Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
Annotated bibliographies feature summaries of what the supposed experts have to say, but your essays should not be “reports” of these materials: that’s why they are called secondary sources. Yours is typically the primary voice and the one readers want to be hearing. The purpose of secondary sources is to authenticate your own interpretation of the literary piece within the context of a sort of ongoing discussion about the work by other interpreters.
To track down scholarly publications related to your literary work, you need valuable and focused search tools. Unfortunately, Google and ProQuest do not yet qualify, even though the web is gradually improving as a scholarly resource. At Washington State University’s library
the Griffin catalog will get you to books about Shakespeare and his works. These may be fine in some cases, and you can check indexes in the backs of these books to zero in on your own area of interest.
But usually, books are too sprawling in their scope to help with your properly focused topic. Finding articles published in academic journals should be your goal. In fact, journal articles serve much better as models for the kind of writing your instructors are expecting from you. Therefore, you want to give Griffin a miss and enter instead Article Indexes.
Next, you need an appropriate index for humanities or, more specifically, literary studies. (The overused ProQuest works better for social “issues,” not literature.) Scrolling through “Databases by Subject” brings you to English Literature.
A general index, such as Arts and Humanities Index or the Humanities International Index may help, but these cover so many subjects in breadth that one wonders what is being left out in depth. (By the way, you should be acquainted with the general and specialized indexes for your own major fields of study.)
Best for literary research is the MLA International Bibliography. (This is also available in print format in the Reference Room with call number Z 7006 M64. With this print version, the Author Index is handiest after you turn to the proper nationality first: English Literature; then time period — Renaissance, 1500-1600s; then scan alphabetically by last name to find Shakespeare; and finally the play title).
When using the online version, realize that your author or work should be treated as a “keyword.” (One time I could not understand why nothing on the playwright Euripides was showing up until I realized that the index considered “author” to mean the person writing the article on Euripides, who, being dead and all, hasn’t been publishing much of a scholarly nature lately.)
If you plug in some relevant keywords and turn up 4,000 hits, refine your search. When you turn up maybe just a couple dozen, scan through the offerings and check by title for articles that sound useful, realizing that not all will end up being relevant and not all will be readily available to you. One way or another, you desperately need the bibliographical information listed in order to find the articles and to document them later:
- article title,
- journal name,
- volume and issue numbers,
The format you see online is not correct for your MLA-style listing later! This information will need re-formatting.
Some articles may be available in online archives. How handy! But, for other articles that sound the most valuable, treat their journal titles like you would book titles to see if our library carries the subscription: that is, go back to Griffin to retrieve call numbers (or use the provided short-cuts on the screen). Then, armed with your numbers, consult a library map and head off to the stacks (probably second-floor West in lots of cases) and test your map skills. Don’t you impress yourself with your own scholarliness?
PR 2800s-2900s — Shakespeare.
PR 2885 S64 — Shakespeare Studies (the academic journal).
PR 2892 S62 — Concordance to Shakespeare (for word study and word occurrences throughout the canon).