In order to explain Unit 2, I have to talk about Units 2 + 3 together first, because you’ll use the research you do now in Unit 2 for your project in Unit 3, so you’re going to have to use some foresight in the research decisions you make! 

In Unit 3 (the NEXT unit) you’ll be making a new document in a new genre, one you haven’t written in before, about the question you’ve decided to research in Unit 2. For example, in Unit 3, you might write a science article for the readers of Scientific American, or a political article for the readers of Teen Vogue (It’s actually very political these days!) You might create a how-to manual, a manifesto, a short story, a speech or a comic book. Whatever you write in Unit 3 will be based on the research you do in Unit 2. You don’t need to know exactly what you’re going to be doing in Unit 3 yet.

In Unit 2, (THIS unit) you will be writing something called an “annotated bibliography.” This is something people write when researching: a list of sources (articles, interviews, etc…) about a specific topic; generally, for each source, there is a summary of that source as well as other important notes.  Annotated bibliographies are very helpful tools for research because they help us keep track of multiple sources and ideas so we can use them later in larger projects. They also help us get a broad understanding of the topic or question we are researching. People use them in all kinds of academic research– but people also use documents like this in almost every field to make sense of their research for their future selves, their professors, their bosses and the committees and groups they work with. 

We’ll be taking this one step further — you’ll be writing a “reflective annotated bibliography.” That means, for each of your three sources, you will write entries that are a little bit longer than a person would in a usual annotated bibliography. What’s extra? A look at how not just what the writer said, but how they said it, why they said it and who you think they want to read their writing… and whether you think they succeeded or not. Doing this extra step will help you learn more about your topic and sources, and more about doing research in general.

I know this sounds a bit confusing right now, but don’t worry.  I’ll explain it as we go! 

What you’ll do: 

We start by finding a topic that really makes you curious– something you want to learn more about.  We will work together to narrow your own idea down into a question you can research, and we’ll start by looking for those questions in The Guardian article “Schools are Killing Curiosity” and in Baldwin’s “A Talk to Teachers.”

This is not a traditional research essay!  It does not begin with a thesis. It is not set up to “prove” anything. Real research, as we’ll discuss, is all about asking questions that you don’t already have the answers to. Doing research to support a position you already have is a persuasive essay, but not the kind of research we do in real life (most of the time). So you’ll start with questions and then follow whatever interesting side roads you discover, informing the class about what you found. 

You’ll be using what you learn from your research to create something different and interesting in Unit 3. Academic research reports can be boring, uninteresting, and simply suck the life out of an issue or topic (unless you’re doing them in a specific field, like reporting on a biology research project). But just talking to people — getting information out to a specific audience in the form of a photo essay or video essay or podcast or training session — requires that you have good information to present. So Unit 2 = gathering information (learning to use the tools of a researcher). Unit 3 = putting that information to work in a specific situation.

An overview of the process and finished product

We will spend the next few weeks researching and writing. An annotated bibliography is something you write as you research (though of course you will spruce it up for final submission).  

Specifically, your reflective annotated bibliography will have (don’t worry, we’ll go over all of these ingredients in detail as we do them): 

  • Introduction (at least 300 words)
    • Introduce your question/topic.
    • Explain why it interests you.
    • Tell us what you wish to find out more about.  Get curious!
  • THREE sources analyses in alphabetical order (at least 400 words each). Each of these three sources will need to be a different genre.  That is, you can’t have three magazine articles or three YouTube videos. 
    • Bibliographic entry.  Use something like or the Purdue OWL (go to Research & Citation –> MLA) to help you get the formatting correct.
    • 1-paragraph Summary of the source’s content.
    • 2-3 Key Quotes.
    • 1-paragraph Rhetorical Analysis: Who is the author; what are their credentials? What kind of publication is this; who is the audience?  What is the genre; what did you expect to see in the text given the genre? What is the style and tone (funny, serious, satirical, combination, etc.)? Did the author support their points well or did they simply toss ideas out without any support? If it’s a visual text, how did the images and/or text and/or audio work together to create the text; what effect do you think it had on the audience? NOTE: This section is not about your own opinions of the ideas in the text; you get to do that in the next section. This section should be as objective and non-judgmental as you can make it.
  • Reflection/Conclusion (at least 400 words):
    • Briefly summarize what you learned from doing this research. What surprised you? How did your thinking on the question/topic deepen or change?
    • What do you think about these ideas (time for your own ideas!)? Do you think the authors supported their ideas well and made their point, or not, and why (Avoid simply agreeing or disagreeing with the author; explain your full reaction. Quote particular sentences to which you are responding.)? What questions do you have? What don’t you understand? What other information do you need to (or did) look up to better understand this source? If you could say something to the author(s), what would you say? Which genres worked best to answer your questions? Why? NOTE: You can talk about each source individually, or all together, or focus more on one — it’s up to you because you’re now giving your own opinion about the sources and what you learned. 
    • Talk about why you think what you learned is important, and who you think should hear about it (this last part is a sneaky way of setting up Unit 3!).  

What you’ll be graded on:

1.   Content: Is it readable and informative? Does it teach us about the topic? Does it teach us about the rhetorical situation surrounding each of your sources? Is it at least 1900 words long?

2.  Research: Did you dig deep– meaning, did you look for sources that don’t just agree with what you thought you would find? Were you open to being surprised and contradicted?  Did you look further than the first three hits on Google? 

3.  Genre: Remember that your three sources must each be a different genre!  

4.  Presentation: Basically, can someone who is not you make sense of this visually? Are there subheads and other things that would help a reader make sense of your document? Standard Written English and academic tone don’t matter so much, just as long as it’s done with care and shows that you’ve proofread it.

6.  Citation: If you quote something in your Intro or Conclusion that’s from one or more of your sources, be sure to cite it.

Now go to the Schedule page for the schedule, due dates, handouts, links, etc. for Unit 2. We even have an example of a Reflective Annotated Bibliography!

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