This is a research guide for finding materials on character research for theater in the Greenfield Library at the University of the Arts. Reference materials are listed first, followed by a list of suggested subject headings for searching library catalogs. Periodical indexes to magazine articles and newspapers are next, followed by style manuals and finally Web sites. If you have questions about this topic please contact Sara MacDonald, UArts Public Services Librarian.

If you're interested in character research, you may also be interested in our guides for Theater Research, Musical Theater, or Shakespeare.

Reference Materials

The first place to look when beginning research on a topic is in reference material: specialized dictionaries, encyclopedias or handbooks. These allow you to check names, dates and places, find additional information, look up unknown terms, and check for the proper spelling of words. They are particularly helpful for finding basic background information on a topic, and are often the only place many students may need to look to find answers to their questions. They may include bibliographies (lists of additional materials on a topic, usually considered by the author to be the best materials on that topic) that you can use to find other materials.

Listed below are just a few encyclopedias that might help with character research. Check the index under terms such as "social class", "social history", "social status", "daily life", "class system", etc. Call numbers that start with REF are in the reference section of the Greenfield Library.

Call numbers are for the Greenfield Library unless otherwise indicated.

Daily Life through History Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
Online subscription resource. UArts e-mail log-in required from off-campus.

Encyclopedia of American Social History / Mary Kupiec Cayton, Elliott J. Gorn, Peter W. Williams, editors. New York : Scribner ; Toronto : Maxwell Macmillan Canada ; New York : Maxwell Macmillan International, c1993.
REF HN57 .E58 1993 v.1-3

Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture / Barbara A. Tenenbaum, editor in chief ; associate editors, Georgette Magassy Dorn ... [et al.] New York : C. Scribner's Sons ; London : Simon & Schuster : Prentice Hall International, c1996. REF F1406 .E53 1996 v.1-5

Bunson, Matthew. Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. Facts on File, c1995.
REF D114 .B86 1995

Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups / Stephan Thernstrom, editor ; Ann Orlov, managing editor, Oscar Handlin, consulting editor. Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1980.
REF E184.A1 H35

The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe / edited by George Holmes. Oxford University Press, 1988.
REF D102 .O94 1988

Encyclopedia of the Renaissance / Paul F. Grendler, editor in chief. Scribner's published in association with the Renaissance Society of America, c1999.
REF CB361 .E52 1999 v. 1-6

This Fabulous Century. Time-Life Books. [1969-70]
REF E161 .T55


For a broad overview of what was going on in the world or a particular country in a certain time period, try a chronology.

Our Times: The Illustrated History of the 20th Century / editor in chief, Lorraine Glennon. 1st ed. Atlanta : Turner Pub. ; Kansas City, Mo. : Distributed by Andrews and McMeel, c1995.
REF D422 .O89 1995

The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events / Bernard Grun. New 3rd rev. ed. Simon & Schuster, c1991.
REF D11 .G78 1991

Day by Day: The Sixties / by Thomas Parker and Douglas Nelson. Facts on File, c1983.
REF D840 .P27 1983

Timelines of the Arts and Literature / David Brownstone and Irene Franck. 1st ed. HarperCollins, c1994.
REF NX447.5 .B76 1994

The Wilson Chronology of the Arts / George Ochoa and Melinda Corey. H.W. Wilson Co., 1998.
REF N5306 .O26 1998

Searching the Catalog by Subject

Use the University Libraries catalog to find books, videos, CDs, scores, journal titles, etc. To locate all of the materials the library holds on a topic, it is most efficient to search by Subject. Use the following subject headings in the online catalog. Be careful to follow the exact spelling and form. These subject headings are standard and are used in most libraries.

Doing character research requires creativity, perseverance and time. Think about your character and where and when they lived. Is your character male? Female? Member of an ethnic group? Think about the different social conditions under which your character might fall. If you have trouble finding material, ASK A LIBRARIAN FOR HELP. There is no one method or subject for researching a character.

To find out what it was like to live in a country in a particular time period, search by subject under the name of the country, city or continent followed by the subheading(s) SOCIAL LIFE AND CUSTOMS, SOCIAL CONDITIONS or CIVILIZATION. For example:


The Greenfield Library has a number of books that are part of a series called Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series. Searching this title is a quick method for getting an idea of what's available as well as finding other subject headings to try.

Periodical Indexes: Finding Articles

Periodical indexes are research tools that allow you to search for articles in magazines, journals and newspapers.

Go to the library's Article Databases and Indexes page for a list of the UArts Libraries' subscription databases. Not sure which one to try? Give us a call (215-717-6280) or contact Sara MacDonald, UArts Public Services Librarian.

I've found articles I want to read. Now what?
There are different ways to find an article once you retrieve a citation in the index:

  • See if there is a link in the index you're using to a full-text article online and download it or e-mail it to yourself.

  • Click the FindIt@UArts icon to see if our library holds the journal title. FindIt@UArts will also tell you if the full-text article is available in a different database.

  • Use the interlibrary loan search tool, WorldCat, to request materials not owned by the UArts Libraries or to see what other libraries have the title you need.

Style Manuals: Citing Your Sources

When you find information on a topic, no matter what format it takes (book, journal, Web page), there are style manuals to show you the correct way to give cite those sources in a paper.

Theater Sites on the Web

Searching the internet can be overwhelming. If you are using the Internet for research you want to choose sites that meet the standards of accuracy, currency and authority.

Below are just a few theater-related sites that may be of interest to the University of the Arts community.

American Society for Theatre Research

Dramaturgical Research
Excellent and thorough site by Lori Ricigliano at the University of Puget Sound. If you're doing dramaturgy this is worth spending some time with.

Jack Wolcott's Theatre History on the Web

Theatre Library Association, New York NY
"Founded in 1937, the Theatre Library Association supports librarians and archivists affiliated with theatre, dance, performance studies, popular entertainment, motion picture and broadcasting collections. TLA promotes professional best practices in acquisition, organization, access and preservation of performing arts resources in libraries, archives, museums, private collections, and the digital environment. By producing publications, conferences, panels, and public events, TLA fosters creative and ethical use of performing arts materials to enhance research, live performance, and scholarly communication." Be sure to see their "Theatre Resources" links.

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