Annotated bibliography research paper


For this assignment you will write an annotated bibliography, which will help you work towards writing the historical research paper due at the end of the quarter. You will start by choosing a major historical outcome that you want to learn more about – an event, social change, or specific feature of society that can be explained historically. Then you will pose a research question about this historical outcome – a question about why it happened. Next, you will search for appropriate sources about your historical outcome, and figure out how these sources will help you answer your research question. Some of your sources can just provide information about the outcome itself (e.g., what happened and when), but some of the sources should offer evidence, or make arguments, about why the outcome occurred.

Once you have found at least 5 useful, credible sources, you will write an annotated bibliography. (5 sources is just the minimum number. You may need more if your sources are brief and/or do not provide much useful information). The annotated bibliography is meant to demonstrate that 1) you have a clear-cut research question, 2) you have found credible sources that are relevant, and 3) you understand how the sources will help you answer your question.



Format: Your annotated bibliography should be at least 2 pages, double-spaced (typed, with 12point font and normal margins).

At the top of the document, state your research question. Then list at least 5 crediblesources that help answer your research question. The sources should be listed in alphabetical order and formatted as reference list entries, in APA style.

Below each source, you should write a short paragraph about the source. This is the key information to include:

  1. what kind of source it is (e.g., an academic study, a book written by a historian, a newspaper article, etc.)

a.see the readings for Week 3 for help distinguishing between types of sources.

  1. A brief summary of the information it provides about your outcome and/or its explanation (e.g., it describes the sequence, it claims that X caused the outcome, etc.)
  2. how the source will help you address your research question (e.g., it helps me understand the outcome, it reviews different possible explanations for the outcome, etc.)



Selecting a Topic: You can choose from a wide variety of major historical outcomes – events, shifts in how a society is organized, or specific characteristics of a society. The only limitation is that you must be able to find enough credible sources that provide information about your topic. Thus, before settling on a topic, look for sources to make sure you will be able to research it. Think about basic questions (who, what, where, when, why, etc.) and look for sources that address these questions.

Developing a Research Question: Once you’ve chosen a historical outcome, and confirmed that there are credible sources about it, you will develop your own research question. The research question is what you are trying to answer by finding and synthesizing information from your sources. The research question for this paper should by a why question – a question about the explanation/causes of the historical outcome. In other words, it must go beyond describing the outcome to presenting (and assessing) explanation(s) for why the outcome occurred.

Please keep in mind that the point of this assignment is to start with an open-ended question and figure out the answer(s) based on existing research and evidence. Do not start with a thesis you are trying to prove; instead, start with a question, and be open to evidence that might contradict any assumptions you have about what the answer is.

You can change your research question as you go through the process of finding and analyzing sources. In fact, changing your research question is a typical part of the research process. You may need to modify your research question depending upon the information that is available – such as by broadening it or narrowing it. For now, here are some guidelines to help you develop your research question:

  • It should be succinct (usually just one sentence, and no more than two sentences)
  • It should be open-ended (multiple answers are possible)
  • It should be specific enough that you can answer it in 8 double-spaced pages
  • It should be something that can be answered through finding and confirming facts about your topic (not a question of morality, philosophy, or opinion)
  • It should be “sociological,” i.e., not trying to explain the historical outcome primarily in terms of biology, psychology, or other non-social factors.



Sources: For this assignment you must find at least 5 credible, useful sources to include in your annotated bibliography. As mentioned above, 5 is just the minimum number. You will need more than 5 if some of your sources are brief, or if they do not provide much useful information about your topic. (For example, 5 full-length books might be sufficient, but 5 brief news articles will not be). Make sure at least some of the sources you find for the annotated bibliography will help you explainyour historical outcome, not just describe it.

You can use a variety of different kinds of sources for your literature review. Examples of credible sources for this assignment are books written by scholars, studies published in academic journals, reports from research organizations, articles from trustworthy news organizations, etc.  You may use assigned readings and lectures for this class as sources, but they do not count towards the requirement to have at least 5 sources.





Recommended Databases and Search Engines:

  • Google –– You can sometimes find useful sources using a simple Google search. However, you will need to be careful about vetting them for credibility.
  • Google Scholar– Allows you to search for a wide variety of academic books, articles, and research reports.
  • JSTOR – allows you to search for and access a wide variety of academic articles. You can limit your search to sociology-related journals.
  • Nexis Uni – This is a great search engine for finding newspaper articles from many sources. You can also limit your search to specific papers like The New York Times.
  • Pew Research Center– has useful reports on demographic trends, public opinion, and political participation in the U.S.



Citations: Please follow the American Psychology Association (APA) style for the reference list entries and for in-text citations. You can ignore all of the other APA rules. There will be two handouts on APA style (with examples) on the course website. You can also find a useful guide at Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab,




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