author.
  • Our instinct is to search using:
    • Aquinas, St. Thomas, Saint Aquinas, or some other variation of his name.
  • When using library resources, you will want to use the controlled vocabulary term for Aquinas and search for him as a subject.
  • Here is what his official search term looks like:
    • Thomas, Aquinas, Saint, 1225?-1274.
    • This doesn't mean you have to entire the entire phrase, or even the life dates when you search.
  • If you'd like to see what a search for Aquinas looks like in the databases and in the catalog for secondary sources, check out the video below:

What is a search strategy?

Developing a strong search strategy can save you time when it is time to search for resources.  Rather than doing general searching using Google, we recommend that you search using the library databases.  Searching Google is much different than searching library databases.

One facet of database searching that can be difficult to get used to is subject heading or keyword searches.  Rather than typing a question in and expecting instant results, users need to focus on identifying and using controlled language searches.

Identifying controlled language for subject headings and keywords is beneficial for the savvy researcher.  Controlled language is typically assigned by the Library of Congress and is then used universally (or at least in English) by vendors and publishers when identifying main points and ideas for their books, journals and other publications.

Once the controlled language for your topic is identified, database searching is usually much easier. 

Language used on websites by various entities can often be arbitrary and inconsistent.