Research Guide

Developed by Dr. Lesley-Anne Williams.

Overview of the Great Books

The Great Books is an interdisciplinary study of texts and ideas that have had perennial interest throughout time. Often texts studied in this discipline have received the label of “classic” because of their enduring value and significance to successive generations. The Great Books as studied at Memoria College are considered as a part of the liberal arts tradition, that is, those academic studies which shape the way a person speaks, thinks, and acts to prepare them to live as truly free individuals in society. At Memoria College, we believe that this form of education ought to be a pursuit of Wisdom by means of cultivating an appreciation of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. While Great Books encompasses many disciplines like theology, art, literature, history, and science that can all be their own individual subjects, when these disciplines are considered within the umbrella of the study of the Great Books, their study ought to be rooted in primary texts and oriented by perennial ideas and questions. Research in the Great Books generally aims at asking questions of primary texts that foster the pursuit of Wisdom.

Personal Libraries

We encourage our students to think of their time in our program as an opportunity to build their own personal libraries where they can physically make books their own through annotations as Mortimer Adler so helpfully recommended long ago. Since so many of our students are or will be educators, we believe that a well-curated personal library with personally annotated texts is key to success in this field.

Our graduate curriculum generally follows the Britannica Great Books, and the most economical way to buy books for our classes is to purchase a set of these books. Alternatively, students may wish to purchase critical editions and/or newer translations of the books read in courses as recommended by their teachers.

Following the Oxbridge model of education where curated bibliographies are central to graduate education, those taking our courses are not only given lists of primary texts to read, but they are also given lists of additional primary and secondary sources to read and/or purchase along the way. Even those texts that are out of print can be found used and relatively economically at sites like AbeBooks. Students are encouraged to see their purchase of these books as a way to build their own personal library.

Memoria Press, which is associated with Memoria College, publishes high quality and illustrated editions of many classic works for a variety of ages, and it is our hope that even those not teaching in schools or homeschools associated with the Highlands Latin Schools, Highlands Latin Cottage Schools or Memoria Press Online Academy may benefit from those books produced through our press. Feel free to browse our catalog for inspiration for your next read!

Primary Texts and Indices to Primary Texts

One of the advantages to studying the great books is that many primary sources are free and easily locatable on the web. Here is a list of a few places to find lists of great books, the texts themselves, and websites that specialize in great books:

Primary Sources by Discipline


  • Perseus Digital Library is an open-source library run out of Tufts University that provides access to classic Greek, Latin, and Arabic texts in both their original languages and translation. It contains dictionaries, grammaries, and parsing tools as well as select secondary resources.

  • The Latin Library focuses on primarily Latin texts, including Classical, Christian, Medieval, and NeoLatin. Because of its teaching focus, this website has vocabulary lists for many texts. It also has an excellent Latin Grammar Handouts page, a good index to other classical sources on the web, and several sample syllabi.


  • Fordham Internet History Sourcebooks contain a large collection of primary texts as well as introductory bibliographies that are good for the classroom and the early phases of a research project. It covers the Ancient, Medieval, and Modern time periods and has subsections that geographically cover a wide selection from around the globe.

  • Eurodocs out of BYU contains a number of transcriptions and translations of a variety of historical sources related to European History.

  • The National Archives (UK) has about 5% of its substantial collection available for free online.

  • British History Online made all of its primary and secondary source material about the history of Britain and Ireland available for free and online after the pandemic.


Art and Archaeology

Many of the world’s greatest museum now allow visitors to see their collections digitally. Many have virtual tours available through Google Arts and Culture, but many also have large portions of their collections available to view online for free. Only a selection of museums are presented here:

Good Editions and Companion Guides

While many primary sources are available online, those wishing to do serious research on a particular text are encouraged to seek out good editions for their notes and bibliography. Some critical editions, like Ignatius Critical Editions and Norton Critical Editions, often have a selection of key secondary literature that make a good starting point for a research project.

A number of presses have begun companion guide series that have individual chapters written by experts in their field which provide not only good information but strong bibliography. Look for the following series:

As Memoria College grows, it is our intention to invest in these resources for our students. It is strongly recommended that beginning researchers start their research by finding good curated bibliographies such as might be found in the resources above rather than wide internet searches such as Google Scholar or even subscription-only services like EBSCO host. These wider searches have their place, but can also make it difficult for beginning scholars to distinguish quality resources or sharpen their research questions.

For those with limited library resources, a good curated bibliography is often helpful when a researcher must rely on interlibrary loan because it makes it more likely that resources ordered on ones that will be helpful.

Academic Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Handbooks

Another good place to start in getting an orientation on a particular topic is to consult academic dictionaries and encyclopedias written by experts that have good academic background. As Memoria College grows, it is our intention to invest in these resources for our students. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a free and strong academic resource that is relevant to the study of great texts.

Because classics are so central to what many of our students do, we recommend investing in the following books:

Bulfinch, Thomas, and Stephanie Lynn Budin PhD. Bulfinch’s Mythology. Lea edition. San Diego: Canterbury Classics, 2014.

Hamilton, Edith, and Jim Tierney. Mythology (75th Anniversary Illustrated Edition): Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. Special edition. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2017.

Hornblower, Simon, Antony Spawforth, and Esther Eidinow. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 4th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Morford, Mark, Robert J. Lenardon, and Michael Sham. Classical Mythology. 10th edition. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.


The Digital Theological Library has compiled a website with links to open access secondary resources that are of use to those researching in Great Texts, including Books, Articles, Databases, and Subject Guides.

Local Libraries

Because Memoria College is a small school that aims to remain affordable, it has chosen not to replicate expensive resources that are generally available to most students already. As we grow, we plan to focus our initial library acquisitions on those Companion Guides, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Handbooks that can help students locate quickly what quality secondary resources they might need for their research.

We encourage members of our community to remember that:

  • Most states have local library systems that give library card holders access to digital resources like ebooks, audible books, specialized academic search engines like EBSCO Host, newspapers, and electronic journals through online sources like JSTOR.

  • In addition, it is good to remember that most state college and university libraries are required to allow the public to be able to use their digital resources when they physically visit their libraries.

  • WorldCat is a free search engine that tells you the availability of most book in various libraries around the world, including digital books that can be checked out for free through resources like

  • If you find you want a book or article that is not available nearby, your local library can often get a copy for you for free through Inter-Library Loan.

Personal Digital Academic Libraries

During a Memoria College student’s academic career, they will be collecting and gathering academic pdfs for individual courses and individual projects. It is our hope that these pdfs become a resource for future work. Educators in particular need to have what they have collected in a format that can be easily accessed for later use. For this reason, we encourage our students to begin now to organize these pdfs in an easily accessible format.

While this can be done through a file system and excel sheet, we recommend students download the free apps Zotero or Jabref. This app can serve as a place to keep digital libraries organized for both individual projects and for future use. It is also a very handy tool for easy citation no matter what citation style you might need to write in.