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College of Arts and Letters | Michigan State University


On this page you will find some useful resources on "how to get started with your dissertation: defining a topic"* and "how to publish," as well as names and website links of possible journals you can submit your work to.

How to locate a good research topic (And how to make your essay/dissertation relevant for readers):

When you are writing an essay or a dissertation, there are several reasons to do a literature review. 1) Readers want to know why they should bother to read your essay, or book. You will need to strategize about how to help them to realize that your work "advances the growth of knowledge" with respect to  important limitations in the existing literatures.  2) If you do the review early (and continuously) while working up a dissertation topic, it will help you identify just what are the challenges in the existing literatures that you could set out to engage. A good literature review can produce a fruitful dissertation topic! 3) A good literature review is itself a publishable essay.  It is just the kind of overview of a field that you would like to  be able to hand your students on day 1 of a course focused on your dissertation topic.

The Boote and Beile reference below is a thorough discussion of  the value of, and how to do,  a literature review for social science research (in this case, in the field of education), but it is highly relevant to reviews in other fields such as philosophy.  (Notice that it is itself a literature review!) Meanwhile,  an abbreviated form of a literature review is a good way to organize the reading you do  prior to  designing a research project.  It can help you keep track of your reading in a way  that you will later find useful. So after you read an article (or several of them on a given topic) or book, take 5 minutes to jot down the answers to these questions:

1. What are the strengths and limitations of this article (set of them, book, policy)?

2. What are the internal debates, tensions, or contradictions within this literature?  What are the debates within the field that the author is engaging?  How do different authors' assumptions, methods, or goals differ or conflict with each other?  How is a central term used differently in different essays?

3. What are new research directions in the field that need more attention?

4. What is a better question to ask than the ones the author(s) ask?  That is, can you make "a progressive problem shift" (as Boote and Beile put the point)?  If so, you have a possible dissertation topic!

Note that your answers to questions 1, 2, and 3 should suggest possibilities for an answer to #4.

How to get an article/dissertation chapter published?

To have a better understanding of what reviewers are looking for in an article, you may want to take a look at the Peer Review Guidelines  from InterActions: the UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies. The journal website is:


 * Thanks to Sandra Harding for providing this material.

Possible journals for publication

Agriculture and Human Values is the journal of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society. The Journal, like the Society, is dedicated to an open and free discussion of the values that shape and the structures that underlie current and alternative visions of food and agricultural systems.


The American Journal of Bioethics aims to provide the bioethics community with informed research of the current bio-medical issues of today.  Spanning across many disciplines, the journal consists of through target articles, peer commentary, book reviews, qualitative research, literary criticism, photography and graphic arts, and comments.


The American Philosophical Quarterly welcomes original articles that advance our understanding of philosophical problems or positions, on any aspect of philosophy apart from history. Articles are subject to blind review and evaluated based on originality, rigor, depth of insight, mastery of relevant literature, and lucidity of style. The journal does not publish news items, book reviews, critical notices, or "discussion notes" (short or long). The journal does not consider articles under consideration elsewhere.


Analytic Philosophy previously known as Philosophical Books. The journal focuses on peer-reviewed research articles. Original philosophical work in all areas of philosophy will be considered. Book reviews, critical notices, discussions and other sorts of philosophical pieces are sought.

Ancient Philosophy is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the publication of original articles, discussions, and reviews in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and science. Established in 1980, this journal is an essential source of excellent scholarship in its field.

Comparative and Continental Philosophy is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes leading edge papers by internationally respected scholars in comparative and continental philosophy. Published in affiliation with the Comparative and Continental Philosophy Circle, this academic journal is accessible to a wide range of readers from various disciplines such as philosophy, religion, art history, comparative literature, critical theory, phenomenological psychology, and cultural theory.

Constellations is an international peer-reviewed journal committed to publishing the best of contemporary critical and democratic theory.  Constellations fosters creative thinking in philosophy, politics, social theory, and law. Longstanding assumptions about critical theory – its methods, concepts and emancipatory aims– need to be rethought. The journal aims to help expand the global possibilities for radical politics and social criticism in the coming period.

Environment, Space, Place is a transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary journal committed to values contributing to our rootedness to the earth and attunement to the environment, space, and place. Interdisciplinary is taken to mean that each discipline is encouraged to share its own particular excellence with the other disciplines in an open exchange. Transdisciplinary is taken to mean that contributors are required to make the “geographical turn.” Meant in the etymological sense of “earth inscription” or the spatiality of meaning, the geographical turn frames or makes thematic the spatial aspect of any and all earthly/worldly phenomena.

Environmental Ethics publishes articles, reviews and discussions exploring the philosophical aspects of environmental problems. Since 1979 it has provided a forum for diverse interests and attitudes that seeks to bring together the nonprofessional environmental philosophy tradition with the professional interest in the subject. This peer-reviewed journal is produced quarterly by the Center for Environmental Philosophy at the University of North Texas.

Environmental Philosophy features peer-reviewed articles, discussion papers, and book reviews for persons working and thinking within the broad field of "environmental philosophy." It welcomes diverse philosophical approaches to environmental issues, including those inspired by the many schools of Continental philosophy, studies in the history of philosophy, indigenous and non-Western philosophy, and the traditions of American and Anglo-American philosophy. The journal is sponsored by the International Association for Environmental Philosophy (IAEP), and the Department of Philosophy and Environmental Studies Program at the University of Oregon.

Episteme is a general journal of epistemology in the analytic tradition that invites both informal and formal approaches. Among its primary “traditional” topics are knowledge, justification, evidence, reasons, rationality, skepticism, truth, probability, epistemic norms and values, and methodology. The journal devotes special attention to issues in social epistemology, including testimony, trust, disagreement, relativism, diversity and expertise, collective judgment, and the epistemic assessment of social institutions (e.g. science, law, democracy, and the media). The journal welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to epistemology that borrow methods from allied disciplines such as experimental psychology, linguistics, economics, game theory, evolutionary theory, and computer simulation studies.

Ethics publishes scholarly work in moral, political, and legal philosophy from a variety of intellectual perspectives, including social and political theory, law, and economics. In addition to major articles, Ethics also publishes review essays, discussion articles, and book reviews.

The Editors welcome work that draws on more than one disciplinary approach, as well as contributions from outside the United States. Essays should avoid unnecessary technicality and strive to be accessible to the widest possible audience without sacrificing clarity and rigor. Ethics publishes both theory and the application of theory to contemporary moral issues. Historical essays are welcome, provided they have significant implications for contemporary theory.

Ethics and the Environment is an interdisciplinary forum for theoretical and practical articles, discussions, reviews, comments, and book reviews in the broad area encompassed by environmental ethics. Supported by the Center for Humanities and Arts, the Philosophy Department, and the Environmental Ethics Certificate Program at the University of Georgia, and edited by Victoria Davion (Head of the Department of Philosophy) and Melissa Link (Managing Editor of E&E), the journal focuses on conceptual approaches in ethical theory and ecological philosophy, including deep ecology and ecological feminism, as they pertain to environmental issues such as environmental education and management, ecological economics, and ecosystem health.

Ethics & International Affairs, the journal of the Carnegie Council, helps close the gap between theory and practice (and between theorists and practitioners) by publishing original essays that integrate rigorous thinking about principles of justice and morality into discussions of practical dilemmas related to current policy developments, global institutional arrangements, and the conduct of important international actors. Theoretical discussions that originate in philosophy, religion, or the social sciences should connect with the interests of journalists, activists, policy-makers, and citizens who are primarily concerned with assessing and reforming specific policies, as well as existing rules and institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund; arrangements governing trade, environmental protection, and the use of force; and the International Criminal Court and ad hoc tribunals that address genocide and past societal injustices.

Ethics, Policy & Environment  offers scholarly articles, reviews, critical exchanges, and short reflections on all aspects of environmental ethics, environmental philosophy, and the normative dimensions of environmental policy. The focus centers on environmental ethics and policy, but its substantive coverage is wider. Authors have been concerned with a range of subjects, such as applied environmental ethics, animal welfare, environmental justice, development ethics, sustainability, and cultural values relevant to environmental concerns. The journal also welcomes analyses of practical applications of environmental, energy technology, regional, and urban policies, as well as theoretically robust discussions of common arguments that appear throughout debates on environment and energy policy, either in the scholarly literature or in the broader civic sphere.
Feminist Studies, publishes research and criticism that takes into account the intersections of gender with racial identity, sexual orientation, economic means, geographical location, and physical ability. No other scholarly journal also features artistic, creative, and activist output on the same scale: each issue contains multi-page full color art spreads alongside art essays, poetry and fiction, photo essays, and commentaries on newsworthy topics.Our issues typically contain thematic clusters of essays, creative work, and activist output, and our special issues (on topics such as Race and Transgender Studies, Women and Prison, Culture and History in the New South Africa, Chicana Studies, Conjugalities in South Asia, The Body and Healthcare) draw a wide readership.