Close message Scootle will stop supporting resources that use the Adobe Flash plug-in from 18 Dec 2020. Learning paths that include these resources will have alerts to notify teachers and students that one or more of the resources will be unavailable. Click here for more info.

Audio Colleen McCullough discusses the importance of research, 2008

TLF ID R9794

This is an edited sound recording of the best-selling Australian author Colleen McCullough discussing the importance of research for a writer. McCullough explains that research for her own 'Masters of Rome' series of novels involved reading 'literally hundreds' of books by both modern and ancient writers. She stresses that she found the research 'a joy to do', and suggests that any writer who thinks it would not be joyful should avoid writing that requires research because the research would be 'sloppy'. The recording was made in July 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This recording gives an insight into the approach of a successful Australian author into the process of researching for a major series of historical novels. McCullough (1937-) has won acclaim from critics for her 'Masters of Rome' series, which although fictional incorporates much accurate detail about actual historical figures and the way of life of ancient Romans. The seven books in the series were published between 1990 and 2007.
  • The depth of McCullough's research has been recognised by scholars of ancient history. In 1993, after the publication of the third book in the 'Masters of Rome' series, she was made an Honorary Doctor of Letters by Macquarie University in New South Wales.
  • The 'Masters of Rome' novels span the years 110-27 BC, a period that includes the tumultuous final years of the Roman Republic before the period of the Roman Empire. Key military and political leaders whose lives and careers are covered include Gaius Marius (157-86 BC), Lucius Cornelius Sulla (c138-78 BC), Pompey the Great (106-48 BC), Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) and Augustus (63 BC-14 AD).
  • Roman writers named by McCullough as sources include the poet Virgil (70-19 BC), the philosopher Cicero (106-43 BC) and the historian Plutarch (c46-120 AD). These writers are regarded by classical scholars as key sources of accurate historical information. McCullough also names two modern historians regarded as experts on ancient Rome - Theodore Mommsen from Germany (1817-1903) and New Zealand-born Sir Ronald Syme (1903-89).
  • Although McCullough says that she 'wouldn't have used more than 10 per cent' of her researched facts, some critics argue that she includes so much detail that her books become too long and difficult to follow. The shortest in the 'Masters of Rome' series, 'Antony and Cleopatra' (2007), is 576 pages. Most of the other books in the series are more than 900 pages.
  • McCullough trained as a neuroscientist and worked in hospitals in Australia and Britain before moving to the USA, where she spent ten years as a researcher and teacher in the neurology department at Yale University in Connecticut. While there, she wrote her first two novels - 'Tim' (1974) and 'The thorn birds' (1977). She later lived mainly on Norfolk Island, writing more novels, including the 'Masters of Rome' series.

Other details

  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 20 Sep 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Remarks: Copyright Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Content provider
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 2008
  • Name: Colleen McCullough
  • Remarks: speaker
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
Learning resource type
  • Sound
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer - minimum version: 8.0 (MS-Windows) - maximum version: 9.0 (MS-Windows)
  • Firefox - minimum version: (MS-Windows)
  • Safari - minimum version: 5.1 (MacOS)
Operating systems
  • MacOS - minimum version: 10.6
  • MS-Windows - minimum version: XP - maximum version: 7
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.