Writing a Paper for a Classics Course

For Classics students, the following guidelines offer helpful insights for citations and research, along with common mistakes to avoid.

Citations of Modern Secondary Works
There is not one widely accepted style of citing modern secondary literature within the field of Classics. 

  • Typically, each publisher or scholarly journal has its own style sheet to which submissions must adhere.
  • The most important thing is that whatever style you adopt is consistent, and that you give the most important pieces of information about the work you are citing: the author's name, the title of the work, and the date of publication.

One popular choice of styles is Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (1996). Students wishing to follow a style widely accepted in the Humanities may follow the Modern Language Association conventions.

Citations of Ancient Literature
Ancient sources should be cited according to the standard practice within the field of Classics. Almost all ancient works have been edited in a standard way: divided into a number of books and each book into sections (for prose) or divided into books and given line numbers (for poetry).

  • You should thus cite these works by giving the author's name, the name of the work, if the author wrote more than one, the book number, and then the section or line number. Standard abbreviations of the names of both authors and works can be found at the beginning of the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edition, available in Reference and in the History/Classics office.
  • If the translation you are using does not clearly indicate section or line numbers on each page, or if your professor requests it, you should also give the page number in the translation used as a course text. Example: Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.221-265 or Ov. Met. 11.221-265.

Internet Resources
The college library maintains a list of online resources for the Classics.

Especially important is the Perseus website, which boasts interactive versions of most extant works of ancient literature in both Greek or Latin and English, in addition to a large searchable bank of photographs of ancient art and archaeological sites in the classical world. Language students may wish to make use of its dictionaries and tools, including the Morphological Analysis Tool, which can fully identify any Greek or Latin word typed into it.

Students writing research papers can also make use of two bibliographic databases online, the TOCS-IN database, which is more likely to have very recent works, and L'Annee Philologique, a more comprehensive list of classical bibliography.

Common Errors
Apostrophes are used in English either to denote the contraction of two words (e.g. isn't) or to indicate possession (e.g. Dave's hat). You should avoid using contractions in formal prose; the only time you should be using apostrophes is to indicate possession.

  • The possessive pronoun its (used in context several times on this page) does not have an apostrophe. Do not use an apostrophe in a word that is plural, but not possessive.

The past tense of the verb to lead is spelled led, as in "he led the horse to water." Also, when you use a word with common homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently), be sure that you have written the correct one (e.g. to, too, and two, or thrown and throne). Your spelling checker will not catch this type of error.

  • Students lacking confidence in their grasp of grammar should not hesitate to use resources such as the campus Writing Center or a style manual such as The Elements of Style, 4th edition, by William Strunk, Jr., E. B. White, and Roger Angell (commonly known as Strunk and White).