In our last post, we discussed using the Classics database L’Année Philologique through its EBSCO host. But many institutions, particularly those with a dedicated Classics department, will subscribe to APh‘s own hosted service. This post offers advice for using it. If you’re not sure what APh is or why you should use it, read the previous post first and then come back here. Like the EBSCO version, APh Online is a subscription-only service, which means that you will need to access it through your institution’s library login. I’ll start my post with the assumption that you’ve logged in.
The landing page has several options that you may want to explore.
The screen is split into thirds both vertically and horizontally. I’m starting in the middle left. Here you can read up on the history and sponsorship of APh, if you’re interested, or submit information about an article (maybe yours!). But what’s probably more useful is the last link in the purple box: the List of Journal Abbreviations. If you’re thinking, “I don’t need that. I use JSTOR all the time. I’m a total classics pro!” — well, I’m sorry to disappoint you. JSTOR has about 85 classics journals; APh has hundreds. Not to mention book series that get their own abbreviations and look like journals. Not to mention the journals that used to exist but don’t exist anymore, or changed their name, or have sub-series of their own. In other words, you need the list. We all need the list. Sadly, it’s a PDF, but it’s searchable (and there are online versions available).
In the center, you can find out what year the database goes up to (2014, in our screenshot; for more recent bibiography, you need to check your journals) and, if you use EndNote, download a plugin that will help EndNote sync with APh. [Ed’s note: neither of us use EndNote. If any readers have used this feature, let us know how it works in the comments!]
Finally, on the right-hand side, in the green box, you can create and/or sign into your APh account. I have personally never felt the need to make one, but if you liked the sound of the folder feature on EBSCO, you will need an APh account. The account acts like the folder and allows you to save citations while you navigate the site. It also allows you to save searches for later use. This login box follows you around the site, so you can choose to log in at any point.
On the bottom third of the site, there is a handy user guide.
The “Need Help?” button is not actually a button; you want to click on “User Guide” for more information. It’s a quite full guide, but also PDF-only.
In the top part of the page, we get down to business. The purple bar has the Simple Search feature. This will cover many search needs, and if you’re good with Booleans and only want to search full-text, you probably don’t need the Advanced Search. Also, if one of the following three scenarios applies to you, the Simple Search is probably your best bet:
- If you are an undergraduate or MA student and only want to read things in English;
- If you’re researching an uncomplicated ancient name (i.e., one that is mainly spelled one way in the various languages of classical scholarship) or concept; or
- If you’re doing a preliminary or quick search, rather than looking for an exhaustive bibliography.
Otherwise, you will want to click on Advanced Search, which is the small link below the search bar. I’ll discuss the Advanced Search in my next post. In the meantime, you do have a few options even with the Simple Search. You can choose to search modern authors, subjects, ancient authors/texts, or full texts (which means the citation and the APh abstract), and you can choose to sort the results by relevance, author’s name, title of the work, or date (ascending/descending).
Before moving to an example, I want to explain what a “full text” search means. APh doesn’t host articles locally, which means it doesn’t search the entire text of a book or article (unlike, for example, JStor). Instead, it searches the abstracts that are written by APh contributors. These abstracts are probably the most useful part of APh, and the main reason to use it rather than other databases. But because APh contributors come from many different countries, these abstracts may be written in a different language than the original article. This can cause some complications in the Advanced Search (which I’ll discuss in the later post), as well as the Simple Search. If you aren’t up to speed in all of your languages, it may be difficult to fully appreciate and take advantage of the abstracts.
Let’s take a look at some of the limitations and advantages of a Simple Search. As you can see in the screenshot, I’ve searched for Cicero in the Full Text of an APh entry. The results are sorted alphabetically by the author’s last name, and there are a lot of them: over 4500! Because Cicero has many surviving works and a substantial body of scholarship, this is one case where an Advanced Search may be helpful in terms of narrowing the field.
As you can see from the very first hit (“Roman Deceit”), my search term doesn’t need to appear in the title of the work itself – here, it’s in the abstract. The work itself is a dissertation, which isn’t included in all databases. And as you can see from the second hit, the results include books and articles in numerous languages.
You can re-order your results slightly without needing to revise your search term by using the arrows next to the Author, Title, and Date column headings. Pressing the up arrow or the word Title or Author alphabetizes alphabetically from A-Z; the down arrow goes from Z-A. Similarly, the up arrow for (or word) Date is oldest-to-newest, while the down arrow is newest-to-oldest. You can also Refine your Results more aggressively using the green box to the right, which allows you to include or exclude specific Authors, Subjects, Dates, Document Types (e.g., books, articles) and Languages.
These tools basically put the Advanced Search function on your Results page. I’ll discuss that, as well as how to read, export, and save citations, in the next post!