Help with Research for New Classicists

In my last post, I touched briefly on the issue of not having access to APh. Not every institution subscribes to that database, and honestly, it’s not ideal for all research. APh is a database for professional classicists (and those whose professional interests touch on classics, like medievalists, historians of the classical tradition, etc.). It’s in many ways too complex for undergraduate research, and certainly it’s not for the general public, including high school Latin classes.

But that doesn’t mean that undergraduates or high schoolers can’t do research on the ancient world! They just need access to a more level-appropriate tool.

That tool, I think, is TOCS-IN:

The main page of TOCS-IN, searchable in French and English.

The main page of TOCS-IN, searchable in French and English.

TOCS-IN is a database that collects the bibliographic material from a wide variety of journals relating to antiquity. The site is available in both French and English versions, although I will here be focusing on the English one, since that is the one I use. (If you’d like a tutorial on the French version, let us know!)

After clicking on the “SEARCH” link, you reach a fairly straightforward page.

The search page of TOCS-IN (English version)

The search page of TOCS-IN (English version)

Use a period to stand in for any single letter. So “” should get you results on Trimalchio and Jesus (yes, I did pick those on purpose!). There’s no need to include a wildcard at the end; it will do that automatically.

If you don’t know what you’re looking for — in other words, if you’re trying to do research rather than to locate a citation — it’s better to search pre-1992 and collections as well. You should pay attention to accented French for best results, and you can use multiple terms at once (e.g., “Nero Tacitus”). Here are the results for that search (intentionally cut off to preserve intellectual property):

What was written about Nero and Tacitus?

What was written about Nero and Tacitus?

You’ll notice that these are all results with Nero* and Tacitus* in the title. You could get more results by searching “tacit” instead of “Tacitus”:

But not a huge difference

But not a huge difference


The box for a new search is just at the bottom of the page. Please note that the journal information follows APh abbreviations; books are given a full bibliographic listing.

Students may be wondering “Why do I need to use this? Why is it better than Google/Bing/Yahoo, which I already use?”

TOCS-IN is better because it is already peer-reviewed. In other words, anything that makes it onto TOCS-IN, even when it’s available electronically, has been pre-cleared by experts as a valid source. This makes it much easier for you to figure out what your instructors will or won’t accept.

More advanced researchers will probably want to stick with APh and journal alerts. That’s okay, too, although it’s worth pointing out that neither system is flawless — TOCS-IN can often be helpful when you’re first researching a topic because it tends to have fewer results for any given search. With TOCS-IN as a baseline, you can then move on to APh.


Tips to remember:

  • TOCS-IN searches titles only — not abstracts and not content.
  • Use a period for a single-character wildcard
  • For best results, always check the pre-1992 and “in collections” boxes



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Help with Research for New Classicists by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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