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ENGL 234: American Literature & Culture: Hamilton

This guide supports further research into Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical masterpiece, 'Hamilton'.

What do we annotate?

Approach your annotations as a means for providing information to readers that will help them understand, analyze, or evaluate your letter. Based on class discussion, here are some elements to note:

  • Author / Recipient - What is their relationship? Who is the audience? What is at stake for the author?
  • Names - Acquaintances, Participants (can provide context for what is said, places, or events) 
  • Titles / Roles (e.g. Secretary of State)
  • Date - In what period is this being written? What are the events surrounding the letter?
  • Places - Location of letter writer (setting), proximity to recipient
  • Events
  • Purpose of text - Why was this text written? Is it descriptive, informative, or persuasive? Does it show signs of bias? 
  • Tone - Nature of the conversation. Is it public or private correspondence? Is it formal or intimate? 
  • Language - Spellings of words, definitions, uncommon usage (elements to aid reading comprehension)
  • References (classical, biblical, etc.), Allusions, Quotations - To what do these refer? How do they enhance the text?
  • Rhetorical gestures / markings - What language is used? Are words crossed out or italicized? How are these elements connected to the content or purpose of the text? 

Keep in mind, these documents reflect the personal, political, economic, or social perspectives of their creators. Don't forget to look beyond the content of your letter for clues to enhance your analysis.


PRACTICE: Consider the following letter from Angelica Schuyler Church to Thomas Jefferson. What elements of this letter might warrant an annotation or further research? What needs clarification or explanation? How will your annotations enhance a reader's analysis or interpretation of Angelica's writing? 

Once you've selected a few key components of this letter, where will you look for this information? Be strategic! Different types of information will require specific resources. 

Getting Started with Subject Encyclopedias

Subject encyclopedias, handbooks and overviews are scholarly, tertiary works written by experts on a variety of topics. The articles are typically longer and more detailed than those found in general encyclopedias. These resources can help you with:

  • Understanding the scope of a topic
  • Suggesting ideas for narrowing a topic
  • Identifying key concepts, terms, dates and names
  • Listing subject areas related to a topic
  • Recommending sources for further exploration

In Collins Library, the print reference collection is located on the first floor, and most of the online reference collection is available in one of the database collections listed below.  Use Primo to identify subject encyclopedias in either format; or ask a librarian for recommendations.

Selected Subject Encyclopedias

Start with these subject encyclopedias and branch out as needed. 

Print encyclopedias and dictionaries are located on the first floor of Collins Library.

More Tertiary Sources

Theatre & Music

Online Reference Collections