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Humanities (The Definitive Guide For Students and Professionals)

The humanities are disciplines that, put simply, study humans. They look at how people move, where they migrate, why they leave and stay, how they communicate, and how they develop culture. The humanities articles in this section of Direct Knowledge will explore these areas to help you in your educational or professional endeavors.

Our selection of humanities articles and books takes a unique path from the other four main groups of topics on Direct Knowledge. Whereas applied, formal, natural, and social sciences all involve science, humanities (typically) does not. That's not to say it can't involve scientific methods and practices. But, many of the topics have no need for it. They aren't trying to prove theories or solve problems. Rather, they often focus on exploring human nature and skills. This is why the humanities readings often aim to introduce the reader to new subjects and activities through guidance and a generally informative approach.

Humanities Articles With a Multidisciplinary Approach

As a field of knowledge, humanities includes several areas of scholarship including language, literature, history, philosophy, religion, art, politics and law. Within these frameworks are fields in which academic and professional careers are attainable. Ultimately, those interests revolving around society and culture land in these studies.

Interestingly, this field utilizes a multidisciplinary approach, meaning these humanities articles will have a broad range. Moreover, the subjects rely on each other to further develop research and theories. Coursework at universities in this field often includes overlapping theoretical bases as well as requirements across multiple departments to provide a holistic approach to studying humans and their societies throughout history.

Of note, these fields are highly appealing to those interested in truly human endeavors like art, music, literature and language. These disciplines play a role in nearly every culture throughout history. Studying them allows for the identification of common issues, themes and ideas that span multiple eras and places. Humanities scholars not only aim to find these connections and expound upon them but develop critical reasoning, effective means of communication and unite broad areas of knowledge.

At Direct Knowledge, we look at four fields within the humanities articles: journalism, library science, philosophy and visual arts. These disciplines showcase great academic principles as well as professional opportunities.

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Philosophy as the Original Humanities Discipline

One of the oldest areas of large-scale thinking and formal education, philosophy, studies the grandest questions of life. Philosophers aim to resolve these fundamental questions on knowledge, existence, reasoning and value. However, many philosophers look to study a question of interest and compare the resolutions of multiple other philosophers in order to seek understanding rather than simply find a singular answer. For reference, here is a short list of the types of questions philosophers contemplate, discuss and study:

What is it to exist?

Do humans have free will, and what is that free will?

Is there truth, or what is truth?

If one can escape punishment, is it better to be just or unjust?

Some questions scholars in this field posit delve into religious understandings and contemplations. The ability to look at numerous frameworks of understanding and ethics makes philosophy one of the largest fields of study within the humanities. Moreover, it is also a foundation for many other academic focuses as scholars approach resolving these grand questions from different perspectives. What they share, however, is the use of philosophical methods.

In discussing philosophy, it is important to focus on the approach to answering questions. Thus, the humanities articles here focus on critical discussion, rational argument, the continuation of questioning and systematic presentation embody the methods taken to prove perspectives. And as such, many other branches of scholarship and thought derive from philosophical principles as well.

Articles Focusing on Practical Studies in the Humanities

Often, the perception of the humanities is that the field is theory-oriented. However, much of what is thought about, discussed in the written form, or simply debated finds its place in practical fields. Knowledge, and how it is shared, is the true root of the humanities. As discussed in relation to philosophy, the search for truth is inherent to humans and their pursuit for understanding. As such, putting that pursuit into practice is a necessary feat for societies.

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Although many look at journalism as simply “news” and television broadcasts, the field is actually quite large and encompassing. Journalists are, by trade, newsmakers. They seek to gather information, assess its implications and value, then create and disseminate this information to the public. Journalistic publications exist in several written forms or by television or radio broadcast. As such, this field of work is often considered a “whistleblower” field that enables the public to be better informed about political and social currents.

Journalism also holds a special place in democratic societies. Because it is an area within humanities scholarship, it takes root in several disciplines. Notably, journalism pulls from studies of culture (anthropology) as well as philosophy. As such, journalists often need to make tough ethical decisions about when and where to publish their findings. Moreover, their work plays directly into liberality in any given society and often marks whether a society operates democratically. In other words, the larger the role of journalism permits a more democratic political environment in which citizens have more information with which to make decisions or cast votes.

While the field often faces criticism, scholarship within it aims to identify ethical parameters for journalists, best applications for journalistic content development and links between media studies and other scholarship. Academically, it is still a fairly young realm of thought that continues to explore its own limitations and applications. You can read articles in the humanities section of Direct Knowledge which further explore this category. If you're new to the field, you might start with an article which explores various types of journalism to find out which is right for you. You can also investigate potential universities to attend and qualities of careers in the field.

Humanities Student asking a librarian in a library

Library Science

Library scientists invest in many elements of managing not only libraries but knowledge in general. The field of library science is inherently multidisciplinary as a field in the humanities, and so articles will overlap with other subjects. Its practices and tools used for information management, information technology, data organization and more pull from multiple areas of scholarship. Plus, it takes into consideration multiple perspectives including how and where to disseminate information.

Studies in library science are began around the mid-17th century. At that time, it was an accomplishment to simply establish a library to collect written works. Moving into the 19th century, scholarship had expanded greatly with numerous written works circling the western hemisphere, in particular. Melvil Dewey designed the famous decimal system, forging a new reason for library management and scholarship on information management. As technology continued to boom through the 20th century into the 21st century, data management became the apparent issue for library scientists.

Today, there is a great amount of focus on access to information and working toward equity of dissemination. This is because of a rise in misinformation where people (often purposefully) spread information which is untrue. Often this is done out of malice and towards an end of misguiding people. Other times, it is just done out of ignorance. The articles in this category of the humanities will show you current events and trends such as these in library science that are important to know if you're looking to get into the field.

Humanities Articles on Visual Arts

Painting, drawing, sketching, sculpting, photography, filmmaking, architecture — these are a few of the big-name visual arts. This body of scholarship and design encompasses the fine arts and applied arts. The distinction between these two is based on functionality. Fine arts do not hold functional value in the traditional sense, whereas applied arts incorporate decorative elements in designs intended for use.

The visual arts do not only study types of art, however. Scholars in the field often seek meaning from artists in addition to studying the methods of production of the piece. In this search for meaning and the emergence of interpretation, the field gains a large body of scholarship. Meaning can relate to personal feelings and experience, or make comments on political and other events of the time. Sometimes the meaning is obvious, other times it is quite subtle. In fact, studies in the field will often argue over intent in a piece or interpretation of message from the artist.

For those who participate in the creation of visual arts, studying the world around them is critical. Regardless of the medium, artists who study visual arts and actively create them often draw from a specific source of inspiration. That source then represents an era, a culture, a place, etc. In the act of recording people and their worlds, the visual arts take root in the humanities.

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Humanities Books Categories

Within the collection of humanities books found here are four categories: journalism, library science, philosophy, and visual arts. Many of them delve into general areas starting from the very basics. Some look at broad topics as a whole, while others narrow in on specifics.


In this category, you’ll find humanities books that open the door to many useful skills for journalists. Of course, one of the fundamental basics for any journalist is writing. Books such as The Simple Math of Writing Well address this topic in a straightforward manner. Anyone can improve their writing abilities, from those just trying it out to those who are already professionals in a writing field.

The books in this area take into account the effects of the modern world. For example, writing in the digital age is of great importance, but the manner in which we do it varies greatly from a few decades ago. Email, instant messaging, fast news, and social media have a different feel and different rules. Adapting to changes through time requires flexibility in writing skills, and these humanities books can help you gain such flexibility.

Similarly, books like The Data Journalism Handbook really take reporting to a modern level. The power of data is increasingly important in a world of abundant but often misleading information. Students and professionals should take notes on backing up their claims in a reliable manner.

Library Science

Speaking of modern developments, humanities books on library science will show you how this field has stood its ground over time. This interesting niche is about more than just libraries. Rather, it encompasses the essence of learning and making knowledge accessible to all. Thus, as times change, so do the methods of libraries and librarians.

Libraries adapt to digital resources, embracing the accessibility they provide. Librarians don’t judge the new information age, but do their best to keep up with the waves of new material so that they can help spread it to pupils. Books such as The Information Literacy User’s Guide show students how to use all of the available modern tools without getting overwhelmed. Gathering, analyzing, and presenting findings from any topic becomes a breeze with a step-by-step guide on doing research.

Educators and professionals, on the other hand, will find books like A Field Guide for Academic Librarians to be helpful for creating their own open educational projects. The idea of library science books is that price and other restrictions shouldn’t keep students from learning in any field.


Humanities books on the topic of philosophy take a deeper look at learning some more abstract concepts. Many of the subjects in philosophy can’t be properly explored through other methods like science. Rather, they involve deep thought and the use of logic and reason.

Books like Fundamental Methods of Logic can provide a basis for understanding and mastering this use of logic. Because logic is like a string connecting points together, it is the basis for arguments that end in reasonable conclusions and answers. This book can aid students in introductory logic and critical reasoning classes, or anyone wishing to understand abstract topics or even improve debate skills.

Other books such as Metaethics from a First Person Standpoint give fresh perspectives of certain difficult topics. This particular book approaches the subject as a story based on the inner dialogue of the narrator. It uses clear and plain language to help make some very complicated questions a bit easier to grasp.

Some additional popular topics include epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and metaphysics. The words might be a bit intimidating, but really they are just the study of ideas such as knowledge, right and wrong, reasoning, art, and reality in general. Now is an interesting time in the field, so reading up on the humanities books here can help you get involved in areas that past philosophers may never have dreamed of.

Visual Arts

Certain aspects of visual arts can be tough to teach through books. For instance, most of the skills you gain in painting or sculpting will come with practice. However, other parts of the field require a good amount of reading and introspective thought. And introductory subjects in particular can contain a lot of technical information that needs to be absorbed before students can really get hands-on.

For example, working in a theater can mean doing much more than putting on costumes and acting in front of an audience. Behind the scenes of theater production, things can get pretty complicated. An Introduction to Technical Theater goes into the nitty gritty of logistics, sound, lighting, equipment, and other parts of production.

Another practical resource in this category of humanities books is Exploring Movie Construction and Production. It focuses on movies and how they’re made, giving the perfect resource for film students or curious readers. From script to screen you’ll learn about the details that make a truly great movie. Those students in film criticism, acting, directing, and script writing will also find it useful to apply to their work.

Expanding Your Horizons with Humanities Books

These humanities books all contain thoughtful structures meant to guide students and curious minds from start to finish. Many of them provide diagrams and visualizations to demonstrate their points. Some even contain examples or ways to practice the ideas. Struggling students can use these books to engage their curiosity and open up their minds to new ways of thinking. And pairing them with online articles and even courses can make a huge difference in class or work performance.

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