Library Subject Guides

Classics: Assignment Research

The Research Process

This outlines a simple but effective approach to finding information for your assignment, based on the resources described in the Classics Subject Guide. Depending on your topic and your level of study, you may need to rearrange or review these steps.

  1. Develop a search strategy
  2. Gather Background Information
  3. Decide What Types of Resources Are Needed
  4. Find Books and Journal Articles
  5. Find information on the Internet
  6. Evaluate Your Sources
  7. Writing Your Assignment and Citing Your Sources

See Also

Define the Topic

It may seem obvious, but the first step is to make sure you understand the topic. Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question to help you develop a search strategy.

Gather Background Information

Use encyclopedias and dictionaries for Classics to find definitions and background information. Articles from specialised subject encyclopedias are authoritative and often substantial

Decide What Types of Resources Are Needed

Work out the types of resources you will need for your assignment. Depending on the topic, you are likely to need some of the following:

  • Primary sources
    Accounts written by Greek or Roman authors. Usually these are in books by individual authors or compilations by an editor.
  • Secondary sources
    Interpretation of an event, myth, literary work, sculpture, etc., written later and based upon earlier accounts or texts. They may be in the form of books or journal articles. Secondary sources will offer you a variety of opinion on a topic.
  • Visual materials
    They may include maps of places in the ancient world, artwork depicting an event or myth, diagrams or photographs (e.g. of an ancient site).

Find Books and Journal Articles

Citation Chaining

Chaining is a well-established and widely used method of gathering additional sources for a topic: Find one important scholarly work on your topic (sometimes called the “seed document”), and follow up the references that it cites in its footnotes, bibliography or list of references. Those cited works will cite other works in turn, which you can also seek out, and so the chain of citations continues.

For the method to work well, it is important to choose the “seed document” carefully. Ideally the “seed” will be a definitive and recent work on the topic, such as a seminal book or a review article. For undergraduate assignments, such a “seed” will often be listed in the Reading List prepared by your lecturer for the course.

The method has one obvious disadvantage: it can only take you backwards to older publications on the topic. It cannot help you discover any new literature and latest research. This drawback is overcome using Cited Reference Searching.

Cited-Reference Searching

Citation indexes allow you to look forward in time, and find works citing a particular scholarly work (the “seed document”) that were published after the “seed document’s” publication date.

The underlying method is similar to that of “Citation Chaining”: if there is a scholarly work that is prominent in your area of research, it may be useful to identify later works that cite that work.

The most useful citation index for Classics is Google Scholar.


Simple, one-step searching across a range of the Library’s resources, including the library catalogue, most library databases and some digital collections.


Find Books

Books and Ebooks via MultiSearch

The Library Catalogue lists books held in the Library's collection. Hints for searching the library catalogue

  • Check for books by course code (about High Demand ).
  • Use Keyword or Title searches to find additional material.
  • Use the Author alphabetical search (e.g. Herodotus) to find primary sources
  • Note that the Library Catalogue does not use abbreviated book titles. If your reading list uses abbrveviation like CAH, you will need to type 'Cambridge Ancient History' in full
  • Click a Subject within the record of a useful title to find books on related subjects
  • Browse the library shelves in the classification sequence for Classics.
  • NB. Since 2024 the library catalogue only includes books and ebooks purchased by UC Library. It omits hundreds of thousands of ebook titles ‘leased’ through library subscriptions, which are listed on MultiSearch. The library catalogue has more functional search and sorting capabilities than MultiSearch, all the same.

See also:

Finding Classics Books.

Find Journal Articles

The Library Catalogue lists the print and electronic titles of journals held by the Library. Select the Browse Alphabetically: By Title search option and enter the full journal title.

  • Sometimes the titles of journals in lists of Classics references have been abbreviated, making them hard to find on the library catalogue. Here is a list of abbreviations along with the full titles that should be used in the library catalogue.


To find articles on your specific topic, follow the tips on the Journal Articles page.

See also:

Finding Classics Journal Articles

Find Information on the Internet

The Internet can be a rich source of information but not everything will be useful or appropriate for research use. Web resources should be carefully evaluated and used in conjunction with the scholarly resources provided by the Library. Use the Advanced search features of Google or use Google Scholar to restrict your search to search results from more reputable sources.

See also:

Evaluate Your Sources

References recommended on reading lists will already have been evaluated for quality. You will need to evaluate sources that you find yourself. Think critically about the information you find. The quality of your information will help to determine the quality of your assignment.

See also:

Writing Your Assignment and Citing Your Sources

For writing and citing, see the Classics Dept Essay Guide

These writing guides have useful advice for writing on arts subjects.

Remember to avoid plagiarism by citing all the sources of information you use in your essay.