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Research Notes and Protocols
(Bibliography of Skepticism in the Ancient World) (1998)

Richard Carrier


(copyright 1999)

 

What I Have Done


In compiling my bibliography, I employed the following resources, which are mainly (though not exclusively) electronic databases: The Database of Classical Bibliography (and the ensuing issues of L'Année Philologique), The Guide to Historical Literature, Dissertations in History, The Columbia University Card Catalogue, Arts and Humanities Citations Index, Dissertation Abstracts Online, Periodical Abstracts, Historical Abstracts Online, CLIO, WCAT, RLIN (EUREKA), ATLA Religion Database, The Philosopher's Index, Anthropological Literature, History of Science and Technology, Humanities Abstracts, Library Literature, Readers Guide to Periodical Literature, Social Sciences Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, Books in Print, MLA Bibliography, numerous internet search engines, and various hard copy dissertation indexes.

Of these, the most useful were, of course, the Database of Classical Bibliography (well over 60% of all entries on my list came from this source), the Arts and Humanities Citations Index, Dissertation Abstracts Online, CLIO, WCAT, the ATLA Religion Database, and the Philosopher's Index.

The Guide to Historical Literature was useful for introductory works only. The Columbia University Card Catalogue was of surprisingly little use, since it merely duplicated things found at other universities through WCAT and RLIN (the former being the most useful search engine of the two, with the most relevant hits). The others were all useful, in that they each added a handful of entries not found elsewhere, with the exception of the internet search engines which provided no useful hits at all.

In particular, Anthropological Literature, History of Science and Technology, Social Sciences Abstracts, and Sociological Abstracts altogether provided the scientific research hits included in my list, as well as a few others, and I may not have even included such a category had it not been for these interesting discoveries. I should mention that I also poked around in several other databases not listed here, but with such fruitless results I abandoned their use altogether.

 


What I Have Not Done

I have not yet moved on to the truly tedious phase of actually digging through the bibliographies of all the sources presently listed, in order to pick up all the references they contain which I have not found already. That could take years, although I will be doing it.

Additionally, I have not yet dug through all the hard copy editions of L'Année Philologique before volume 47, although I have done this through all existing hard copy editions (i.e. up to the year 1993) after the end-date of the CDROM version. Scoping out all relevant entries in 46 volumes of this tedious journal is itself a monumental task, and will take some time.

I also wish to search through PsycInfo to fill out my list of scientific research, but Columbia's "Ovid" interface is undecipherable. Since this is not my primary goal, I have abandoned that task for now.

 


My Search Protocols


In my searches, I employed various keywords in subject, keyword, and title searches, looking above all for a combination between the various permutations of "skeptic- or sceptic-" and "ancient or greek or roman." This strategy changed when I realized that foreign languages often employ a different a consonant (e.g. French "sceptique," German "skeptizismus"), and so I changed my root to "skepti- or scepti-," where possible, and where truncation was not available, I had to guess at foreign spellings based on past discoveries.

I then enhanced my findings by looking for various other words in combination with "ancient or greek or roman" including "doubt, belief, credulity, superstition, supernatural, paranormal, disbelief, agnostic-, atheis-, unbelief, and Pyrrhonis-." I found that "unbelief" and "disbelief" are too rarely used for such searches to be useful, and that "greek," "roman," and "belief" produced a bulk of hits that were not really relevant, although they nevertheless included things not otherwise found that were relevant, and so they were useful hit-lists to scan through.

I chose "credulity," "belief," "superstition," "supernatural" and "paranormal" assuming that such words would appear in contexts relevant to skepticism but not directly labelled as such, and by limiting those searches to combinations with "ancient, greek, or roman" I was not swamped with irrelevant hits. I was correct in my assumption. "Credulity" in particular, but also "supernatural" (and to a lesser but still useful extent the others), produced unexpected and otherwise unfound and useful results.

In lieu of "ancient, roman, or greek" I also played with "classical, antiquity, hellenistic, hellenic, hellenism, roman empire, pagan, and paganism" but those proved surprisingly useless. The various unrelated hits to things like "roman catholic," "ancient China," the French word for novel ("roman"), "Greek Orthodox" and so forth, which I thought would make the basic words "ancient, greek, or roman" troublesome, actually did not interfere too greatly. They were easy to exclude by visual scanning of hit-lists, and these words were vastly more successful than any others listed above.

 


Personal Database Software

I found the use of Pro-Cite (by Research Information Systems, Carlsbad, CA) and BiblioLink (by Personal Bibliographic Software, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI) indispensible in organizing and editing my results. I took the liberty of editing each result-set file for a more streamlined transfer via my own BiblioLink protocol into Pro-Cite, which was time-consuming but worthwhile. I learned a great deal about both programs in working out the kinks of record transfer. Not counting reviews of books, which I have excluded from my bibliography, Pro-Cite now has 480 records related to skepticism in antiquity, all of which are compiled on my bibliography page. Pro-Cite was again crucial in organizing my records by category. I highly recommend both Pro-Cite and BiblioLink.

 


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