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Conducting Research and Writing the Annotated Bibliography

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 I’m assuming that you’ve written or encountered an annotated bibliography in your previous educational experiences. If that isn’t the case, please take a look at this sample annotated bibliography from Cornell University’s library website before continuing to read this section.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 However, though you may have written an annotated bibliography, have you ever explicitly considered or discussed the purpose of writing one?

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 An annotated bibliography can have many goals:

  • 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0
  • To make sure that you remember what you’ve read.
  • To help you reflect on how a source relates to the rest of your research.
  • To help you evaluate the usefulness or the efficacy of a source.
  • To help you develop / narrow an appropriate research question.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Sometimes, we’ll mistakenly begin an annotated bibliography assignment with a broad research assertion rather than a question. But if we think about research as a way to confirm what we already believe to be true, then we end up scouring for quotes that support our already fully-formed opinions.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 This approach, while understandable, can be extremely limiting and rather difficult. It can also lead to some boring writing that mostly restates other people’s arguments in different words.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Writing, instead, could (should!) be a process of discovery and thinking as much as it’s a demonstration of knowledge. Developing an argument as you write rather than before you write is a critical part of developing new ideas. And this is where an annotated bibliography can intervene.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Here are some steps to consider while you complete one.

Step 1: familiarize yourself with the GC’s research resources

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 You’ve likely already done some research in your MALS field as an undergraduate student (or as part of a job, or as part of another advanced degree that you completed). But it may have been a long time since you were in school, or the resources at The Graduate Center may be different than the ones that were available to you elsewhere.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 It’s a good idea to get familiar with the GC’s resources and how to access what you need. You can do this in several ways:

  • 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0
  • Check out the MALS LibGuides resource page, which gives valuable information on accessing articles, archives, and books at the GC. If you haven’t checked out books within the CUNY system before, it might be especially useful to know about the CUNY CLICS program, which allows you to borrow books from anywhere across the CUNY system (and have them sent to the GC or a CUNY library near you).
  • Meet your MALS librarian, Alycia Sellie. You can ask Alycia any research-related questions that you have by contacting her at asellie@gc.cuny.edu. She’ll even set up an appointment to talk to you about your project.
  • Go to some library events, especially if it’s been a while since the last time that you’ve done library research (but even if it hasn’t, and you’re curious about new ways of collecting and managing research). These events can be a great way to find out about new tools. There are even events that are especially targeted at MALS students.
  • Do some citation management research. Consider using a citation management system like Zotero, Endnote, or Mendeley to organize your research. It makes it MUCH easier when it’s time to compile a Works Cited or a References page when the time comes. The library gives free workshops on how to get started with Zotero (which I highly recommend!).

step 2: do some brainstorming.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Once you know more about the library’s available resources, you’ll need to start deciding on a research question. If you’ve been taking good reading notes, and writing responses / reflections to texts that especially interest you from the seminar, you might already have some questions in mind.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 If not, you might consult this guide to developing a research question. You might also skim some secondary sources to think about how other scholars have approached a topic that you’re interested in pursuing. If you still need some help with how to brainstorm, you might consult some of the curated resources in the ‘drafting the seminar paper’ section.

Step 3: Define your research question. make sure it’s really a question.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 You have a topic or a general area of research in mind. How can you turn that topic into a question (rather than an assertion of knowledge that you’re using research to confirm)? Also, how do you know if it’s too broad or narrow?

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Consider these 8 questions from Empire State College’s resource on developing a research question:

  • 16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0
  • Does the question deal with a topic or issue that interests me enough to spark my own thoughts and opinions?
  • Is the question easily and fully researchable? (i.e. What kind of access do I have to the subject in the time frame that I have to write about it?)
  • What type of information do I need to answer the research question?
  • Is the scope of this information reasonable (e.g., can I really research 30 online writing programs developed over a span of 10 years?)
  • Given the type and scope of the information that I need, is my question too broad, too narrow, or okay?
  • What sources will have the type of information that I need to answer the research question (journals, books, Internet resources, government documents, people)?
  • Can I access these sources?
  • Given my answers to the above questions, do I have a good quality research question that I actually will be able to answer by doing research?

step 4: do some research, but keep an open mind.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 Now that you’ve defined your research question, you’re ready to start looking around on relevant databases. In order to do this, you need to be familiar with the similarities and differences between a search engine like Google and a database. If you’ve been out of school for a while, or if you’ve never used a database before, you might want to review this quick video. It explains that difference:

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 When you do database searches, do you find yourself coming up with too many (or too few) results? It might be helpful to review some of the tips on these lists, which can give you some additional strategies for database navigation:

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Although your question might be a good one, it might take some time to locate the keywords that will unlock the resources that you need in order to compile your annotated bib. Many databases will offer additional, related articles (or keywords) for you to try.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 In addition to this, skimming the bibliographies and reference pages of articles that do relate to your topic can lead you to additional keywords to search.

Step 5: read (and annotate) sources strategically.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Do not read every word of every source that you plan to include on your annotated bibliography. Your research question might change as you write — in fact, it’s pretty natural that it will, since you’re not sure what you’d like to argue yet. Instead, consider reading sources strategically and using some of the same prompts that are available to your in the response / reflection paper section to critically analyze or evaluate the source.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 Once you have a good idea of the source’s main purpose, audience, exigence, and context, you’re ready to write your annotation. You want to avoid:

  • 25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0
  • Using any direct quotations, unless there’s a very key term — just one! — that must be part of the entry
  • Copying and pasting the abstract (because this probably means that you didn’t understand the point of the article, and also because it’s plagiarism if you’re turning this in)
  • Being too objective. An annotation, unlike an abstract, is typically evaluative and critical (though you should check with your professor about this).

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 The University of Maryland’s library has a nice resource that gives an example of the difference between an evaluative / critical and a descriptive / informative annotated bibliography entry.

Additional resources and annotated bibliography samples

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Need more? Here are some annotated bibliography prompts and samples:

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Source: https://malswrites.commons.gc.cuny.edu/annotated-bibliographies/

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