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Humanities 101 - Flathers

Encyclopedias

Understanding the historical events surrounding your play can help you to put it into context; it helps you to understand why a playwright chose specific themes, why they wrote the story in the first place, why they used certain metaphors; it might also explain the reception that the play got at the time (did people like it or not?). So, it is good to have a basic understanding of the events and general feelings of a population or social climate at the time. Encyclopedias do just this! Articles found in these provide major events, people, timelines, and a broad historical context for understanding your topic. It's good to start here because you get a general overview in plain language, and you can choose keywords from the articles to search in other databases to find further sources. There are several library databases that contain numerous digital copies of print/physical encyclopedias. Below are a few:

Encyclopedia eBooks in Search It

Search It has a number of electronic encyclopedias that you can reference for historical and background research. To get encyclopedia articles, type in your keywords and then on the left side, click on Reference Entries under Type. Then click on Full Text Available or Online Access to get to the full article. You could also look for full electronic encyclopedias right in Search It. To do this, type in your keyword AND encyclopedia, and then select Ebook under Type.

Below are a couple of example searches and texts:

Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is honestly a great place to start. It's easy to access, easy to read, and *usually* pretty accurate. The problem with Wikipedia is that anyone can edit entries, at any time. So, do not use these as your final source, as you don't know who has been messing with it! Rather, use it to get a quick overview of your topic, and then start to write down possible keywords: themes, people, events, etc. that you might want to try searching for additional information on in the library databases.

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