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Research Guide to the Great Books
Research Guide to the Great Books
The Great Books are certain classics of literature, philosophy, history, and science that are believed to contain the basic ideas of Western culture. These include works by Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Herodotus, Thomas Aquinas, William Shakespeare, Blaise Pascal, Immanuel Kant, J. S. Mill, and Charles Darwin, among many others (Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature, 1995). A list of the Great Books authors can be found at http://faculty.ccc.edu/colleges/wright/greatbooks/Program/CoreAuthList.htm.
This module is a guide to finding information on Great Books texts and authors in libraries, electronic databases, and on the Internet. This information can be found in books, journals, and in a variety of electronic sources, including databases and web sites. A wide array of sources can be used to obtain information on Great Books authors, their works, and topics associated with them. The resources listed in this guide can be valuable aids to research, study, writing papers and essays, and teaching the Great Books, and can even help in pinpointing free online versions of Great Books texts.
Table of Contents
The contents of this module are as follows:
Finding Information on the Great Books in Libraries
In this section, you will find recommendations on finding information in print and electronic resources that may be available at your college library. Remember to always ask reference librarians at your individual college for help.
Library Lingo, Buzzwords, and Definitions
For information on these, see: http://www.ala.org/ala/acrlbucket/is/publicationsacrl/multilingualglossarydefinitions.htm
Using Keywords to Find Information
Think of keywords or terminology that describes Great Books as you are searching for books and journal articles. The Library of Congress Subject Headings, a reference work available in all libraries, can help you determine appropriate terminology and keywords.
Refining your Search: Using Boolean Logic
For information on this topic, see: http://www.ithaca.edu/library/course/expert.html
Consult your college library’s catalog first, and seek help from a librarian if necessary. When looking for books, search by authors’ names, keywords, and subjects. Since college library collections support the curriculum, consider suggesting books for purchase to help with collection development. Also, if the library does not own the materials you want, it can obtain them through interlibrary loan.
This database is the OCLC online catalog, an integrated catalog of library records of most books, journals, and nonprint materials available in the United States and throughout the world. It contains over 43 million records describing library holdings. Coverage: Includes records from the earliest printed works up through new, not-yet-published titles.
This is used for finding full-text electronic books online.
Search for magazine and journal articles using library electronic databases. These databases are not freely available through the Internet, but are subscribed to through commercial firms who assemble and market these databases to libraries for a fee and furnish licensed access to them. Remember that all libraries do not subscribe to the same electronic databases. Search these databases by keyword, author, title, and a variety of other fields.
Representative Electronic Databases for Research
Academic Search FullTEXT Premier (via EBSCOhost)
Academic Search Premier contains indexing and some full text for over 4,000 journals. This scholarly collection provides journal coverage for nearly all academic areas of study - including social sciences, humanities, education, computer sciences, engineering, physics, chemistry, language and linguistics, arts and literature, medical sciences, and ethnic studies.
Annee Philologique (alternative name: Database of Classical Bibliography)
This database provides an article index to literature on ancient Greek and Latin language and linguistics, Greek and Roman history, literature, philosophy, art, archaeology, religion, mythology, music, science, early Christian texts, numismatics, papyrology, and epigraphy. Books, editions of ancient texts, collected works, serials, dissertations, and book reviews and summaries are indexed.
This database indexes articles from the tables of contents of nearly 12,500 journals, along with a list of libraries holding the journal title. Publisher: OCLC / FirstSearch.
This is a searchable database of more than 300,000 images applicable to different times, cultures, and disciplines. A combination of images, data, and texts provides comprehensive art-related teaching, learning, and researching capabilities. The user can view and analyze images through features such as zooming and panning.
Biography Resource Center Reference
An online biographical reference database in the fields of literature, science, business, entertainment, politics, sports, history, current events, and the arts. Biographical information on over one million people throughout history, around the world. Publisher: Gale Group.
Contains abstracts of dissertations on a wide range of academic subjects, including literature. from 1861 to the present.
Early English Books Online
Full images of books published in English from 1475 to 1700. Publisher: ProQuest.
Eighteenth Century Collection Online
Full-text searchable facsimile page displays of approximately 150,000 books published in Britain and its colonies during the eighteenth century. Publisher: Gale Group.
Essay and General Literature Index
Cites essays and articles contained in collections of essays and other works published in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. Also indexed are more than 20 annual and serial publications. Includes full bibliographic information for the titles in which the collected works are found. Focuses on humanities and social sciences literature.
Expanded Academic ASAP (via Gale)
From arts and the humanities to social sciences, science, and technology, this database meets research needs across all academic disciplines. With access combining indexing, abstracts, and full text, this database offers balanced coverage available through 3,000 indexed and 1,900 full-text titles in a wide variety of disciplines, including social science journals, humanities journals, science and technology journals, national news periodicals, general interest magazines, newswires, the New York Times, and many others. More than 1,400 journals are peer reviewed, and more than 20 years of backfile coverage are included: scholarly journals, news magazines, and newspapers, many with full text and images.
FactsonFile: Ancient History and Culture
Africa, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Mesoamerica, and Mesopotamia from the early hominids of three to five million years ago through 1522 CE, and including subject entries, biographies, primary sources, images, maps and charts, and timelines. Covers the six ancient centers of civilization.
FactsonFile: World History Database Center
Civilizations and cultures of world history from prehistoric times through the modern era, including biographies, maps, primary source documents, and timelines, all searchable by topic, era, and activity.
Gerritsen Collection: Women’s History Online, 1543-1945
Full text of more than over 4,000 books and periodicals from continental Europe, the United States, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand, dating from 1543 to 1945, and covering the study of international women's history and the feminist movement.
Complete reference guide to the history of the world from 1450 to the present (excluding the United States and Canada). Publisher: ABC-CLIO.
Bibliographic citations from more than 450 periodicals in topics such as archaeology, art, classics, film, folklore, journalism, linguistics, music, the performing arts, philosophy, religion, world history, and world literature. Records added since 1994 have abstracts, and many citations have links to the full text of the article. The database is searchable by keyword, author, title, and a variety of other fields. Publisher: H.W. Wilson.
Humanities International Index
Collection of bibliographic references to literary, scholarly, and creative journals covering the Middle Ages and Renaissance in Europe. This database provides citation information for articles, essays, and reviews, as well as for original creative works such as poems and fiction. Citations to articles in over 200,000 records indexed from the complete runs of more than 400 scholarly journal titles. Also will be encompassing over 46,000 records of monographs, material published in monographs, and collected essays. Users may search by subject, author, title, keywords, and publication date. Time-span: 1843 to the present. As records are added to the database, coverage will extend back to 1700. Publisher: Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto.
Provides electronic access to back issues of core scholarly journals in the humanities, social sciences, and the sciences. Articles have been digitized, providing full-image access to the complete runs of over 100 journals. Users may browse by journal and issue, or may search the full text of the articles. Since JSTOR is intended to be an archive, it does not include the current issues of journals nor the most recent four or five years of them.
A fully searchable library of more than 350,000 works of English and American poetry, drama, and prose, plus biographies, bibliographies, and key criticism and reference resources.
Literature Resource Center
Access to biographies, bibliographies, and critical analyses of authors from every age and literary discipline. Combining Gale Group’s core literary databases in a single online service, the Literature Resource Center covers more than 120,000 novelists, poets, essayists, journalists, and other writers, with in-depth coverage of 2,500 of the most-studied authors. It includes reference works such as Contemporary Authors, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Scribner’s Writers Series, and Twayne’s Author Series.
Magill’s Online Literature Plus
Source for editorially reviewed critical analyses and brief plot summaries of the most studied works in the history of literature. Also provides access to information on notable authors from 15 complete Salem Press sets containing a total of 62 volumes. This database has images for many well-known authors, and embedded hyperlinks refer readers to related author essays.
MLA International Bibliography
Detailed bibliography of journal articles, books, and dissertations. Subjects consist of literature, language and linguistics, folklore, literary theory and criticism, and dramatic arts, as well as the historical aspects of printing and publishing. Publisher: EBSCO.
Periodical Abstracts (via OCLC FirstSearch)
Database covering general and academic journals, with many full-text articles.
Bibliographic database with informative author-written abstracts covering scholarly research in the fifteen fields of philosophy, published in journals and books since 1940.
Launched in 1995 by the Johns Hopkins University Press, this database offers the full text of John Hopkins University Press scholarly journals via the World Wide Web. In 1999 the project published online 46 Johns Hopkins titles in the humanities and social sciences.
TOC (Table of Contents) Premier (via EBSCOhost)
Up-to-date table-of-contents information for over 22,000 journals. Provides users with a comprehensive, unduplicated list of 22 million citations, some linked to full-text articles.
Provides indexed and abstracted records with accompanying full text in periodicals from General Science Abstracts, Humanities Abstracts, Readers’ Guide Abstracts, Wilson Business Abstracts, and many other databases produced by H.W. Wilson.
Selected Reference and Research Resources: Book and Online
The following sources are available at libraries and through subscriptions.
Cambridge History of English and American Literature
Contains over 303 chapters and 11,000 pages, with essay topics ranging from poetry, fiction, drama, and essays to history, theology, and political writing. The set encompasses a wide selection of writing on orators, humorists, poets, newspaper columnists, religious leaders, economists, Native Americans, song writers, and even non-English writing, such as Yiddish and Creole. See http://www.bartleby.com/cambridge/.
Dictionary of Literary Biography
Systematically presents career biographies and criticism of writers from all eras and all genres through volumes dedicated to specific types of literature and time periods.
Contains biographical and critical information on the most widely studied dramatic works of the world’s literature. Has cumulative author and title index as well as a nationality index.
Drama for Students
Provides students with easy access to information about drama. The entries for each title include author biography, plot summary, character profiles, discussion of themes and style, historical context, critical overview, and three critical essays.
Literature and Its Times
Profiles of 300 notable literary works and the historical events that influenced them.
Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800
Contains excerpts from criticism of the works of fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth-century novelists, poets, playwrights, philosophers, and other creative writers, from the first published critical appraisals to current evaluations.
Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism
Contains excerpts from criticism of various topics in nineteenth-century literature, including literary and critical movements, prominent themes and genres, anniversary celebrations, and surveys of national literatures.
Novels for Students
Provides students with easy access to information about novels. The entries for each title include author biography, plot summary, character profiles, discussion of themes and style, historical context, critical overview, and three critical essays.
Oxford Reference Online Subject Collections
A Dictionary of Shakespeare (Oxford)
This dictionary offers up-to-date information on all aspects of Shakespeare in his own time and on his impact and influence on later ages. It includes entries on the plays and the major characters; on Shakespeare’s life and his contemporaries; on actors from Edmund Kean and Ellen Terry to Peter O'Toole and Kenneth Branagh; on theaters, including the new Globe in London; on directors such as Trevor Nunn, Terry Hands, Deborah Warner, and Adrian Noble; and comments on Shakespeare by later authors such as Jane Austen, Dr. Johnson, and Bernard Levin.
A Dictionary of Writers and their Works
This guide to authors and their works focuses on the general canon of British literature from the fifteenth century to the present. There is also some coverage of nonfiction such as biographies, memoirs, and science, as well as of major American and Commonwealth writers. There are 3,000 entries for writers with their nationality and birth/death dates, followed by a listing of their titles arranged chronologically by date of publication; 26,000 title entries with date of publication and author's name; and 2,000 entries on characters found in authors’ major works.
The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare
This guide contains 3,000 entries on Shakespeare topics. From the conjectured identity of the Dark Lady of the sonnets to the misprints in the First Folio, from Shakespeare’s favorite figures of speech to the staging of Othello in South Africa, a team of 100 internationally renowned scholars provides a lucid, stimulating, and authoritative guide to Shakespeare’s plays and poems, and to their interpretation around the world over the last four centuries. Special feature entries on every play are included.
Continually updated, this resource has citations to over 500,000 poems, including over 30,000 offered in full-text format. Citations are international in scope and are taken from more than 2,000 anthologies, 3,500 single-author works, and over 4,000 periodical issues. Over 70,000 poets are included. Users may search by any word in a poem title, first line, last line, book title, author, or by subject. Publisher: Thomson Gale.
Provides biographical information and critical excerpts from the most widely studied poets of world literature.
Poetry for Students
Provides students with easy access to information about poetry. The entries for each title include author biography, plot summary, character profiles, discussion of themes and style, historical context, critical overview, and three critical essays.
Short Story Criticism
Provides criticism of works of major short story writers of all eras and nationalities.
Twentieth Century Literary Criticism
Series presenting substantial excerpts from the best criticism on the major literary figures and nonfiction writers, including novelists, poets, playwrights, and literary theorists, of 1900 to 1999.
Great Books Collections on the Internet
Access the Great Books
Electronic Text Center
This was formerly The English Server, hosted by the English Department at Carnegie-Mellon University. This site offers over 20,000 works covering a variety of interests (from art to philosophy and more).
Great Books Index
A useful site containing a general search engine for the Internet, plus links to specific databases and bibliographies. The site is hosted by the University of Florida.
Very useful listings of classics resources. Host: University of Reading.
Internet Classics Archive
Internet Public Library
Lives: The Biography Resource
Contains links to thousands of biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, diaries, letters, narratives, oral histories, and more; and provides individual lives of the famous, the infamous, as well as group biographies.
MIT Internet Classics Archive
The Internet Classics Archive contains over 441 works (mostly Greek and Roman) from 59 different authors. Visitors may contribute to forum-style discussions of the various works.
Online Books Page
Voice of the Shuttle
Great Books Web Sites for Further Research
Center for the Study of Great Ideas
Great Books Foundation
Teaching the Great Books
Library of Congress Website
Literature teachers will find this a valuable free resource. The teacher's guides include a synopsis of an important work of literature; teaching suggestions; activities to be used before, during, and after the reading; extension ideas; and bibliographies. The sixteen projected titles will include such favorites as Romeo and Juliet, The Scarlet Letter, The Odyssey, and The Prince and the Pauper. The reader's guides include "enlightening introductions that set the works within a historical and literary context." Each guide gives an overview, information about the author, discussion questions, and related titles. Ten titles are currently available, including Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice, and The Age of Innocence. Included are links to web sites on the authors and a brief biography of Shakespeare.
The World Lecture Hall is your entry point to free online course materials from around the world, and is sponsored by the University of Texas at Austin.
Professional Development and Teaching Shared-Inquiry Methods
According to the National Staff Development Council and the National Education Association, research shows that Great Books staff development is important "to increase student achievement."
Finding and Sharing Research
New Directions for Community Colleges
Keeping Connected: Professional Organizations
AACC (American Association of Community Colleges)
Teacher Information and Resources
Community College Humanities Association
Web Search Engines and Directories
Different search engines index different collections of websites. For updates on search engine features, see the Internet Scout Report, at scout.wisc.edu; Direct Search, at www.freepint.com/gary/direct.htm; and the Tool Kit for the Expert Web Searcher, at http://www.lita.org/ala/lita/litaresources/toolkitforexpert/toolkitexpert.htm.
The Schaumburg Public Library has a great list of recommended search engines, including scholarly search engines.
Searching the Web by Subject
Librarian’s Index to the Internet
WWW Virtual Library
Citing What You Find
Great Books Online Resources
Syntopicon Index and Table of Contents
Online The Syntopicon.
Online Great Books texts
Great Books Downloadable Online from the Access Foundation
Ideas for short readings for course construction
Online The Great Ideas Program
From the Center for the Great Ideas.
Great Books Ideas Program (downloadable readings and authors)
See the Index for links to electronic texts and other information about the authors.
More Sites for Great Books primary texts
Great Books from the East, Middle and Near East.
Malespina Great Books
Excellent, easily-searched site with pictures, biographies, and research links on nearly 150 GB authors
Online Journal with articles on teaching great books
Concordia University, Montreal
News article about their goals and trials over 25 years establishing a GB College within the University