The honors class I’m teaching this semester is technically “Literature through Reading and Research.” I’ve already introduced them to the reading part, and next up is the first stage in teaching them how to do literary research. This will be an ongoing part of the semester, but next Thursday we have a whole day in the library, with no other reading or assignments due to the vagaries of needing to coordinate my class discussions with film viewings.
So, for the first day of discussing research methods, I’ve come up with a sort of digital scavenger hunt. Since the class is on Shakespeare, Adaptation, and Film, I decided I wanted them to explore some historic interpreters and adapters of Shakespeare’s plays.
- Richard Burbage
- William Davenant
- David Garrick
- Charles Lamb
- Thomas Bowdler
- Nicholas Rowe
- Nahum Tate
- Sarah Siddons
The students will pair up and draw one of these names from a hat. I’ll give a brief lecture that includes an overview of the most effective ways to use Wikipedia/Google as a starting point for academic research, how to use our library’s databases, and the difference between primary and secondary sources. We’ll also briefly discuss the continuum of popular and scholarly sources. Then, I’m going to set them loose with the following set of questions, and an assignment to create a proper MLA Bibliography from the sources they find.
- What are the dates of this person’s life? (Indicate where you found this information)
- Are there any portraits of this person? If so, provide the bibliographic information for at least one.
- What is this person’s relationship to Shakespeare and/or Shakespeare’s plays? What plays is he or she most associated with? (Indicate how you determined this information)
- Did this person write any texts related to Shakespeare? If so, provide the bibliographic information for one.
- Are there any scholarly books focused on just this person? If so, provide the bibliographic information for 1-2 of them.
- Are there any scholarly books focused primarily on the relationship between Shakespeare and this person (or between Shakespeare and some group this person was a part of)? If so, provide the bibliographic information for 1-2 of them.
- Use Google Books to do a search on this person and Shakespeare. Are there any results where the book title did not reveal that this might be a useful source? If so, provide the bibliographic information for 1-2 of them.
- Are any of the books from the previous three questions in our library? If so, where would you find them on the shelves (give LC# and Physical Location, such as 4th Floor, North Side)?
- How many results appear for this person in the World Shakespeare Bibliography?
- Using the WSB, find the four most recent entries for scholarly publications related to this person, and provide bibliographic information for them.
- How could you locate/acquire these sources? (Are they widely available on the internet? Are they physically in our library? Available through UConn’s databases? Acquirable through Interlibrary Loan?)
- What is the most unusual or amusing search result that you found while researching this person?
I’m not sure I expect them to get through all of these questions in a single session, but I do want to push them.