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EAS2026 Desire and Power Library Research Guide: What information do I need?

This guide introduces you to the skills and resources required for effective library research for Module EAS2026

What?

Once you have a research question, you should consider what sort of information/materials you need access to.
 
Example Research Topic

"So neatly plotted, and so well performed." (Jew of Malta III.iii.2)

How do any texts on this module represent disguise and distrust?

 

In this example there are numerous types of materials you might like to engage with.

You will want to use a combination of primary and secondary research resources, and you might also like to explore audiovisual materials alongside print materials as performances of literary works can add an additional research dimension.

Primary sources are original sources of information that have not yet been filtered through analysis, examination or interpretation.  Primary sources differ both in content and format from discipline to discipline.

In the literature field, this typically means the actual original literary work, such as the play, poem, novel, short story etc.

So, in this example research topic, you could look at texts from the early modern period to identify appearances of disguise/distrust and related themes and see how they are handled by different authors, across different titles and time periods.

Some texts, such as Shakespeare's plays, have complicated textual histories and appear in multiple versions.  Examining these different versions and noting variant punctuation, missing/additional passages across texts, can make significant differences in interpretation.


Other sorts of primary sources can also provide useful insights.  For example State Papers Online provides original historical materials across the widest range of government concern, from high level international politics and diplomacy to the charges against a steward for poisoning a dozen or more people. The correspondence, reports, memoranda, and parliamentary drafts from ambassadors, civil servants and provincial administrators present a full picture of Tudor and Stuart Britain.


You can search across collections of primary sources using the databases below.

Find out more about the primary sources you have access to in the Primary Sources libguide.

A secondary source is not an original source, but is typically material written about a primary source. 

In the literature field, this can encompass a wide variety of materials; including:

  • an article in a scholarly journal

  • biographies

  • critical editions of literary works with introduction, notes, bibliographies etc.

  • a book of critical essays

  • a research monograph

  • a specialist encyclopedia, dictionary or other reference work

 

These secondary sources can be very valuable resources, providing you with an overview of the key discussions centred on your original work, and guiding you to the most relevant scholarship in the area.

 

You can look at commentaries, critiques and analyses of original works to see what commentators, academics, scholars etc have discussed in terms of your chosen texts and themes, and examine how these match or diverge from your own interpretation of the texts.

It can be difficult to categorise some materials as primary or secondary categories.  Audiovisual materials are a good example of this. 

A performance of a literary work is an original dramatic work in its own right, and is also a secondary work in the sense that is is interpreting the original literary work on which it is based.

Incorporating audiovisual works into your research can provide you with additional research insights. 

You can compare performances to see how different productions have interpreted the same work, and where one director may have emphasised a particular theme or concept.

Sometimes, if you are struggling to engage with a particular passage in a literary work, it can help to see a dramatised version of the material, where the work 'is brought to life', this can be particularly useful where stage directions/scene setting are very limited.

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