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THTR 562 - Studies in Dramatic Theory and Criticism

Finding Books

The UBC Library catalogue is a good place to start looking for books on your topic. To enhance and improve your search results, use truncation in your keyword searches and try searching the subject headings assigned to books on your topic. Before you begin your searching, consider your topic and write down the key concepts. What are the keywords that describe your subject? Think of related words, synonyms, and different spellings.

For example, for the topic: contemporary theatre in Canada.

Key concepts are:

  • theatre or theater, plays, drama, literature
  • canada, canadian, names of provinces, etc
  • 20th or twentieth century, 21st or twenty-first century

Use truncation to expand your search results:

  • canada theatre 20th - gives you around 94 results
  • canad? theat? 20th - gives you over 500 results

The ? is a truncation mark used in the Library catalogue to broaden your search: for example, theat? will retrieve records with theater, theaters, theatre, theatres, theatrical, etc.

Browse the results list and look at the full records to see the subject headings assigned for relevant titles. Note that the results are sorted by relevance. You can change the results to sort by date, author, or title. Click on the subject headings to find more books on your topic.

Examples of other subject headings to search for books on this topic include:

  • Theater--Canada--20th century.
  • Theater--Canada--History--20th century.
  • Canadian drama--20th century--History and criticism.
  • Canadian drama--21st century--History and criticism.
  • French-Canadian drama--20th century--History and criticism.
  • Actors--Canada--History--20th century.
  • Theater and society--Canada.
  • Theater--Prairie Provinces--History--20th century.
  • Feminist theater--Canada
  • Gay theater--Canada
  • Homosexuality in theater--Canada

Examples of other subject headings to search for books in this course include:

  • Theater--Technique
  • Theater--Philosophy
  • English drama--History and criticism--Theory, etc.
  • Drama--20th century--History and criticism--Theory, etc.
  • Theater--Psychological aspects
  •   Performing arts -- Philosophy



Summon is the UBC Library's meta-discovery tool that provides a single starting point to find and to access the majority of the UBC Library collections - including books, ebooks, scholarly journals and articles, newspaper articles, dissertations and theses, videos, maps, manuscripts, music scores, digitized items, and more.

Summon is very fast and excels at finding our ebooks and a multitude of other resources using keyword searching. It's a good starting point for research. Summon only indexes about 80% of our articles and doesn't cover some full text resources such as the Oxford reference guides so you should also use the Library catalogue and specialized databases for your research. It's useful when you are searching for a specific journal article. Use the Library Catalogue if you want to search by specific fields (i.e. author, title, call number, subject headings, etc.).

When searching Summon, it's important to use quotation marks around phrases.
Compare these two searches: dramatic theory  versus "dramatic theory"

Narrow your results to books/ebooks or scholarly articles.

Summon is useful for finding a specific journal article quickly. For example, if you were trying to find Jill Dolan's  2001 article Performance, Utopia, and the "Utopian Performative" published in Theatre Journal, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp.455-479, you can search the article title in Summon: "Performance, Utopia, and the Utopian Performative"

Browsing Subjects and Call Numbers

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Most library catalogues use Library of Congress Subject Headings for subject description. These are available in a six-volume set on the counter behind the Koerner Research Commons Desk.These subject headings:

  • Provide a control list for subjects assigned to books
  • Offer universal subject coverage
  • Help put concepts into words
  • Reflect actual, not theoretical, subjects
  • Guarantee that research material exists
  • Are used by most North American libraries
  • Are often used or built upon by general periodical indexes

Reliable searching depends on understanding the relationship between natural language and deliberate subject description. The latter structures and controls natural language. Use of controlled subject headings or a thesaurus eliminates synonyms, defines a hierarchy of inclusion (broader than, narrower than), and indicates some less precise semantic connections. Scope notes may elaborate on distinctions made among terms.

For example, the subject heading Drama has a scope note and many cross-references, which give a good sense of the range of possible headings:
Scope note: Here are entered works on drama as a literary form. Works on drama as acted on the stage are entered under Theater. Works on Facilities used to stage drama are entered under Theaters.

When you are starting your research on a topic, try looking up your key concepts in the Library of Congress Subject Headings. Often you will find ideas for other terms that will help you to find more relevant materials held in the Library.

After you find a relevant book on your topic, you can also browse the catalogue by the Library of Congress call numbers to find more titles.

You can also search for books by play titles and the names of actors, writers, directors, etc. To find books, book chapters and essays about specific plays, you should use keyword searches or search broader subject headings. For example, for books about Misanthrope, I found 70 items by the following keyword search: misanthrope moliere

You can also find relevant books searching the author as a subject. For example, try browsing moliere as a subject or the following subject searches:

  • Moliere, 1622-1673
  • Moliere, 1622-1673--Criticism and interpretation.
  • Moliere, 1622-1673--Dramatic production.
  • Moliere, 1622-1673--Stage history.
  • Moliere, 1622-1673. Misanthrope