Guide to Researching a Classics Paper or Presentation

The key to successfully researching a paper or presentation is to begin with resources that have been carefully vetted by experts. With this in mind, you should:

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  • Step 1: Reference Materials

    N.B. Researching an academic topic should never begin or end with an Internet search.

    Listen to Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia,
    "For God sake, you’re in college; don’t cite the encyclopedia."

    The reason for this is simple: although the Internet contains a staggering amount of accurate, useful information, it contains much that is inaccurate, intentionally deceiving, or downright bizarre. Before you know the basic facts of your topic, as they appear in professionally researched and edited resources, you will not be able to separate fact from fiction (or worse). Begin your research by checking one or both of these basic reference works (both are in the Reference Section in Magill; a copy of the Oxford Classical Dictionary is also available in the Classics Reference collection in Hall Building):

    • Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3rd ed. 2003. [DE 5. O97 2003]
    • Brill's New Pauly: Encyclopedia of the Ancient World [DE5 .N4813 2002] Originally in German, volumes 1-7 (A through Lyc-) have been translated into English.

    In addition to surveying most aspects of Classical Antiquity, many entries in both of these resources contain short bibliographies that can guide you to useful books and articles on the topic. Depending on the project, your professor may also place additional resources on reserve.

  • Step 2: Scholarly Books
    1. To find materials on a topic, first do a Keyword Search to find a relevant book.

    2. Then, using the subjects listed on that item, conduct Subject Searches to find more material; for example:

      Love Poetry, Latin History and Criticism
      Slaves, Greece History

    3. Check out your books.

      • If a book is not available at Magill, but is in one of the other Tri-College libraries, use the “Request” button to summon the book. It will usually arrive on campus within 2 days.
      • Interlibrary Loan and E-ZBorrow - Request items that are not in Tripod on this page. Note that E-Z Borrow provides only books. It draws from large collections including the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State. E-Z borrow can deliver books in 3 to 5 days. ILL from outside of Pennsylvania can take 10 days to 2 weeks.
      • WorldCat - Look for materials, many not owned by the Tri-Colleges. This combined library catalog has more than 61 million records describing items owned by libraries around the world. Many of these items are available to you on interlibrary loan.
  • Step 3: On-line Sources

    Having a good sense of the basics of your topic, now and only after forming a basic understanding of the topic using the print sources listed above should you look on on-line for additional resources and interpretations. The Subject Portal for Classics maintained by the Tri-College research librarians is an excellent place to begin. This page also contains the contact information for the research librarian at Haverford and Bryn Mawr who specializes in Classical Studies. Here are a few additional places to look:

    • JSTOR: offers researchers the ability to search and retrieve high-resolution, scanned images of journal issues and pages as they were originally designed, printed, and illustrated. JSTOR is not a current issues database. Because of JSTOR's archival mission, there is a gap, typically from 1 to 5 years, between the most recently published journal issue and the back issues available in JSTOR.
    • Library of Congress: An Annotated List of Reference Websites in Classical and Medieval History
    • Diotima: Resources for the Study of Women & Gender in the Ancient World
    • Bryn Mawr Classical Review: publishes timely reviews of current scholarly work in the field of classical studies (including archaeology); an excellent place to find the most recent work on a topic and to learn more about works that have been published since 1990.
    • Suda On-line: a 10th century CE compilation of material on ancient literature, history, and biography. A massive work of about 30,000 entries, the Suda is an invaluable source for many details that would otherwise be unknown to us about Greek and Roman antiquity.
    • Canon of Greek Authors: a searchable database with information about all Greek authors from Antiquity through the Byzantine period.

    Remember that the Internet's great strength--that anyone can publish on it--is also its greatest weakness as a research tool. Whenever you are looking at an on-line resource, you must evaluate its authority.

    Course and research materials prepared by teachers and professors at ".EDU" domains are often (but not always) accurate. If you have any doubt about the authority of a source, you should contact your professor.

  • Step 4: Recent Scholarly Articles
    • TOCS-IN: Tables of Contents of Journals of Interest to Classicists
    • L'Annee Philologique: Complete bibliographic information for Classics publications from 1959-2003 is on-line (on-campus access only)
    • Gnomon Bibliographic Database: a searchable database of Classical bibliography that is updated weekly.