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CLAS 160: Introduction to Classical Archaeology (Glennie): Start Your Research Process

Spring 2023

Start Your Process


The Information Lifecycle helps us understand how information about an event, topic or idea might emerge and evolve over time. 

Note that this timeline is just a general sense of the information lifecycle -- the exact timing can vary greatly from one discipline to another! 

This graphic is designed to help you understand what sources might look like when studying the ancient world. 


In order to choose an appropriate research tool, you should consider your research needs. What do you need at this point in time? Are you still becoming familiar with your topic, or are you trying to fill specific gaps? 

  • If you're just getting started, you may want to choose CrossSearch and look for books or e-books (or, choose some of the recommended background resources on this guide). 
  • If you're doing deeper research, determine what angle you are focusing on for this search. Are you investigating a work of art? An archaeological site? Architecture? A historical period? There's probably a (subject-focused) database for that! 

Need help selecting a research tool? Consult your professor, or a librarian! 


Any research process begins by figuring out how to search. But, where to begin? 


Spend a few minutes thinking about what words could be used to describe the topic. Be as  specific as you can. 

For each of the words you listed, think of other words or phrases you could use that mean the same thing.

Use AND and OR to make your search more or less specific! This will give you more sources to choose from.

  • When you use AND, a database will look for resources that use all of the words you entered.
  • Use OR between words that mean the same or similar things, or that you are equally interested in.

If you aren't finding much, try...

  • Rephrasing. See if you can find even 1 or 2 relevant articles, note what subjects are listed for them, and use these to try again.
  • Broadening your search. Nothing about this specific akroterion? What about akroteria of this period generally? 
  • Switching tools. Sometimes you just need a different database! 


No piece of research stands alone; each is part of a broader scholarly conversation in that topic/ field. These resources have clues that you can TRACE, if you know how to look! 

Terms– Check the abstract, subject terms and article for concepts and terms that you can use for your future searches.

Reported in Is the journal where the article was printed relevant? Try searching for other articles from this journal.

Author What else has the author(s) published on this topic? Search the databases for their other publications

Consulted by Check Google Scholar to see which articles or books have cited your sources, and to find
more-recent research which builds on your original information.

Evidence -Check the references list (or bibliography) to see what previous research this resource is drawing on. From here, you may wish to consider: 

- Previous articles or books published on your topic
- Other authors who have published on your topic
- Journals where your topic is frequently discussed

Tools for TRACE-ing: 


Part 1: What are scholarly sources? 

Scholarly sources are written by experts on a particular subject (for example, a professor or other researcher). They also go through an extra process of review and approval by a group of other experts before they can be published. Usually, scholarly articles are written for an audience of other scholars. The chart below compares the characteristics of scholarly vs. popular (non-scholarly) sources:  Handout version of popular vs. scholarly source chart; click to enlarge

author Usually staff writers and/or journalists Experts on the topic -- usually researchers, scholars and/or professors
audience General public (for "popular" consumption) Other experts (and students) in the field
editing & review Editor(s); generally concerned with grammar, style, etc., with some fact-checking Other experts ("peer reviewed"); generally concerned with quality, thoroughness of research, strength of argument, etc. 
style & design

Reasonably brief, typically uses colloquial if not informal language. Often illustrated with graphics, sidebars and other aesthetic elements. Sometimes accompanied by ads.

More extensive in length; tends to be more formal and uses specialized vocabulary. Illustrations and charts are used only when furthering content. 
goal or purpose To entertain; and/or, to share general information To share findings, advance and argument and/or engage with other scholars
sources Few or none; if sources are used, there may not be formal citations.  Typically uses many sources, cited in detailed bibliographies, footnotes and/or endnotes
examples Time Magazine; Sports Illustrated; New Yorker; Boston Globe Annual Review of Political Science; American Historical Review; Sociology of Education

It's important to keep in mind that scholarly sources are not always the best or only source available to you -- it depends on what information you are trying to find:

  • Due to the time required for a scholarly article to be researched, written, go through the peer review process and then be published, it can be difficult to find scholarly articles published about recent events, discoveries, etc.. You should expect 1-2 years between the time an event occurs or a discovery is made and the time academic research on that event begins to be published, with some exceptions! 
  • There are also plenty of reliable sources (like the Oxford Classical Dictionary) which are not technically "scholarly" by the classic definition, yet are highly respected sources which are academic in nature. 

  • Part 2: Checking Facts

No matter what you're researching or what kinds of information you're working with, you should always situate your source within the context of the timeline, the audience, the content, etc. Think of it like doing a background check! 

Check Your Facts! 
Fact, Fiction, or Something In-Between?  You be the judge! 
Ask yourself these questions to evaluate sources of information. 
Is this information current? Does the time frame matter?
Who is the author, publisher or sponsor of this information? 
Is this information supported by evidence? 
Who is the intended audience of this information?
What is the purpose of this information - to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade? 

Classics Librarian

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Jennifer Whelan
Coordinator of Research & Information Literacy

Dinand 203