Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Doing research on world cultures?

Located in the REFERENCE collection (2nd fl Library) Call # 306 E561
Do you need information on world cultures for your research project? You might want to consult the multi-volume Encyclopedia of World Cultures. This is a print resource and it takes a little knowledge to navigate, but hopefully this preview will help you do that. The most obvious use of this resource is to find information on various aspects of a singular culture, but don't neglect the cross-cultural research value:
  • Need to write a paper comparing the various cultural approaches to marriage or another issue?
  • Want information to help you understand why ethnic groups in a particular country clash and go to war with each other?
You can do that! I'll show you how below.


Search by Culture or Ethnic Group

Article on the North Alaskan Eskimos
The most obvious way to search Encyclopedia of World Cultures is by a particular culture or ethnic group. If you know the geographic area for the culture/ethnic group, simply pull the appropriate geographic volume. For instance, to find the section on North Alaskan Eskimos pull the volume labeled NORTH AMERICA. Don't know where a group is located? Pull the volume labeled INDEXES and consult the Ethnonym Index. Looking up "Eskimo" in the Ethnonym Index will tell you to look in the volume labeled NORTH AMERICA (volume 1).

You will find the following types of information about a culture:

  • ORIENTATION: Identification, Location, Demography, Linguistic Affiliation
  • ECONOMY: Subsistence and Commercial Activities, Industrial Arts, Trade, Division of Labor, Land Tenure
  • KINSHIP: Kin Groups and Descent, Kinship Terminology
  • MARRIAGE AND FAMILY: Marriage, Domestic Unit, Inheritance, Socialization
  • SOCIOPOLITICAL ORGANIZATION: Social and Political Organization, Social Control, Conflict
  • RELIGION AND EXPRESSIVE CULTURE: Religious Beliefs, Religious Practitioners, Ceremonies, Arts, Medicine, Death and Afterlife
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY for further reading

Section on the Economy of the North American Eskimos

Search by Topic for a Cross-Cultural Comparison

Are you writing a paper or giving a presentation comparing marriage or some other aspect of a culture? This resource will help you do that. Simply look up your topic in the Subject Index of the INDEXES volume. Below you can see just a small piece of the section on Marriage in various cultures. The ethnic group will be listed under the subject (marriage by abduction in this case) followed by the volume number and page. For instance, to compare this topic between the Achangs and the Albanians you would need volume 6 page 418 and volume 4 pages 5-6. You can compare many subjects like gift exchange, initiation rites, polygyny, and so much more.

Section on Marriage in INDEXES
Search by Country

Need to know what cultures or ethnic groups make up a country? Need to compare ethnic groups within a country to show why they might clash? Consult the List of Cultures by Country in the INDEXES volume. You can see a piece of the entry for ethnic groups in Russia in the example below. The name of the ethnic group is listed followed by the volume and page number(s). For instance, the entry on the Aghuls in Russia is found in volume 6 pages 10-11.

Section on Russia in INDEXES

Search by Ethnonym

Has your professor given you an ethnonym to research? An ethnonym is the name of a people or ethnic group. Ethnic groups can be dispersed throughout the world. They may also go by various names. For instance, notice in the example below that the Gilbertese are found in Micronesia as well as Kiribati; and the Gikiyu are also called the Kikuyu. Use the Ethnonym Index in the INDEXES volume to look up a culture group. Note that you might need to use more than one volume of the Encyclopedia of World Cultures to be thorough. To find out about the Gilbertese you would need to use volume 1 and volume 2 according to the example below.

Section of the Ethnonym Index in INDEXES
Hopefully this article will give you some ideas about how YOU might use the Encyclopedia of World Cultures!

If you have questions about this resource or any other resource in our library, please ask a librarian at http://libanswers.hiu.edu.

Terri Bogan is Reference & Instruction Librarian at Hope International University. She is passionate about helping students navigate the ever expanding world of information. She specializes in the area of information literacy and instructional design.

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