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ENGL-312TH Thinking with Shakespeare


You may begin your research with a fairly broad topic (for example, you may be interested in learning more about the depiction of witchcraft in Shakespeare's plays).  Doing some preliminary research on that topic can help improve your understanding of it (for example, how was witchcraft perceived in Shakespeare's time?) as well as suggest ways to start refining it into a more focused research questions.  Some tools for doing this kind of preliminary research are suggested below.

Reference works

Reference works like encyclopedias, guides, and companions can be useful for finding relatively short entries that provide a quick overview of a topic.  Shakespeare has been studied so extensively that there are even Shakespeare-specific reference works. Some of these include brief bibliographies suggesting further reading at the end of each entry. A couple of reference works that offer information about the world in Shakespeare's time:


Books, unlike journal articles which are much more narrow in focus, are often a good source of information for broad topics.  The Discover database, which includes the contents of the Five College Libraries Catalog, is useful for finding books.  When choosing keywords to search, use a combination of terms describing the aspect of Shakespeare's world that you're interested in exploring (witchcraft, nationalism, law, sexuality, science etc.), the time period (Early Modern, Renaissance, Elizabethan, Jacobean), and geographic location (England, Great Britain). For example:

Discover search on witchcraft in Early Modern England

Cambridge Histories

The Cambridge Histories is a set of books covering the history of topics in all subject areas, some of which may be useful for research on Shakespeare and the Early Modern period. The full text of the books is searchable and you can use the table of contents for each to find the chapter or chapters are most relevant to your topic rather than read the whole work. A sampling of titles from this collection:

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