Writing & Library Research Methods Lesson Plan: Subject Encyclopedia Analysis

Lesson objective(s): Familiarity with the content and structure of a subject encyclopedia article in order to write in this style later on.

Total estimated time: 40 minutes

Additional outcome(s): Awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of subject encyclopedias as a source.  This activity will also help with motive.

Course work or assignment underway:

The encyclopedia entry assignment has just been given.

Work and/or reading completed before class:

Acts I & II of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; the activity isn’t really about that, but the encyclopedia articles can relate to it in a way that gives students some context. They will also have looked into the Gordon Harvey terms.

Sequence of Classroom Activities:

First, we’ll discuss subject encyclopedias and what sorts of information they include.

I will have two encyclopedia articles which are similar to each other but are from volumes which cover different subjects; for this class, I might have articles on fairies from a Shakespeare encyclopedia and a folklore encyclopedia. Half the students will receive one article, and half will receive the other.  (5 minutes)

Students will look over the articles quickly and mark cross-references and references to other works. Then, they will read through them and mark pieces of new information that they feel help them make sense of the reading.   Then, they’ll switch over to the other article and do the same thing.  (15 minutes)

I will ask students to write for 3-5 minutes about the differences between the two articles.

Then, as a class, we will list some of the pieces of information that students identified as helpful, and discuss the differences that students found between the two articles. In this discussion, I hope to introduce the concept of motive, so that we can talk about how the authors’ goals and their perception of their different audiences affected their writing. (15-20 minutes)

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