Beginning Research on Topics in Classical Studies
a guide prepared by
Dr. Jacqueline Long
Department of Classical Studies
So you've got an idea, or an assignment. But maybe a vague idea is all
you've got. You need more information about your topic before you can
begin to define a problem your research will address. Or maybe you've
got some more specific target in mind, but you need more background.
Where to start?
Helpful Resources available at Loyola
- Loyola Libraries offer a guide on-line that can help get you started at
Doing Academic Research.
Advance through the topics the cover-page at the link identifies by clicking
the tabs ("Your Topic," "Types of Academic Sources," etc.) in the line across the
bottom of the heading. Note however that when they say cheerily that "nothing" is
wrong with Google and Wikipedia as sources for background information, they're eliding
the vital points in the discussion immediately below: these resources don't have
scholarly expertise vetting the information they locate for you, so you're just as
apt to turn up junk as you are valid information. Even general encyclopedias like
the Britannica don't always tell you enough about how their information is validated
for you to judge if it's really current and sound. Targeted resources edited by scholars
in the field offer far better guidance into Classical topics:
- The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Simon Hornblower and Antony
Spawforth, eds., 3rd edn. rev. (2003): Cudahy Reference,
DE 5 .O9 2003
- good overviews of most of the larger topics a Classical scholar
could probably imagine as of the late 20th century, and very many
smaller topics also; with bibliography for the most important places
to turn next
New Pauly, Antiquity volumes edited by Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider, Classical
Tradition volumes edited by Manfred Landfester (Brill, 2010)
- good, well-grounded scholarly overviews of Classical topics and areas of study,
large and small, with supporting bibliography. The Antiquity volumes cover Classical culture
in its breadth from Aegean prehistory through the formation of early medieval Europe in
west and east, the Classical Tradition volumes cover the reception of Classical culture
Bibliographies Online: Classics, Dee Clayman, editor in chief (2011-)
- annotated bibliographies on many topics, compiled by leading scholars in the relevant fields
- The Cambridge Ancient History, John Boardman et al.,
eds., 2nd edn. (1982-): Cudahy Reference, D 57 .C252 1982
- articles on all aspects of ancient Greek and Roman history,
in many volumes and an ongoing project of revision and updating;
references to other important discussions in footnotes
- L'Annee philologique: bibliographie critique et analytique de
l'antiquite greco-latine (1924-): on line at a
Flagship site, and hard copy in Cudahy Reference, Z 7016 .M35 A2
- Don't think that if you don't read French, this won't be
useful to you!! It is an annual index of items published in all
languages, anywhere on the
globe, on all conceivable topics of research in Classical Studies,
broken down by authors and by other categories, with cross-listing.
- A cautionary note: No "dictionary" or "encyclopedia" is going to be a sufficient
resource for serious academic research all by itself - not even the good ones listed here, and
especially not Wikipedia, where not all articles can be trusted to have gotten reliable verification
before being published. The best ones, however, identify their sources and thereby point you to
the evidence and the arguments you want to be considering further, for yourself. Don't hide your
use of such resources - but verify their information.
- Jane Currie, Loyola's Bibliographer in Classical Studies, has
prepared a Library Guide
as a useful gateway to on-line and some print resources for Classical
Studies. Note that many classical journals and reference works are not covered
by on-line indexes: you will need print by the time you get into the research itself.
- Pegasus, Loyola's on-line
catalogue, can help you find whether Loyola Libraries own books you
want to use, or journals in which scholarly articles are printed. If
not, Interlibrary Loan or other requests
(see the links under "services" in the column on the left of the page) can help
you to get hold of resources you need.
Taking it further, or unsnagging difficulties:
Exploiting Secondary Sources You Have Already Identified
- Of course, there's the content the secondary work offers. But also:
- Does it list a bibliography? See whether other works listed there
also relate to your topic, and look for them.
- Footnotes or endnotes in a scholarly work will refer you to
resources especially relevant to topics immediately under discussion, both primary sources
containing the evidence on which discussion needs to be based and other secondary studies
with which the author agrees or disagrees.
- Follow up related topics with a quick investigation: sometimes their different angle
on the source-material or on a different but connected problem will suggest new insights.
- In the library stacks, take a quick look at books near the books you identify as definitely of interest
to you: they're likely to address related questions.
Help in Need
- Your instructor has a vested interest in seeing you get the most
out of your project possible. Your instructor will be able to be most helpful if
you come with groundwork of research laid, and questions outlined
for what you want to know next.
- Librarians can help with many questions; ask at the Help desk.
Writing the Paper
- Pulling your research together, making an argument, and advancing
your argument persuasively:
- Dr. Long's
Guide to Writing Papers
- Loyola Libraries'
Doing Academic Research.
Note especially the tab "Evaluate Sources"! And although you don't necessarily have to use RefWorks,
you do have to provide citations via footnotes and bibliography for secondary sources to which you
refer in preparing your work, as well as specific passage-references for the primary sources you are
- Seeking help:
- Your instructor
- Loyola's Office of Academic Advising and Support Services,
on the Web and in the Sullivan Center for Student Services on the Lakeshore Campus, offers packages of advice called
Academic Success Tools about
things like strategies for active learning, time management, tests, reading, and note-taking.
The also schedule workshops
in these areas and other concerns like financial planning and picking a major.
The Sullivan Center also helps provide Services for Students with Disabilities.
- The Center for Tutoring and Academic Excellence
(physically in the Sullivan Center; peer-counselors) and the
Writing Centers (sponsored
by the Department of English: graduate students with expertise in writing pedagogy; main location
at Klarchek Information Commons 221, annexes in the
Sullivan Center, Suite 206A, and on the Water Tower Campus, 25 East Pearson 605) both offer
Revised 13 August 2012 by