Below appears an authoritative version of the guidelines for the Annotated Bibliography assignment (AnnBib), superseding any previously published information regarding the AnnBib.
As noted in the introduction to the Prop assignment (https://elliottrwi.com/instruction/northern-oklahoma-college/northern-oklahoma-college-engl-1213-composition-ii/northern-oklahoma-college-engl-1213-composition-ii-topic-proposal/), ENGL 1213: Composition II serves, among others, as a bridge into more formal genres of academic writing, including those that develop new knowledge—that is to say, researched writing. Because it is an introduction to them, and because the development of new knowledge is a complicated process, ENGL 1213 breaks down the process of writing such papers into a number of component assignments, mimicking the research process prevalent in the humanities and of which the sciences often use a variant. A useful step in that process is to seek out the commentaries of others on the same or similar subjects. The AnnBib is directed toward that end, asking students to begin finding and reviewing secondary and tertiary sources in support of developing one of the arguments advanced in the Explore, marshaling support for the argument into which it will grow.
Successfully completing the AnnBib will require students to accomplish a number of tasks:
- Reflect further on personal involvement with the topic and a specific answer to an earlier-posed question about it;
- Investigate secondary source materials;
- Optionally, but likely helpfully, investigate tertiary/critical source materials;
- Assess the utility of individual items uncovered through investigation of secondary and, optionally, tertiary/critical source materials;
- Summarize the selected individual items;
- Construct citations for the selected items;
- Compose a brief (six-source) annotated bibliography that presents the topic in its context, outlines the methods by which sources were selected, and offers three-part annotations of each selected source (AnnBib RV), submitting it electronically for assessment as a minor assignment; and
- Revise the AnnBib RV in light of comments made by the instructor, submitting the resulting paper electronically in a final version (AnnBib FV) for assessment as a major assignment.
Information about each follows, along with a copy of the grading rubric and notes.
Refine Thinking on the Topic, the Question about It, and an Answer Thereto
The AnnBib is meant to support continued discussion of the idea voiced in the Prop, following up on one of the answers to the Prop’s question advanced in the earlier Explore (https://elliottrwi.com/instruction/northern-oklahoma-college/northern-oklahoma-college-engl-1213-composition-ii/northern-oklahoma-college-engl-1213-composition-ii-exploratory-essay/). As it treats the materials in more refined and advanced form, it needs to give additional thought to them, looking at how they may be adjusted to reflect emergent circumstances while still retaining the inner core that promoted initial involvement with and investigation of the topic and determination of questions and answers about it.
Investigate Secondary Source Materials
As noted for an assignment similar to the AnnBib required for another course, (https://elliottrwi.com/instruction/osu/oklahoma-state-university-engl-1213-composition-ii/oklahoma-state-university-engl-1213-composition-ii-developing-a-topic-and-locating-sources/),
The generation of new knowledge has to begin from already-uncovered knowledge. Students will therefore need to work from materials already developed, both primary sources (as noted above) and secondary sources: reports of research conducted into curricular matters, commentaries from interested parties, and the like. Finding such materials presents little trouble; finding which materials among them are useful is perhaps more challenging. To be useful, secondary source materials must be both reliable (i.e., the information presented in them and the conclusions made by them must be trustworthy) and relevant (i.e., they must discuss the subject of inquiry or something reasonably proximal to it). Academic journal articles and scholarly books (or chapters therefrom) are the most likely sources for such materials, although it is possible that other secondary sources—such as reports of research sponsored by major disciplinary organizations and reputable bodies that treat teaching—will be useful.
Also noted in the materials for that assignment is that
Matt Upson, Director of Undergraduate Research at Oklahoma State University’s Edmon Low Library, offers several videos that may be of assistance in negotiating a search for appropriate secondary sources:
- “What Is a Database?”: http://screencast.com/t/DMhi2wmJHVji
- “Choosing a Database”: http://screencast.com/t/ESjMtsAQO0In
- “Searching a Database”: http://screencast.com/t/jtXhWSae
- “Examining an Article”: http://screencast.com/t/uAqdL8Quc67N
- “RefME”: http://screencast.com/t/zTJk1V7elu
- “Evaluating Sources”: https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/tutorials/evaluating-sources/
For the AnnBib, as for that assignment, “Review of the materials is encouraged. They are meant to serve collectively as an introductory guide, not to foreclose possibilities.”
Additionally helpful will be the use of subject guides, such as can be found at the Oklahoma State University library website, here: http://www.library.okstate.edu/research-guides/subject-lists/. Each connects to information specialists and resources likely to be of assistance in tracking down secondary source materials relevant to the projects being undertaken.
Students will benefit from keeping track of where they look for their sources and from reflecting on why they look in the places they look and why they select the sources they do. Such information will inform the AnnBib as it moves forward. More generally, knowing how sources are found and why they are selected helps readers to know how valid, reliable, and applicable the work they read is to what they are doing.
Investigate Tertiary/Critical Source Materials
As an optional extra step, although one likely to be of assistance as the project moves forward, students can look into tertiary or critical source materials. Unlike primary sources, which are necessary to any investigation, and secondary sources, which comment more or less directly on the primary materials or closely related items, tertiary or critical materials may not explicitly treat the particular subject being investigated. Their utility comes in providing frames of reference through which to approach primary and secondary source materials. That is, they offer guidelines for how to approach knowledge and develop understanding that may then be applied to the primary and secondary materials in the hopes of making sense of them.
Tertiary/critical sources can be found in and among secondary sources. Searching for the latter will doubtlessly bring up the former, as well. One note needs to be made, however; tertiary/critical sources are likely to be more expansive and stable than secondary sources. That is, they are more likely to be books than are secondary sources. Trips through library stacks might be in order therefore.
As with secondary sources, students will benefit from keeping track of where they look for their sources and from reflecting on why they look in the places they look and why they select the sources they do. Such information will inform the AnnBib as it moves forward. More generally, knowing how sources are found and why they are selected helps readers to know how valid, reliable, and applicable the work they read is to what they are doing.
Assess the Utility of the Sources, Selecting the Most Pertinent
Finding sources is relatively easy. Indeed, it is too easy; searches are likely to offer hundreds of thousands of results, if not millions. Parsing the sources is therefore necessary; not all will be useful, and of those that are useful, not all will be equally useful. While specific rubrics for assessment will vary by topic and approach, they should minimally include such concerns as peer review. Timeliness should likely also be considered in whether a source is useful in supporting the answer being pursued for the remainder of the semester-long research project.
Not only will it be useful for students to keep track of how they search for their sources, it will be useful for them to track how they determine sources’ utility to their projects, as well as how individual sources are likely to be of use to their specific projects. Both sets of information will be useful moving forward in the AnnBib and in the later work to be done in the course.
Summarize the Selected Sources
After the sources have been found to be useful, they need to be summarized. Summarizing texts effectively helps them be made accessible to other readers, as well as allowing them to serve as useful study guides for later work. Additionally, they serve as confirmation that the materials have been fully reviewed by the summary-writers, which helps improve writerly credibility.
The summaries in the AnnBib should begin with a sentence laying out the thesis of the article. Subsequent sentences should identify major argumentative points and methods of proof. They should be presented in the order followed by the piece being summarized, since the overall thrust of the summary should parallel the text being summarized.
What should not appear in summaries is quotation. Summaries serve to condense their source texts. This cannot be done if the original phrasing is retained. Similarly, minor details should not be presented in summaries; the retention of such detail inhibits effective condensation of the source texts, making the summary less effective than it could be.
As is noted in an assignment for another, similar course, “A number of sample summaries appear on the “Abstracts” page on ElliottRWI, which can be found at the following URL: https://elliottrwi.com/research/abstracts/.…[Look] to them for form and style rather than as subjects of explicit mimicry.”
Develop Citations for the Selected Sources
Incumbent upon any scholarly work is accurate and appropriate accounting for the provenance of any information deployed. Part of this is citation, which documents where sources are found so that others can refer back to them as they conduct their own efforts to expand human knowledge. Because the AnnBib serves as a component of an ongoing research project, one that identifies and deploys outside information, it must include citation; each of its selected sources must be accorded formal identification. The context of the course asserts that that identification should align to the standards promulgated by the Modern Language Association of America (MLA).
Ideally, students will work from copies of the current version of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (the Seventh Edition at the time of this writing) or the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (Third Edition as of this writing) to produce citations for each fo their selected sources. Accessibility is always an issue, though, as neither text is free to students. A free and open online resource is available, however, in the relevant section of the Purdue Online Writing Lab. Widely used even by academics, it is available at the following URL: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/. It reproduces much of the information about citation styles and formats included in the official sources and so is a useful guide.
Citations tend to be among the most difficult things for students to do well, but they are simply matters of attention to detail. Working carefully and methodically—and allowing time to do so—will be of substantial benefit.
Compose the AnnBib RV
The prior six sections speak to concerns to be considered among prewriting activities. That is, they do not generate independent texts for assessment, but they do stimulate discussion and guide thinking along the way towards texts for assessment. For them to contribute to an effective AnnBib, however, they must be consolidated and set down in a form accessible to the expected audience; that is, they need to be cited, condensed into quickly read forms, and assessed for their utility. The AnnBib RV is the first iteration of doing so.
The AnnBib RV should open with a paragraph that articulates the writer’s involvement with the topic, describes and contextualizes the topic, and presents the question to be answered and a selected answer thereto in an appropriate construction. (The paragraph can be thought of as a distillation of a successful Explore.) A second paragraph should outline how the sources meant to support the answer were found and their validity determined. Afterward should follow a series of annotative entries, each consisting of an MLA-style Works Cited citation for one source, a one-paragraph summary of that source, and a one-paragraph evaluation of the annotated source’s validity in supporting the advanced answer (in that order). They should be at least six in number, at least five of which must be secondary; one may be either secondary or tertiary/critical.
The AnnBib RV is due electronically before the beginning of class time on 23 March 2016. It must be submitted in .doc, .docx, or .rtf format. (No other file types will be accepted; submissions in another file type will be treated as though not submitted.) The text of the AnnBib RV should be two paragraphs and at least six entries long, exclusive of a four-line heading (student name, instructor name, course and section, and date of composition) and an appropriately descriptive title. It should be double-spaced on letter-size sheets with one-inch margins on all sides. It should be in 12-point Times New Roman, Garamond, or Georgia type. Page numbers should appear in the upper right corner of the page, with the student’s surname preceding the number; page numbers and surnames should be in the same typeface as the rest of the document. Paragraphs’ first lines should be indented half an inch from the left-hand margin; subsequent lines should be flush left. Citations will invert that indentation. Annotative entries should be separated from one another and from the preparatory paragraphs by an extra blank line. Usage should conform to standards promulgated by the MLA and discussed during class time.
The AnnBib RV will be assessed as a minor assignment according to the rubric below. The text and comments made about it will be returned to students via email. Those comments should be used to improve the text further in advance of its final submission; the AnnBib RV is a work in progress.
Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor and with tutors in the Student Success Center during the process of composing the AnnBib RV. No extra credit will be afforded to the project for doing so, but doing so is likely to improve the grade received and will likely be considered positively in the Prof score awarded at the end of the term.
Revise the AnnBib RV into the AnnBib FV
Following the return of instructor comments on the AnnBib RV, students are strongly encouraged to revise their papers in light of the comments. They should work from global issues—clarifying the topic, question, and answer; clarifying the methods of searching for and selection of sources; and appropriately summarizing and assessing the sources—to more local issues—such as how best to transition from sentence to sentence, and how best to phrase for concision and emphasis. Only after all of that is done should there be any thought of checking and amending as appropriate the surface-level features of formatting, spelling, punctuation, and the like.
The paper resulting from the process of revision, the AnnBib FV, should still open with a paragraph noting the topic, question, and answer thereto being treated. It should still follow with a paragraph outlining how sources were sought and selected. A series of at least six three-part annotative entries should still follow, each of which offers an MLA-style Works Cited entry, summary, and assessment of the utility of a selected secondary (and, optionally, tertiary/critical) source.
The AnnBib FV is due electronically before the beginning of class time on 30 March 2016. It must be submitted in .doc, .docx, or .rtf format. (No other file types will be accepted; submissions in another file type will be treated as though not submitted.) The text of the AnnBib FV should be two paragraphs and at least six entries long, exclusive of a four-line heading (student name, instructor name, course and section, and date of composition) and an appropriately descriptive title. It should be double-spaced on letter-size sheets with one-inch margins on all sides. It should be in 12-point Times New Roman, Garamond, or Georgia type. Page numbers should appear in the upper right corner of the page, with the student’s surname preceding the number; page numbers and surnames should be in the same typeface as the rest of the document. Paragraphs’ first lines should be indented half an inch from the left-hand margin; subsequent lines should be flush left. Citations will invert that indentation. Annotative entries should be separated from one another and from the preparatory paragraphs by an extra blank line. Usage should conform to standards promulgated by the MLA and discussed during class time.
The AnnBib FV will be assessed as a major assignment worth 15% of the total course grade according to the rubric below. The text and comments made about it will be returned to students via email. Please note that, while the AnnBib FV should be able to stand alone as an independent piece of writing, the AnnBib will need to be included in the FinPort later in the term. The comments made on the AnnBib FV should therefore serve not only to inform performance on future assignments and writing tasks outside the classroom, but also to aid in the creation of a best version of the AnnBib for use later in the term.
Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor and with tutors in the Student Success Center during the process of revision. No extra credit will be afforded to the project for doing so, but doing so is likely to improve the grade received and will likely be considered positively in the Prof score awarded at the end of the term.
A copy of the grading rubric that will be applied to the AnnBib RV and the AnnBib FV appears at the following link: G. Elliott ENGL 1213 Composition II Annotated Bibliography Grading Rubric Revision.
A targeted example of the AnnBib, written to address the demands of the Spring 2016 instructional term at Northern Oklahoma College, is available here: “Sample Annotated Bibliography: Why Not Have a Rhetoric Requirement among UL Lafayette PhD Students in English?”
Other examples of annotated bibliographies are readily found, some of which are noted in the list below. Note that they are written to different specific purposes than the AnnBib assignment; the examples are to be taken as models of content and style rather than objects of explicit mimicry.
- “The Fedwren Project: A Robin Hobb Annotated Bibliography,” one of the instructor’s personal projects: https://elliottrwi.com/research/hobb-bibliography/
- The sample exercise written for an assignment similar to the AnnBib required of another course: https://elliottrwi.com/2016/02/06/sample-developing-a-topic-and-locating-sources-assignment-questions-about-the-comprehensive-exams-for-ul-lafayette-phd-students-in-english/
- An older annotated bibliography, written for a different course entirely: http://gelliottteaching.blogspot.com/2013/06/sample-annotated-bibliography-for.html
The AnnBib is in large measure an exercise in formal citation and identification of useful source materials. More than in many other assignments, attention to the details of the work done to account for the provenance of information is obligatory. Failure to provide appropriate citation may be treated as an academic integrity violation.
Geoffrey B. Elliott
23 March 2016
Updated to correct observed errors.