Research Assignment


The goal of this assignment is to familiarize you with a source that will help you to learn more about Shakespeare’s work and explore it through various angles for Shakespeare study (language, performance, history, Shakespeare in our modern world, etc.).

You will select one of the sources listed below and perform a review of it—a careful summary and evaluation of the source that you have chosen. Your review should provide an overview of the source, give an example of how someone might use it, discuss its strengths and weaknesses, and finally formulate some questions about Shakespeare’s work that the source might help to answer. We will also use your reviews to generate essay assignments for the rest of the class.

Source Options:

You should select the resource you will review from the following list.  If there is a resource that you know about that is not on this list, please run it by me for approval before beginning on your work.

Oxford English Dictionary Online 

Us this resource to explore what the words Shakespeare used meant to his audience in his time.  This is a powerful resource that can be used to gain a better understanding of language and history.  Accessible through the library website:

(note: you may need to use your New Paltz login and password for access):

Shakespeare’s Staging  

This site has videos, images, and bibliographies on topics dealing with the history of Shakespeare in performance. It offers students and scholars resources for exploring these topics, as well as suggestions for further research.

A Critical Essay Selected from the Bibliography of the Norton Shakespeare

Each of our plays has a bibliography of some of the most important criticism that has been written about the play over the past 200+ years.  Select one of them for your review, if you choose this option.

The Norton Shakespeare Online  

In the front of your book, there is an insert with a “Registration Code” for accessing the materials at:

Use the instructions in the insert to access this site, which contains a host of resources for the study of Shakespeare.

 The Folger Shakespeare Library

The Folger, located in Washington DC, is one of the world’s leading institutions for researchers and teachers of Shakespeare. Their website includes resources especially for teachers working with K-12 students, along with a host of other material for the study of Shakespeare.

Shakespeare Quartos Archive

This website that allows you to view Shakespeare’s original texts online. Find out what Shakespeare’s plays looked like when they were first printed, and see the differences between your modern edition and these original texts.

Sprint for Shakespeare

A project of Oxford University, “Sprint for Shakespeare” began as an effort to digitize and preserve one of the Bodleian Library’s copies of Shakespeare’s “First Folio,” the 1623 collection of his works. In addition to images of the full book, the website includes information about the First Folio as well as a regularly updated blog.

Finding Shakespeare 

This site provides historical information on Shakespeare’s “work, life, and times,” and has a number of original online exhibitions that are relevant to the study of Shakespeare.

Global Shakespeares 

Global Shakespeares takes a wider view of the bard’s work and provides an archive of video and other materials documenting performances of Shakespeare from around the world.

Requirements and Guidelines:

A review is written to provide your audience with the elements they need to make a decision about whether or not something is worth their time—please keep that in mind as you write yours!  Your final draft should be roughly 4-5 pages long (double-spaced).  Please organize your assignment using the following sections:

  1.  Citation in MLA format

Where could I find this source? Provide the citation for the source you are reviewing using MLA citation format (please consult the 7th Edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, available in the library).

2. Description and Overview of the Source (about ½ page)

What is the format of the source (online, print, video)? How is it organized? What kind of information does it provide? If applicable, what do the editors or authors say is the purpose of the source?  What, in your opinion, makes the source reputable and reliable?

3.  Example (up to three pages)

If I wanted to use this source, what might I use it for? To answer this question, use something drawn from our reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream orTwelfth Night to provide an example of how this source can be used.

For instance:

-if you are using the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), you should choose a word from the play, look it up, and show how the materials you find in theOED might be used to help you interpret the play.

-if you are using a critical essay, you could show how the critic you have chosen addresses an important debate or idea that came up in our class discussions.

-a review of Shakespeare Staging might take a short scene from one of the adaptations of Twelfth Night and show how the techniques discussed in the book could be used for interpretation.

-you could describe how Finding Shakespeare presents material relating to a specific part of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that interested you.

     4. Evaluation of the Source’s Strengths and Weaknesses (about a page)

Discuss what you think are the source’s strengths and weaknesses.  Be specific—you can and should address accuracy, reliability, currency (is the source up-to-date?), but also issues such as usability, format, or layout.  Write your review with an audience in mind, and take care that you are giving your reader an accurate, fair, and helpful assessment of your source’s strengths and weaknesses.

       5. Questions that Your Source Might Help To Answer (about ½ page)


Finally, formulate a list of 2-3 questions about Shakespeare’s work that one could explore with the use of this source.  While your example in step 3 was specific to one of the plays we have read, this section should include questions that apply to Shakespeare more broadly.

Please review the detailed rubric below to see how your work will be evaluated for this assignment!

Shakespeare I

Rubric for Research Review Assignment

Date due: Tues., October 1st





Needs Improvement

Incomplete or Missing

Overview and Summary

-Review provides a complete and accurate overview of the source.-Review includes information about the format of the source, how it is organized, and other informative features about the source. -Review is mostly complete, but is missing some important details.-Review provides a decent amount of information, but could be more thorough in summarizing the source’s features. -Review offers an incomplete or partial overview of the source.-Summary has inaccuracies and doesn’t reflect a full understanding of the source. This section of the assignment is missing or badly incomplete.


-Chosen example provides a clear instance of how the source can be used.-Review offers several specific details drawn from the source in discussing the example.


-Chosen example could be more clearly related to the source.-Review offers some good specific details, but perhaps could go a little further in illustrating the example. -The example was not carefully chosen and/or doesn’t offer a good instance for illustrating the use of the source.-The review gives very few or no specific details drawn from the source in discussing the example. Assignment does not include an example or the example is not thoroughly discussed.


-Review provides a clear and balanced evaluation of the source, and the writer plainly states what he or she finds to be the strengths and weaknesses of the source.-Review gives helpful guidance for a reader who is interested in how the source could be used for the study of Shakespeare. -Evaluation could be presented more clearly. Though the strengths and weaknesses are presented, the review might not take a fully balanced approach.-Review gives helpful guidance for a reader who is interested in how the source could be used for the study of Shakespeare. -The review’s evaluation is unclear, does not take into consideration all aspects of the source, and/or fails to offer a good summary of strengths and weaknesses.-Overall, the review is not very helpful for readers who would be interested in using the source. Evaluation is incomplete and doesn’t follow guidelines of the assignment.


Questions are thoughtfully formulated, well-written, and reflect good engagement with the source and an understanding of its uses. Though the questions reflect a good engagement with and understanding of the source, they are vaguely formulated. Questions seem hastily drawn or do not show a full understanding of the purposes of the source. Questions not included or very incomplete.

Format and Overall Presentation

-Citation is in proper MLA format.-Review follows the format indicated on the assignment.

-The review is written in a style that is clear and informative.

-Some small mistakes in the use of MLA citation and overall formatting, but all of the content is still present and easy to follow.-Review is clearly written, but could perhaps show more attention to the audience. -Citation does not follow MLA format.-Review ignores the format indicated in the assignment.

-Style of the review does not show an awareness of an audience and the purpose of the assignment.


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