Writing & Library Research Methods Assignment #1: Encyclopedia Entry

Your task is to explain either a contextual or textual aspect of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and show why it is important to the work. This explanation will be similar in form to one you would find in a subject encyclopedia.  (2-3 pages)


Begin by posing a question about the work. This could be a factual, historical or biographical question about the work or its author—what I’ve called contextual aspects of the work.  Alternatively, it may be a question about something you’ve observed as you read the play—for instance, a word, expression, or reference.

Answer this question using the reference sources we have discussed in class.  You should also use the reference sources we’ve looked at as a model when you are writing; remember, you are writing in a similar genre.

Cite your sources. I recommend using two or three different sources so that you will not simply reiterate what is said in one source. It is not by accident that we have worked with reference sources so far—they should provide the information you need.

It is important to cover both aspects of the assignment. First, explain the nature of whatever it is you are interested in so that the reader can understand it. Then, show why having this information is important to understanding the play.

Assume that you are writing for an inexperienced, naïve reader. Thus, even if you already know all about the humorous overtones of a particular word (for instance), you’ll still need to explain it clearly.

Choose a different topic than the one you discussed in your blog post.

Audience:  An inexperienced reader/viewer who is encountering this text for the first time.

Pre-Draft Writing Assignments:  In-class analysis of a subject encyclopedia entry, blog post explaining the meaning of a particular term or allusion in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Writing Lessons: Articulating background information about a work, putting sources in the service of a specific question, using an appropriate source for a specific type of question, integrating factual information from sources, Motive/thesis (using multiple sources to make your own argument)

Sources:  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, reference sources such as the OED, The Dictionary of Literary Biography, or Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Posted in Present research within conventions of a particular genre

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