Annotated Bibliography Assignment

Teaching Associate: Patrick Mooney, Department of English
English 10
Summer 2015


This assignment is optional. If you wish, you may instead complete a third close reading of a course text. Students who are planning to complete a major or minor in the Department of English or another department emphasizing textual studies are strongly encouraged to complete a research-based final paper for the course; students who are planning to complete a research paper for the course are strongly encouraged to complete this assignment instead of a third close reading.

For this assignment, you will be creating an annotated bibliography in anticipation of your final research essay. As described in the assignment for your final research essay, you will need to find three scholarly articles that apply to your argument. An annotated bibliography offers two key pieces of information on each article that you choose:

Performing Scholarly Research

The foundation of scholarly research is in its rigorous peer-review system. No scholarly article (or academic book) is published without being read by scholars capable of judging its academic merit. This means that you can trust that the research provided by these articles or books is sound—you may not agree with the arguments made, or how the evidence is analyzed, but the quality and scholarly merit of the articles are not in question (unlike, say, Wikipedia articles, or some web page that some random stranger put up on the Internet).

This research can be done in several ways. The most efficient way is to begin on the UCSB library's website: search through their article databases to find articles relevant to your topic. Make sure to choose databases that focus on the humanities, especially literature—of particular use to you may be the MLA International Bibliography (via ProQuest), JSTOR, and Project MUSE. (Links to these search engines, and other appropriate search engines for research in the humanities, are available from the course website.) You may have to sign in to the library's website in order to access these when you are off-campus. You can also search for journals, books, and publications held in print in the library by using the library website's search function. However, to find individual articles, you will need to rely on one of the databases listed above.

What you should never do is use a generic search engine to perform scholarly research (Google Scholar excepted, perhaps)—these will not generate links to peer-reviewed materials. Wikipedia is also forbidden, as are any other basic encyclopedias—you are looking for scholarly articles that make an argument about a text on, or related to, the text with which you are working. Websites about your text are similarly unscholarly, and should not be cited in any formal essay. None of these are considered peer-reviewed.

Choosing Three Articles

Because the reading list for the class emphasizes famous, extensively studied works, there should be a wealth of secondary literature (criticism and articles) about these texts. This means that you will undoubtedly be wading through quite a few articles while doing your research. One way to approach this is to narrow your search—try searching for something more specific than the name of the text you are writing your paper about. For instance, if I am doing research for a paper on domesticity in Seamus Heaney's sonnet sequence Clearances, I would likely search for Heaney Clearances domesticity or Heaney Clearances sheets or any of a number of other, related topics, not just Seamus Heaney. After all, I want to narrow down the search to articles more relevant to my research, not turn up everything that has been written about Ireland's most recent Nobel laureate in literature.

The articles that you choose can be applicable in many ways. They can be complementary: that is, there is something in the article that supports your claims about the text, or that provides background to your text. For example, one of the articles I would use for my paper on domesticity in Clearances would offer descriptions of early mid-twentieth-century Irish domestic life, which I could use to bolster my argument. Another article may offer a parallel argument about a different text—for example, an article that argues for the marginalized status of homemakers in poems by Eavan Bolland might help me develop my own theory about domesticity in Clearances. Or, an article can be contradictory: you may run across an article that contradicts your argument; you can refer to this article specifically to refute those claims and to show how your reading offers an alternative approach to the text. In all three cases, by incorporating the ideas of other scholars to enhance your own argument, you are putting your argument into conversation with others who have also read and thought about similar topics and texts as you. That is, your argument is not isolated but builds on conversations already taking place, thereby boosting the quality and merit of your own work. However, the most important aspect of the articles that you choose is that they be applicable and relevant to your own argument. This means that you must have the basic structure of your argument figured out before you can settle on using a particular article.

There is no real limit on how many articles you may have to read before you find three that are applicable and relevant, but it is guaranteed that you will need to at least skim, or read the beginning, of several articles before deciding which to use. It is important, however, to avoid writing a here are the first three articles my first search turned up paper: You need to choose three (or more) good sources that actually contribute to your argument, not just check off the three sources requirement as if it were a bullshit hurdle you need to jump.

Using Scholarly Research in Your Essay

Scholarly research is incorporated into your essay in the same way that textual evidence is: through quotations and summary. Like your primary text, you will cite each quotation with the author's last name and the page number of the quotation. You will also want to gracefully incorporate these quotes into a full sentence, as you do with textual evidence.

You will need to offer an explanation as to why this particular quote is present in your essay: Is it complementary, parallel, or contradictory? Does it require further explanation? How does it illuminate something about your own textual analysis?

There is no limit to the number of times you can quote your scholarly articles in your research essay, but do remember that the bulk of the final research essay should be proving your own argument about the text, not summarizing others' arguments. You will need to quote each article at least once to meet the requirements of the research component for the essay. You will also need to provide a works cited page (with citations only, no annotations) with your final research essay.

Formal Requirements