Make a list of at least ten sources you have found so far that may be relevant to your research question.
They do not all need to be scholarly, though I expect you to have some by now. The scholarly ones should be labeled (see below).
To develop a preliminary bibliography as a step toward the Literature Review and the final Research Paper.
This assignment is especially focused on the following course learning outcomes:
- Use current research methods, including technology, to retrieve college-level research information from a variety of sources.
- Read and critically evaluate sources in terms of bias, accuracy, authority, currency, purpose, relevance, audience, and other factors.
- Identify general requirements for documentation in different disciplines and employ proper conventions (MLA preferred)
There are certain rules you must follow in order to complete the assignment successfully:
- Alphabetize the list by author’s last name.
- Format the list according to MLA guidelines. If you’re using Noodle Tools (NT), all you have to do is enter the correct information in the correct fields and NT will do the rest for you. If not, these MLA citation guides will give you the basics on how to format your works cited page:
- The MLA page at Shoreline Community College
- The MLA page at the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab)
- The MLA page at Western Oregon University
- The MLA guide from Highline Community College (PDF)
Besides the MLA formatting rules, I have some requirements of my own:
- Identify the thesis of each source, in your own words (do not simply copy from the article). I want to be sure you are familiar with the basic idea of the source and that you understand exactly what a thesis is. Remember that a thesis can only be expressed as a complete declarative sentence, not a phrase or a question. Put the thesis at the end of the entry for that source, after all the information required in the MLA guidelines. (In Noodle Tools, put the thesis in the Annotation field.)
- Clearly identify sources without a thesis (i.e. purely informative sources like newspaper articles and factual reports), to show you understand the difference between a source that makes a claim and one that simply presents information.
- Summarize each of your five best (most useful) sources. The best way to do a summary is to list the main sections of the article. Usually 1 – 3 sentences is plenty. (In Noodle Tools, put the summary in the Annotation field.)
- When writing summaries, concentrate on sources that have a thesis--i.e., those that make an argument, as opposed to those that simply report information.
- Explain how those same five sources answers your research question, or how they contribute to an answer. (In Noodle Tools, put the explanation in the annotation field.)
- Label all scholarly sources. This is so I can check your understanding of what a scholarly source is, and so you and I can both make sure you will have the required number of scholarly sources in your final bibliography. Scholarly sources can be labeled with an “S” at the end of the entry, by using special formatting (e.g. bold or italics), or in any other way that clearly identifies them. If you use formatting or special characters to identify scholarly sources, please include a note explaining this. (In Noodle Tools you may add “this is a scholarly source” in the Annotation field.)
- Include your research question at the top of the page.
The assignment will be scored on the following categories. Each will receive a score of 4, 3, 2, 1 or 0 (corresponding to the letter grades A – F). The total grade will be an average of those scores.
The research question
- is focused and unified
- leads to an arguable and descriptive thesis
- are of the correct quantity and type (10 total, minimum 3 scholarly, reference works may be used but do not count toward the total, no textbooks without my prior approval)
- are adequate and appropriate to your topic
- are correctly categorized (scholarly vs. non-scholarly)
- identify the thesis of every source, in your own words
- identify the main sections of your five best sources, in your own words
- explain how each of your five best sources answers the research question, whether directly or indirectly
This assignment counts for 5% of your final grade.
The list should be formatted according to MLA guidelines, but I’m not going to grade on that because there are tools that will do it for you (e.g. Noodle Tools). If it’s not correct, I’ll either note the mistakes (if there aren’t too many) or make you do it over before I grade it (if there are a lot).
Most of you are far enough along that you already have, or will soon have, at least ten sources. That’s why I’ve included the summaries as part of this assignment. Doing the summaries now will leave you more time to read and critique the sources later, which is the core of the next assignment. However, if you are not quite ready to do that, I am offering an alternative. Here’s how it works:
You may choose not to include summaries in this assignment. You will still be required to identify the theses of all your sources. I will score all the other categories besides identifying the main points and explaining how the source answers the research question. Therefore all the other categories will be worth a little bit more.
If you prefer to use this option, please indicate your choice at the top of your paper or in the comments box when submitting the assignment in Canvas.
Whichever option you choose, summaries and explanations will be a required element in our next assignment. Doing them now gives you a chance to get started early and revise for the next assignment if you find problems.
Here is a (made up) sample to illustrate the elements of the assignment.
I. The Next Step.
Now that your have completed your research agenda and have a fairly good idea of what problem you are going to address, the next step is to find out what resources as available to help answer the question you have posed. This means developing a preliminary bibliography. This will not be your final bibliography. It is intended simply to get you started on the project and to ensure that the there are materials available for you to complete it..
II. Finding the Sources.
While you are certainly encouraged to look at unpublished sources, you will need at least a few books and articles to write this paper. There are a number of strategies you might employ to find the sources you need:
One traditional place to begin is with the library's catalog and look for books under the appropriate heading. There are some limits to this method: it only acquaints you with books in that particular library, it doesn't tell you which books might be the most important or useful for your purposes and you need to be sure you have looked under all of the relevant subject headings (The Library of Congress Catalog of Subject Headings is useful for making sure you uncovered all of the possibilities).
A more useful method might be to look at the recommended reading list in a textbook on the subject. While this might not directly address your topic, you will at least find out what one scholar in the field thinks are the important books. Once you have found one of these recommended books, you can look at that book's bibliography for further suggestions. Going from book to book in this manner should provide a fairly good overview of the scholarly literature. Those books which are most frequently cited are likely those generally regarded as the most important in the field. It is, however, important to keep in mind that "important in the field" doesn't necessarily translate into "important for my paper."
C. Published bibliographies
Still another method for getting started is to find a published bibliography on the subject. For major figures and major periods there are very often published bibliographies listing the books and articles published in that field. Be careful using such a list, however, since these are usually not selective: they list everything published on the subject regardless of the quality. An annotated bibliography is even more useful. One of the best places to begin is with the American Historical Association's Guide to Historical Literature [Ref. /D 20/A.55]. This is a selective bibliography covering all places and periods of history.
D. Indexes and book reviews
Do not neglect periodicals indexes and book reviews. The Humanities Index, The Social Science Index, The Philosopher's Index and Historical Abstracts are indexes of journal articles in the various fields. They are particularly useful if you want your research up to date. Before you read a book it may save some time if you read an abstract or a review of it first. These indexes often list book reviews as well.
III. The trouble with bibliographies.
There are two basic problems you are likely to encounter in finding the right sources for your research agenda. On the one hand, there may be no source that directly addresses the question you want to answer. On the other hand, there might be more sources than you have time to list, let alone read and digest.
Not all of the books you find in preparing a bibliography will be useful for your topic. While you should cast your net wide when you are first starting your research, be prepared to become more selective as you proceed. You cannot possibly read everything you should read in the short amount of time available for this project. Look for clues that will indicate if this book will be useful. Before you start reading, check the table of contents and the index. Make sure the book really does cover your subject.
If you are unable to compile a list of sources for your paper you have three choices: you may abandon this topic and look for another; you may adjust your topic so that it fits the sources you have found; or you may want to re-think your approach, that is, if you can't get the information you need from one kind of source, you might try looking at different kinds of sources.
In preparing a bibliography do not discount serendipity and hard work. Often the most important insights into a subject come from a book you happen on just by chance. Just as often, you aren't able to address your topic until you've put in a number of hours of seemingly fruitless labor. Be open to whatever you come across, but realize, too, that if you wait for the paper to fall in your lap, you'll still be waiting when the paper is due. Remember the rule of ten: for every 10 books in your bibliography, one will be useful. For every ten useful books you read, one will actually be listed in the final bibliography. For every ten notes you take, one will be useful. For every ten useful notes you take, one will actually be used in the final paper.
IV. Your assignment.
You are to bring to class a bibliography of at least 10 items. At least one of these sources must be a primary source and at least one must be a journal article. While you may use encyclopedias and indexes in preparing this bibliography, they will not count as sources. Each bibliographic entry should be typed and contain all the necessary bibliographic information: author's name, title, translator's name, editor's name, publisher's name, place and date of publication, page numbers. At this point, format is not important. You will receive one point for each book, article or unpublished source properly listed up to a maximum of 10 points.
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