The Philosopher’s Index: Celebrating 50 Years of Editorial Continuity

Library Resources | December 11, 2017

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Founder and editor Dr. Richard H. Lineback has applied his expertise to indexing philosophy since 1967, when The Philosopher’s Index was first published by the Philosopher’s Information Center. Since then, The Philosopher’s Index has remained the most authoritative bibliography in philosophy.

There’s a reason why The Philosopher’s Index has maintained the trust of the philosophical community for 50 years; it is the unprecedented work and dedication of Dr. Lineback and his small team of 14 assistants, who are also philosophers. We asked Dr. Lineback to describe how The Index came about and the secrets of its success.

What was the catalyst for starting The Philosopher’s Index?
Philosophy researchers have grown accustomed to the high-quality indexing of Dr. Lineback’s database, but as a doctoral candidate in the 1960s, Dr. Lineback did not have access to such a resource. Because it took six months to gather the necessary source materials for his dissertation, Dr. Lineback was driven to find a solution. In 1966, after taking a teaching position at Bowling Green State University, he learned that Chemical Abstracts in Columbus had efficient ways of providing bibliographic information, so he visited Chemical Abstracts to learn about their processes. He then conducted market research at major U.S. libraries to determine the need for an index in philosophy and received an overwhelmingly positive response. The first edition of The Philosopher’s Index was published in 1967 by the Philosopher's Information Center.

There’s a reason why The Philosopher’s Index has preserved the trust of the philosophical community for 50 years; it is the unprecedented work and dedication of Dr. Richard H. Lineback, along with his small team of 14 assistants, who are also philosophers.

What distinguishes The Philosopher’s Index from other tools?
At The Philosopher’s Index, indexing is done by people with a deep knowledge of philosophy — 12 of the 14 assistant editors have PhDs in philosophy. Articles and books are indexed consistently in a discipline that is highly nuanced using the same standards that have been in place for 50 years. Despite the changes in ways information is accessed, Dr. Lineback still personally prescreens each publication to ensure its relevance to philosophy. To ensure quality, all indexing is done by philosophers without computers, and Dr. Lineback still conducts the final review of every record — 650,000 records later.

In 2015, consistent with the way Dr. Lineback developed The Index to be timely and relevant, he made the decision to introduce the first full-text bibliography in the humanities, The Philosopher’s Index with Full Text, which includes over 230 full-text journals. And, in 2016, he began adding dissertations to The Index. Celebrating 50 years of serving the global philosophical community, The Philosopher’s Index continues to meet the growing research needs of philosophers while maintaining a foundation of editorial continuity.

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