Annotated Bibliography Assignment

English 305

Dr. Fike

The next stage in your term project is an annotated bibliography, which combines a bibliographic entry for each source you think you may use with a brief description or evaluation of that source. An annotation is a sentence fragment describing the source's thesis. Here is an example:

Hurwitz, Gregg Andrew. "'The Fountain, from which my current runs':

A Jungian Interpretation of Othello." The Upstart Crow, vol.

20, 2000, pp. 79-92.

    Argues that Iago and Desdemona correspond to Othello's shadow

and anima, respectively.

Start the annotation on a new line and be sure to indent it.

As in this example, you should use Courier New 12-point as your font and make sure that you double space both the entry and the annotation and that you indent the annotation one tabulation (everything but the first line of the entry itself should also be indented, and I prefer to have the annotation start on a new line). It is okay for the annotation to be a sentence fragment, but it should express the source's thesis. An excellent formula for an annotation is as follows: [Source] argues + thesis (some idea about the content). Obviously, in order to write such a statement, you will need to READ into your sources.

I’ll expect you to have a minimum of 10 sources on your bibliography (your play plus 9 critical sources, that is, works of Shakespeare criticism). The critical sources really ought to be a mixture of books and articles. If you are using other things like psychology, history, philosophy, or mythology, these are extra sources. Feel free to put them in a separate section of the bibliography (for example, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Other Sources). Entries for works in an anthology are difficult, so here is an example:

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The Complete

Works of Shakespeare, edited by David Bevington, rev. 5th ed.,

Pearson Education, 2004, pp. 1091-1149.

But here is the key thing: Doing an annotated bibliography requires not only identifying your sources but also looking at them in a preliminary way so that your document actually states, in brief, what each source argues for (the thesis). The purpose of the assignment, then, is twofold: to teach you something about bibliographic format and to take your project one step closer to being a researched essay. In other words, to do the bibliography assignment you will have to begin investigating research materials first-hand, not merely identifying and listing them. 


Q: How will we be graded?

A: I will "spot" you 3 points out of 5. Then I will deduct .5 point for each of the following if they are problematic: 1) MLA format; 2) number of critical sources; 3) alphabetical order; 4) abstracts.

Q: How important is MLA format?

A: It is extremely important. In 09S, not one of my students used the MLA format with complete correctness and precision. One person even used APA format instead of MLA. It is time to get MLA format under control. Get help if you need to. Or follow the models in Rules for Writers. Or go here for extra help if you do not want to use a handbook. Remember that MLA format recently changed: use 8th edition format, not 7th.

Q: What sort of things should we keep in mind regarding MLA format?

A: See my "Guide to MLA Format 8th Edition."

Q: Are we allowed to have more than 10 sources on our annotated bibliographies?

A: Absolutely!  Just make sure that you have at least 10. At least 9 must be Shakespeare criticism (books, articles, chapters) specifically related to your focused topic. The Bedford Companion does not count as one of your critical sources. Basically, in order to be a source, a publication should have a minimum of 5-10 pages of material on your play, and McDonald does not fulfill that criterion. Do not have more than one Explicator note on your bibliography.

Q: Do historical and philosophical and psychological texts count toward the 9 critical sources.

A: No. They should be on your annotated bibliographies, but I want at least 9 books and/or articles of Shakespeare criticism. If you want, you can create a bibliography in two sections: primary sources and secondary sources.

Q: Are we allowed to cut annotations from electronic sources and paste them into our papers?

A: No. That is plagiarism.

Q: How many sources do we have to use in our actual papers?

A: I hate to legislate this, but I want to be sure that no one relies heavily on only one or two sources; therefore, I am requiring a minimum of 5 secondary sources (secondary = Shakespeare criticism), plus the play you are writing about, plus any primary sources (history, philosophy, mythology, psychology, etc.). In other words, in the final draft of your paper you must cite at least your play and 5 works of criticism, but there is a good chance that you will have more than that.

Q: When you say “use,” what exactly do you mean?

A: You should have at least one citation or parenthetical reference to each source somewhere in the text of your paper. I’m more concerned about overuse: do not turn your paper into a patchwork of critics’ statements and views. I want you to use critics. Do not let them use you.

Q: What format should we follow?

A: MLA. This means, in brief, that you should use signal phrases and parenthetical citations in the text of your paper, include footnotes or endnotes for important information that does not fit in the text, and append a list of works cited on a separate page. However, not all of this is relevant to the annotated bibliography assignment.

Q: What if we’re not familiar with the MLA format?

A: Consult any handbook (the Writing Center can help you out with this). If you still have your freshman handbook, that’s the place to look; just make sure that it reflects the MLA 8th edition. I can help you go over the fine points of the MLA format. Please make sure that you put the parenthetical reference in the right place (after a space, before the period); here is an example:

As Stephen Greenblatt states, “And here would be Greenblatt’s quotation” (221).

Of course, the period comes before the citation if you set a long quotation off from the body of your paper (double indentation in this case). Check out a model MLA research paper in any handbook, and you’ll see what I mean. Please note: If you have Greenblatt's name in a signal phrase, you do not need to repeat it in the citation.

Q: Do we have to say, "As Stephen Greenblatt convincingly argues in Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare," before giving a quotation?

A: No. If you want to do that occasionally for emphasis, I am fine with it. But if you do it all the time, it will seem sophomoric. I disagree with "The Correct Use of Borrowed Information" on this point. Your paper has a works-cited list, so complete information on your sources is available to the reader without heavy-handed references in the text. In addition, I will assume that you consider your sources convincing unless you say otherwise.

Q: How do we cite electronic sources?

A: See my "Guide."

Q: What’s  “The Correct Use of Borrowed Information”? 

A: If you took Writing 101 at Winthrop, you have seen this document before.  I suggest that you review it carefully and that you be very careful when you take notes (this is the stage where plagiarism enters the writing process without your even being aware of it). You can find it here: "The Correct Use of Borrowed Information."

Q: What should we put in the annotation?

A: Your paraphrase of a source's thesis. You are also welcome to include a statement on how the source will be useful to you, but that is optional. You must nail the thesis. Do not merely state what the source's topic is.

Q: Should we use italics or underlining?

A: Use italics, not underlining. Underlining is a relic of the typewriter age.

Q: How do I know whether to put a title in quotation marks or to italicize it?

A: Use quotation marks for articles and italics for book and play titles. Do not use both at the same time unless you have an italicized title within another source. See the final bullet on page 3 of my "Guide." If your are using an essay from a collection, the chapter title goes in quotation marks. If you are using a chapter from a monograph, you may give the chapter title in quotation marks in the annotation; however, do not put it--or the inclusive page numbers--in the works-cited entry.

Q: Are any sources on our play suitable for inclusion on the annotated bibliography?

A: No, definitely not. Having 9 sources on your play does not necessarily mean that they are all relevant to your paper. If you do not pick carefully targeted sources, you will not have a sufficient amount of material for your research. Ironically, you can have a complete bibliography and still need to do quite a bit more research. DO NOT LOAD YOUR BIBLIOGRAPHY UP WITH SOURCES ABOUT YOUR PLAY THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR FOCUSED TOPIC.

Q: What about anthologies of criticism?

A: These are fine, but I must offer a couple of caveats. First, it is not okay for all of your critical sources to be articles from one or two critical anthologies. If they are, this shows me that your research does not have sufficient breadth. It also suggests that you have included articles that are not relevant to your particular focused topic. Second, if you do cite more than one article from an anthology, you must be sure to give an entry for the book, plus separate abbreviated entries for each article. See "cross-referencing" in the MLA Handbook, section 5.3.6. See also my "Guide to MLA Format 8th Edition."

Q: What about JSTOR?

A: You will find articles here about your play. However, it is a mistake to rely only on JSTOR for your assignment. Nine JSTOR journal articles may be about your play, but it is likely that not all are about your focused topic. If all of your critical sources are from JSTOR, it will be obvious to me that you did not check the MLA Bibliography, the literature databases, or DOC. Not having some books on your bibliography is a huge shortcoming. Bottom line, you cannot slap your annotated bibliography together in a short period of time. It requires extensive work to identify proper sources. You must actually read into your sources. And the MLA format must be used correctly.

Q: What about encyclopedias?

A: Although they can be helpful in your preliminary reading, I do not consider them to be sufficient sources for your bibliography and your paper. But it may be helpful to backtrack by consulting the sources used by the writers of an encyclopedia entry.

Q: What about the OED?

A: By all means, you should use it in your paper if you are defining a word historically. However, do not put the OED on your annotated bibliography as if a word were a critical source (piece of Shakespeare criticism).

Q: What about notes? What's a "note"?

A: A note is a short article-style publication. Articles are long; notes are short. You will find notes in publications like The Explicator, Notes & Queries, and ANQ. Sometimes a note can be really helpful (for example, Painter and Parker's note on Ophelia); however, loading your bibliography up with notes is insufficient. You need longer sources at this stage. That is not to say that you may not have a note on your bibliography. Just be aware that three notes on a works-cited list is probably two too many.

Q: May we cheat?

A: If by "cheat" you mean "mine our sources for sources," the answer is clearly YES. If you find an article on your focused topic, you should also go to the sources that the author cites. Not to do so is equivalent of reinventing the wheel. There is no reason not to benefit from the work of other critics who have gone before you. The sources that helped your sources will also help you.

Q: How can we screw this assignment up?

A: The worst way to screw it up is to shovel a bunch of sources into your bibliography that are on your play but have nothing to do with your focused topic. If you do that, you will have to redo your bibliographic work before your research can proceed.