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Eng 102 Shakespeare Research

This guide is designed to help you complete an English 102 research paper about a Shakespeare play.

3. Narrow Your Topic

Once you've done some initial exploration of the play, it's time to narrow your focus to some concrete aspects you want to focus in on.  Choose the aspects of the play that you think will be most helpful to support your ideas. Begin to brainstorm a working thesis that states the viewpoint your going to argue/support in you're paper. 

As you start to work on your thesis and supporting examples, you'll want to brainstorm keywords that might help you find secondary sources. You may decide to adjust your topic or thesis as you search for sources. This is a natural part of the research process.  See below for some help on brainstorming keywords


Narrow Sign

As you think about what concepts you want to write about, think about what particular words might be found in a good article about that topic. Consider the following when searching databases and e-books:

  • Enter the name of the play with the word "and" and the word you are looking for                          example: "Hamlet and revenge"
  • Keywords work best by trial-and-error.
  • Never do only one search
  • Some keywords will work better than others.​ Consider synonyms or words that may bring up articles that include your topic. Below are a few examples:

    Revenge --- Vengeance

    Death --- Mortality --- Murder

    Gender --- Feminism --- Sex

  • Remember to also use "Search Within Results" option to search further into your results.

  • Use "Ctrl + F" to search for specific words within a particular article.
  • And remember to ask a librarian if you need assistance coming up with keywords or looking for sources.

Shakespearean Criticism Index

Although you may find very good sources in the databases, another great way to find articles is by using the Shakespearean Criticism index. The collection of over 200 volumes is available in print at the central campus library, but you also have access to it through the Gale Literature Criticism database.

Shakespearean Criticism (Print Version)

The print version of this collection has an extensive index - organized by play and topic - that can really help you narrow your search for literary criticism. If you have never used an index, follow the directions below.

Shakespeare Criticism also has a "Cumulative Character Index" and "Cumulative Topic Index" organized by topic and then broken down by play. These indexes are at the back of every volume.

How to use the print version index:  Next to each topic, the index lists a number in bold followed by numbers (not in bold).  The bold number is the volume that the essay is in. The not-bold numbers are the page number that the essay is on. For instance, under gender, the index lists: 102: 287, 295, 298, 305; (this means that there are 4 essays about gender in volume 102 on pages 287, 295, 298, and 305). You can then use these volume and page numbers to find the essay in the print copies of the books in the library, or see below to find these essays in the Gale Literature database.

Shakespearean Criticism (Online Version)

You can use the online version using keywords and the title of the play, but you can also use the print index to locate articles and then go directly to those articles entering volume and page numbers into the database. Follow directions provided.

How to search database using print version index information:

  • Click the database link below    
  • Choose "What's Inside" at the top of the page
  • Click "Shakespearean Criticism" dropdown arrow from list
  • Locate volume number and click to open
  • Click "Volume Table of Contents"
  • Choose play you are researching then click the "Introduction" for the play
  • In the page number box, type the page number you would like to view and click go

Please Ask a Librarian or stop by the central campus if you need any assistance.