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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

FSEM 100Q8: Mechanisms of Storytelling: Home

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My presentation to your class

Here are the PowerPoint slides for my presentation to your class. Click in the lower right corner to expand the slides to full screen.



Advice for your course

Your two research assignments
Two of your assignments involve library research: an 8-10 page research paper on an aspect of entertainment technology and design, and a project/presentation on design and technology in contemporary entertainment.

  • The first research assignment is about history. You'll probably use mostly secondary sources for this assignment, but it'd be nice to study some primary sources too. Primary sources = firsthand information, so that means your primary sources need to be from the same historical time as the thing you're studying.
  • The second research assignment is about contemporary entertainment. Don't expect to find many scholarly sources about contemporary entertainment! Instead, use popular sources. It's okay to use popular sources if (and only if) you're using them as primary sources (firsthand evidence). For example, you could cite a YouTube video of a performance, or a review of a performance, or an interview with someone involved in stage production.


Background information
Learn the basics of a topic by reading background information (overviews and summaries). Wikipedia is useful for this. You can also use encyclopedias in the Reference section of Simpson Library. I recommend the Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre & Performance:



You can use Quest to search all subjects, or use individual databases to search specific subjects (such as theatre or history or literature). Out of the 200+ databases that UMW subscribes to, these are the most useful databases for this class:


Call number ranges

Browse these areas in Simpson Library to find relevant books on the shelves:

  • PN 2085 - PN 2099: Stagecraft and set design.
  • PN 2100 - PN 2193: Theater history.

The research process

I recommend that you follow these steps to complete your research assignment:

Step 1: Reread the assignment description

  • This class has two different research assignments: an 8-10 page research paper on an aspect of entertainment technology and design, and a project/presentation on design and technology in contemporary entertainment. Make sure you understand what's expected of you for each of these two assignments.

Step 2: Find a topic

  • Good topics are out there, but you have to go look for them! At this stage, don't worry about whether a source is scholarly or not -- you're just looking for ideas. Google and Wikipedia are useful at this stage. Look for topics that are interesting, and make sure to pick a topic for which the library has plenty of sources.

Step 3: Find overviews of your topic

  • In addition to Wikipedia, you can also use the encyclopedias in the Reference section of the library, such as the Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre & Performance.
  • When you read an overview, take notes! Write down words and phrases that you could use as search terms. If you're lucky, the overview will have a list of citations at the end. Write down interesting citations, too.

Step 4: Find sources

  • Search in Quest and/or the databases recommended above. Look for different types of sources -- not just books and articles, but also primary sources such as pictures or videos or interviews.
  • What should you type in the search boxes? Start by searching for the concepts that describe your topic, but don't stop there! Also try searching for concepts or sources from your notes, to follow the leads that you've discovered.
  • Evaluate the sources you find! Use only sources that are high-quality and are relevant to your topic. You may want to refer to the library's Evaluating Resources guide. 

Step 5: Read!

  • Before this point, you've only been skimming sources. Now that you've identified the best sources, read them closely and carefully.
  • As you read, you might come across more leads (new words/concepts, or citations to other sources). Follow these leads! Go back and forth, repeatedly, between reading (Step 5) and using what you read to find more sources (Step 4).

Step 6: Write your paper, or plan your presentation -- and cite your sources

  • See the UMW Libraries' guide to Citing Resources for more information.  Both the library and the Writing Center can help you cite sources correctly.  

Basic introduction to Quest

Reference Librarian

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Peter Catlin

Other guides

Advice and recommendations for FSEMs in general, and for Theatre and Dance research.

The Citing Resources guide gives you examples of perfectly-formatted citations. Zotero is a free app that keeps track of the sources you've found, and generates citations without any typing.


Use Quest to search the library's physical collection and the contents of most of the library's electronic databases.

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Search articles, books, and more...