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Northwest Missouri State University

Library Home » Articles & Guides » Theatre Arts Research » Drama and Theatre Research Guide

Drama and Theatre Research Guide

Research Steps Library Research Services
  1. Identify Keywords
  2. Locate Background Information
  3. Search the Library Catalog
  4. Find Drama and Theatre Periodical Articles
  5. Find Play Texts
  6. Find Selected Print Sources in Owens Library
  7. Select & Evaluate WWW Resources

Identify Keywords:

  • Before beginning research, state the topic of the search concisely (in one sentence). An example of a search statement which is expressed succinctly is:
    How were stages constructed for medieval English liturgical dramas?
  • From this search statement identify the main concepts of the search. In the above search statement, stage construction and liturgical drama would represent the two main concepts of the search. The concepts of the medieval time period and the geographic area of England would enable the search to be narrowed even further.
  • Brainstorm a list of keyword synonyms for each concept identified above. Use these keywords throughout a search to find variant terms used to describe the main concepts. Different indexes may use different terminology to categorize the same concept. (Remember, as the search progresses, some new keywords will be discovered to add to the list and some keywords on the list in the beginning will be discarded if found to be inappropriate.) Sample lists of keyword synonyms are shown below for finding information on the topic stage construction for medieval English Liturgical drama:
Concept 1: stage construction Concept 2: medieval (time period) Concept 3: England (geographic region) Concept 4: liturgical drama (a genre of medieval theatre)
stage craft middle ages Great Britain mysteries
set design 6th century (through 15th century) English bible plays
scenery year 500 a.d. (Through 1400) British miracle plays

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Locate Background Information:

  • At the start of a research project, consult specialized dictionaries or encyclopedias to obtain a concise overview of a concept, school of thought, or a particular person's contribution to the dramatic and theatre arts. Drama and Theatre Sources contains a list of specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias available in Owens Library applicable to drama and theatre assignments.
  • If information is needed on a time period, an ethnic group, or the history of a particular nation, link to the Nations, Ethnic Groups, and Time Periods section of the Drama and Theatre Sources page.
  • If information is needed on visual arts, music, or world culture, link to the Art History and World Culture section of the Drama and Theatre Sources page.

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Search Library Catalog: Search Tips

Subject Searching:

Subject headings and subdivisions are categories used in the Library Catalog to classify the content of books and other materials referred to. A subject search can be narrowly focused and, if it is successful, produce relevant results. If a subject search does not produce good results try a keyword search. Drama and theatre subjects often have several subdivisions. Typically drama and theatre subject headings are structured as shown below. Note that drama and theatre subject headings are arranged in a different order:

Geographic Location drama -- Event, Time Period or Subdivision of Topic
theatre -- Geographic location -- Event, Time Period or Subdivision of Topic

Sources about drama and theatre in specific countries are available in the Library Catalog under subjects like those shown below. When entering subject headings in the library catalog search form leave off all punctuation and capital letters. For the subject heading American drama -- 20th century enter American drama 20th century:

American drama -- 20th century -- history and criticism

theatre -- United States -- history -- 20th century

Specific types or genres of drama or theatre may be listed under a separate subject heading or subdivision like the examples shown below:

Mysteries and miracle plays

Liturgical drama

English drama -- comedy

English drama -- tragedy

Many play authors and set designers have subject headings which can refer to books or other items with biographical information and critical evaluations of their work. Author subject headings appear like the examples shown below. When entering author subject headings in the library catalog search form leave off all punctuation and capital letters. For the subject heading of the author Eugene O'Neill enter oneill Eugene:

O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953.

O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953 -- Bibliography.
(The subdivision Bibliography locates items with information that list the author's own work and also critical evaluations of the author's work.)

O'Neill, Eugene, 1888-1953 -- Criticism and interpretation.
(The subdivision Criticism and interpretation locates items with information that critically evaluates the work of the main subject.)

For more subject and keyword searching examples for drama and theatre topics check the Theatre Appreciation page.

  • Keyword Searching:

Sources about drama and theatre topics may also be retrieved by using a keyword search. With keyword searching, search terms can be combined with the operators and, or, not. A sample keyword search is shown below:

Italy and drama and history

Truncation allows users to stem words or retrieve root words with several endings. The truncation symbol in the Library Catalog is an asterisk (*). The search shown below will locate records in the Library Catalog that include the words theatre, theatres, theater, or theatrical.


Keyword searches may include nesting. The nested terms within the parentheses are usually combined with an or:

ital* and (drama* or theat*) and hist*

Qualifying a search allows users to look for information in a specific field of a record such as the author, title, subject or note field. The search shown below locates the words criticism and interpretation in the sub (subject) field only of records about the play, Tempest. The quotations around the word and between criticism and interpretation indicates to the library catalog search engine to treat and as a keyword and not a connecting word.

s:criticism "and " interpretation and tempest

For advice on how to conduct other types of searches, check the Frequently Asked Questions page of the Library Catalog.

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Other Library Catalogs:

  • Use the MOBIUS Catalog to search other university and college libraries in Missouri.
  • Use WorldCat to search for books available in other libraries outside of Missouri. Order these books through Interlibrary Loan.

Find Drama and Theatre Periodical Articles:

Use periodical indexes to locate article citations and summaries on drama and theatre topics. Gale and EBSCOhost (available on Owens Library's Articles & Guides page) also provide selected online full-text articles as well as article citations and summaries.

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Find Play Texts:

Use the Search for Plays page to locate plays available in print and electronically on the World Wide Web.

Find Selected Print Sources in Owens Library:

Use the bibliography entitled Drama and Theatre Sources to locate print drama and theatre sources selected by librarians that are available in Owens Library.

Select & Evaluate World Wide Web Resources:

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Return to Course/Subject Resources