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AGST/PLSC130 Did Yeast Create Civilization?

A course guide for AGST/PLSC130 Did Yeast Create Civilization?

Fermentation in an Historical Context

Exercise #1: Fermentation in an historical context

How was food fermentation a critical component of cultural events, national expansion, or a major historical event?

On completion of this assignment: Students will demonstrate a better understanding of the role that fermented foods have played in the emergence of ancient and modern civilizations.

Assignment: Students will work in teams to develop an outline and introduction for an exhibition, book or documentary describing an aspect of history that would be completely changed in a world without yeast and fermentative microbes.

Role: You will pitch your idea to your company for holding an exhibition, publishing a book, or producing a documentary describing the significance of yeast and fermentative microbes in our world. Your audience has no idea why this topic is important.

What will you highlight?

Requirements: Students will prepare and submit the following items:

  • A one-page executive summary/abstract of the proposal (an exhibition, book, or documentary), a two-page project proposal/description as to why this topic is important and what information you would include in your exhibition/book/documentary/film/etc. This must include appropriate references using the resources of the UMD Libraries (see the Resources in Modules), and an outline description of the presentation as you envision it. These will be submitted via ELMS with attribution provided for the contributions of each student specified. Resources that are NOT accepted are Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, etc.
  • These materials will also be summarized in a recorded PowerPoint presentation to the class.

    • Your 7 minute PowerPoint presentation will consist of the following elements:

  • Slide 1- Title and summary statement describing the exercise

  • Slide 2 - Bullet point statements establishing the need for the book/exhibition/documentary

  • Slide 3 - Bullet point statements describing the central themes and approach to the exercise

  • Slide 4 - Bullet point statements establishing the qualification of the group to execute the exercise

  • Slide 5 - An example of the visual elements to be included in the exercise

  • Slide 5 - A summary of the learning outcomes that can be expected for those who view/read the final product 

  • Slide 6 - A summary of societal impacts that might be expected from exercise execution

  • Slide 7 -  An estimate of resources required to execute the exercise

  • Slide 8 - A description of each team member and the role they had on the exercise


Search Tips:

  • Create a list of searchable keywords. Add keywords listed in relevant articles to this list.
  • Wikipedia can be a good way to gain some quick background information on a topic you are unfamiliar with. Then, use the details you learned to find additional sources from UMD Libraries that you can cite.
  • Keep track of your search strings. Many databases will show you your search history, and even let you save searches!
  • If you find relevant references in an article, look them up by title in Google Scholar and read that article for more information.
    • This goes for news articles too. If they mention a report or scholarly article, try to find that original document. There may be more information in there that is relevant to your research!
  • Web of Science and Google Scholar will let you see if another article has cited the article you're reading.
  • If you are struggling access an article's full text try using the Reload Button

Keyword Searching:

When searching in UMD Libraries resources, you will want to enter combinations of keywords. See the example below:

Concept 1: Fermentation

  • fermentation
  • zymological process
  • anaerobic digestion

Concept 2: Dairy Products

  • dairy
  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • milk
  • kefir


Search strategy example:
(fermentation OR "zymological process*") AND (dairy OR yogurt OR cheese* OR milk OR kefir)


Quotes around a phrase = tells a database/search engine to look for that exact phrase
"anaerobic digestion"
"lactic acid" 
"carbon dioxide"


* at the end of the word to retrieve all the variations (or the middle for spelling variants)


  • dair* = dairy OR dairies OR dairying
  • ferment* = ferment OR fermentation OR fermented OR fermenting OR ferment
  • pickl* = pickle OR pickles OR pickling
  • sterili*e = sterilize or sterilise

Note: Be careful where you add the asterisk. For the example , when searching community if the asterisk is added at commun* you might get communications or communism.


Limit documents to a specific domain with Google

  • site:gov = federal /state / municipal / local government and government-sponsored research
  • site:org = non-profit organizations
  • site:edu = academic and educational institutions

For example: fermentation site:edu


Combine word/s using connectors

or: either term/s are included (to connect synonyms or like concepts)

Example: yogurt OR yoghurt OR yogourt OR yoghourt



and: all terms must be included (to connect concepts) 

Example: fermentation AND pickl*


WorldCat UMD

Use WorldCat UMD on the Libraries' main page to locate books on your topic. See image below to know how to select WorldCat UMD.

  • Use keywords and then same strategies as for databases, and remember to capitalize the connectors.
  • In some cases, fermented food and beverage terms also have other common meanings or are popular names (e.g, spirits are metaphysical phenomena, Beers as a last name, "say cheese", etc.). Try using the subject field tag in your search to location items about the term, not just where the term is mentioned in the record. 
  • Look in the description section of books and link to other books using Subject tags (or descriptors)


Select WORLDCAT UMD in the search box on UMD Libraries' main page to search for books and ebooks.


Sample searches:

ferment* AND food*

ferment* AND (su:beer)

su:Fermentation History

Databases are subscription resources that bring together articles and other types of research materials into one place with a sophisticated search engine.

There are many, many databases you can use that provide access to journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, conference proceedings, dissertations, and more related to your environmental policy topics.

Start with the databases listed below. For additional databases, browse by subject category under the following categories: AgricultureBiology, and History.

When using a search engine, you can limit search results to documents authored or funded by the government by entering:   (documents produced/authored by the government at all levels (federal,state,local) and government-sponsored research)     (organizations/associations)    (produced / authored / sponsored by educational entities)

For example: ferment* food

This can cut down on the number of search results you have to sort through.

For assignments that require a visual aid, check out these databases and websites for images!

Don't forget that you need to cite your images, just as you would cite other sources in your presentation.