Your task is to identify research materials that are most critical to your project, focus your energies on those materials (and then additional materials you discover as you digest those sources), and cull those research materials to sharpen what it is that you are going to contribute to this body of knowledge.
Identifying and locating sources:
We know that the way most students begin a project is to do a Google search. They type in the terms related to a general topic and see what comes up. Rarely if ever do they go beyond the first 20-40 hits (the first two pages in Google). But surprise, surprise: often these first 20-40 hits are irrelevant or, worse yet, unreliable.
Recognizing that you will no doubt do the conventional Google search anyway, what IS useful about it? Moreover, one of those early hits is likely to be a Wikipedia page. So how can you make good use of this process and avoid the pitfalls of the faulty material that both Wikipedia and Google lead you to?
It is important to acknowledge that having quality sources will ultimately result in a better research process than a vast bibliography with thin sources. Yet the biggest problem all researchers encounter is that we have too much information, too many sources. Every source has bias and it is important to be able to identify and acknowledge those biases as you use sources to draw conclusions. Faced with your task of creating a Capstone project and the notion that you have nearly an entire academic year to do it, how can you possibly sift through all this information?
Use the Google search/Wikipedia entries to define the general sub-topics and avenues of your topic. Let it help you compile a list of how you might narrow your questions and searches. Use them to do detective work on specifics too--for example, “I saw a reference to a guy writing on electromagnetic fields named Richard Littell; then Google Richard Littell.” And then you google Littell and (perhaps) find his Wikipedia page. Instant info, ideally easily verified. Make sure, though, that you DO verify it.
The BLS Library and Media Center libguide for the Capstone project is extremely helpful in putting many of the links and materials you may want to consult in one place. To access these pages, go to http://libguides.bls.org/content.php?pid=609401&sid=5034033
Primary and secondary sources:
In the course of your research, you will encounter primary and secondary sources. Both will be valuable to your work. It’s critical that you understand the difference between the two.
When you conduct interviews or experiments or data collection for your project, these will become primary sources that you have generated (and are part of). When you read articles, encounter websites, devour books, chances are that you are encountering secondary sources, with the exception of those that focus exclusively on interviews, primary source artifacts or documents, or raw data.
Your task as you work your way through the source material related to your project is to identify and analyze the information that will help you address your essential question and your research questions in the most thoughtful, well-supported, and well-reasoned argument possible. The argument that you ultimately fashion, supported by your research and your thinking, will be the backbone of both the project you create and the presentations you give to explain it to a wider audience.
Even though your project may well not be a traditional research paper, you still need to produce an annotated bibliography. You will be documenting your path through this research in your blog entries, but keeping track of what you valued in each of these sources, what they discuss and how they are relevant to your topic is critical.
We recognize that annotated bibliographies are considerable work. It’s for this reason that you will be spreading out your annotated bibliography entries over a long period of time. Every two weeks we will be asking you for two entries. Over time, you will have generated many entries but ideally, you will be working systematically and sensibly through the literature on your topic.
You will find the template for the Senior Capstone Annotated Bibliography entries in appendix D in the back of this handbook; it will also be given to you via Google classroom. Be sure to copy the template before you begin filling this out.
What is an annotated bibliography?
A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, websites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.). These are known as citations.
An annotated bibliography includes a citation, an evaluation, summary, and reflection of each of the sources.
Why are you creating an annotated bibliography?
Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information. At the professional level, annotated bibliographies allow you to see what has been done in the literature that exists already and where your own research or scholarship can fit.
Moreover, writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to sharpen your own point of view. It’s so humiliating if you work for months on a project and then someone asks you (especially at the time of your TEDx talk), “But did you know about so-and-so’s book on that subject? Hasn’t he/she said everything that you just said?” Thus the need for a thorough familiarity with what’s out there and the production of an annotated bibliography.
We would like you to use Easy Bib or Noodle Tools or another comparable program to initially store and generate your citations. You can do this online by going to:
for Noodle Tools:
and creating your own account (it’s free). Then create your project (your “Capstone annotated bibliography”). It will ask you for your general topic area and may set up some defaults depending on how you identify that topic. (You can override this later if you wish.)
Every time you encounter a source you want to investigate, enter it on your page on EasyBib or the comparable program. If you do this as you go, you will make the task of doing your bibliographic entries much easier in the long run. Ideally, by entering the basic info required to properly cite a source, EasyBib or a comparable program will do all the annoying work of properly formatting it, either in MLA or APA format (or sometimes in other formats). Be careful; if EasyBib or a comparable program defaulted to a particular format and you wish to use a different format (we are limiting you to either MLA or APA and asking that you be consistent with the chosen format in all of your entries), you will need to change this to the format you want.
Just fyi regarding MLA or APA format: You are required to use either MLA or APA format for your citations. It’s your choice, depending on the field of your project. MLA is the Modern Language Association; APA is the American Psychological Association. In general, MLA is used to write papers and cite sources in humanities and liberal arts and APA is used in the STEM fields and social sciences.
When you are preparing to complete your two bibliographic entries (for those bi-weekly deadlines), you should copy the citation you generated in EasyBib or Noodle Tools or a comparable program into the “annotated bibliography template” for that particular entry. The template will be supplied to you on Google Classroom but it is also available as Appendix D in this Handbook.
Before you spend time reading the source, put your source through this brief “test” and determine whether it’s worth using and documenting as part of your research. We are using a customized version of the CRAAP (a memorable acronym for Currency-Relevance-Authority- Accuracy- Purpose) test, designed by California State University at Chico’s Meriam Library, but in case you are interested, here’s the entire document: http://libguides.csuchico.edu/content.php?pid=326243&sid=2669613 )
Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. We’ve provided four questions for you to address:
a) How are the ideas and information presented connected to what you already knew?
b) What new ideas did you get that extended or broadened your thinking in new directions?
c) What challenges or puzzles have come up in your mind from the ideas and information presented?
d) Can you provide at least two quotes and/or statistical information from your source that you think might prove helpful and/or relevant to your project?
The goal is to have you make use of these annotated bibliography entries as you move along in your project. You should be able to go back to these entries and easily find useful information that you consulted as part of your research.
Assessing your annotated bibliography entries:
We read and review every one of your annotated bibliography entries. We use a rubric to assess each. A copy of the rubric may be found in Appendix D1.
This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.
Contributors: Geoff Stacks, Erin Karper, Dana Bisignani, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 12:16:22
A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).
An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation. Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following.
- Summarize: Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say? The length of your annotations will determine how detailed your summary is.
For more help, see our handout on paraphrasing sources.
- Assess: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
For more help, see our handouts on evaluating resources.
- Reflect: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?
Your annotated bibliography may include some of these, all of these, or even others. If you're doing this for a class, you should get specific guidelines from your instructor.
Why should I write an annotated bibliography?
To learn about your topic: Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information. At the professional level, annotated bibliographies allow you to see what has been done in the literature and where your own research or scholarship can fit. To help you formulate a thesis: Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So, a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.
To help other researchers: Extensive and scholarly annotated bibliographies are sometimes published. They provide a comprehensive overview of everything important that has been and is being said about that topic. You may not ever get your annotated bibliography published, but as a researcher, you might want to look for one that has been published about your topic.
The format of an annotated bibliography can vary, so if you're doing one for a class, it's important to ask for specific guidelines.
The bibliographic information: Generally, though, the bibliographic information of the source (the title, author, publisher, date, etc.) is written in either MLA or APA format. For more help with formatting, see our MLA handout. For APA, go here: APA handout.
The annotations: The annotations for each source are written in paragraph form. The lengths of the annotations can vary significantly from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages. The length will depend on the purpose. If you're just writing summaries of your sources, the annotations may not be very long. However, if you are writing an extensive analysis of each source, you'll need more space.
You can focus your annotations for your own needs. A few sentences of general summary followed by several sentences of how you can fit the work into your larger paper or project can serve you well when you go to draft.