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Finding Background Information
Why search for background information? Encyclopedia articles and video clips give a brief overview of a topic. Although the information is brief, getting the full story behind a topic helps guide you while doing in-depth scholarly research. Often, these sources will help narrow a search, helping you find relevant material.
An online version of Encyclopedia Britannica. Contains encyclopedia entries, some images and a few videos. Great for basic background information.
This is a database that includes a bunch of encyclopedias and dictionaries. A great place to look for background information about a novel, author, or genre before digging a little deeper.
Films on Demand (Films for the Humanities & Sciences)
A collection of streaming videos on various subjects. Includes interviews and documentaries.
Don't forget, you don't need to use the whole book. Want to use just a chapter? Let us scan it for you. Fill out this form and bring it and the book up to the front (circulation) desk and we'll scan it and email it to you.
Finding Criticism: Suggested Databases
A humanities-focused database. There are also some film and performing arts articles included too.
A general database, but one that is generally useful for humanities topics. This doesn't have subject headings and only searches full-text. The more words you search the fewer results you'll get.
Academic Search Premier
Another general catch-all database for all topics. A good place to start, but don't forget it has a lot of non-scholarly (newspapers, magazines, book reviews, etc.) resources in it.
This database is great for film/movie topics. It's also a pretty decent general humanities one.
What is a Critic?
Critics are considered experts in their field. Here are a few guidelines that qualifies someone as an expert:
- A person that has a degree in their field (in most cases this will be a Ph.D.)
- A person that continually studies and publishes about aspects in their field
- Opinions and ideas expressed in publications are supported by research or evidence
- Publications by this person are published scholarly articles and are peer-reviewed (checked for accuracy by other members in their field)
So then, what is criticism?
- Who: Articles written by critics or experts in the field
- What: Articles examine a topic very closely. They often attempt to interpret or find meaning in a text, work of art, piece of music, etc.
- How: Critics use examples from primary sources to prove their argument. They often use secondary sources (articles by other critics) to further support their argument or thesis.
- Why: Stories, art, music, etc. rarely has one concrete meaning. There can be several ways to consider a topic. Criticism then, is articles that are proposing new ways to interpret a topic. This interpretation could use historical events, specific ideas in their discipline, biographical information about the creator, new evidence uncovered about a topic (a painting for example), etc. Because there are so many outside events that influence a creation of art, there can be lots of articles on one particular topic.
- Use the exact title of the novel or film
- Put titles and genre searches in "quotes." This will ensure that the database is finding the entire phrase and not just individual words mentioned in the title. For example, "Farewell, my Lovely" or "Film Noir."
- If you are searching a novel that has been adapted to film or the film adaptation, include the author or director in your search. This will help to narrow results to the specific work/medium you are researching.
- Generic name? Try searching for title and author/director. A well-known actor or character might work too.
- Not able to find anything by searching for title? Try expanding your search and looking for the specific actors/characters or the genre they are associated with. You may be able to find information about your particular work within a source that talks about the actors/characters and or the genre in general.
- Often artistic works are influenced by some outside event (politics, war, economy, etc.). After doing a little background research, try searching for your film and factors that may have influenced it. Don't forget you may need to try various keywords and the more you put in the search box, the less results you'll get. See box below for more specific keyword/subject heading tips.
Keywords & Subject Headings
Finding an article full-text from a citation
- Determine what kind of source it is. Is it a book chapter? A journal article? (Easiest way to do this is to look for a volume or issue number. Then you know it's a journal article!)
- If it is a book, look in the catalog to see if we own it. If we don't, you need to Interlibrary Loan it. Do so by checking the "Libraries Worldwide" link on the left, and clicking "Request Copy."
- If it is an article, use the Journal List to search for the journal title to see which database it is in. If we don't own it, use Find It to request the title. If it's not in a database, use Interlibrary Loan to request the article.