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. 

You will be writing a “reflective annotated bibliography.” That means, for each of your four sources, you will write entries that are a little bit longer than a person would in a usual annotated bibliography. That’s why this is the whole assignment instead of just one step in a research paper. Doing it this way will help you learn more about your topic and sources and more about doing research in general.

In each entry, you’ll write about, 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. I know this sounds a bit confusing right now, but don’t worry.  I’ll explain it as we go! 

What you need to do now: 

We need to start by finding a question or topic that really makes you curious– something you want to learn more about.  We’ve done some work looking for these questions in the Guardian article “Schools are Killing Curiosity” and in Baldwin’s “A Talk to Teachers.” We will work together to narrow this down into a question you can research.

This is not a traditional research essay.  It does not begin with a thesis. 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. 

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).  

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

  • An introduction in which you introduce your question, why this question intrigues you and what you expect to find in your research.  (At least 300 words) 
  • FOUR sources (at least 400 words each), each with a corresponding bibliography entry which includes 
    • a summary of the source’s content
    • a reflection on that source which includes your opinion of what you’ve read 
    • a brief rhetorical analysis (an evaluation of the author’s credentials, writing style, and purpose, and why you think the author is credible or not)
    • a short analysis of why you believe the author chose that genre and why it was a good or bad choice for the intended audience
    • You will also probably want to include a couple of key quotes here that you might want to use later– these don’t count toward your word count!
    • Each of these four sources will need to be a different genre.  That is, you can’t have four magazine articles or four YouTube videos. At least one of these sources needs to be a written non-fiction document (like an article or report) and at least one of these needs to be a non-print source, like a video, song or interview.  
  • A conclusion, in which you summarize what you found, and explain what surprised you and how your thinking on your question deepened or changed.  You will also explain why you think what you learned is important, and who you think should hear about it (At least 400 words) 
  • Just FYI: this whole thing adds up to at least 2300 words. Usually people write more. 


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 2200 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 four sources must each be a different genre!  You need at least one formal article, and one non-print source.  
  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.
  5. Citation: If you quote something in your Intro or Conclusion that’s from one or more of your sources, be sure to cite it.



A lot of people have never written an annotated bibliography before, especially a reflective annotated bibliography! This is here to help guide you if you get lost. Please think of it as a road map, not a cage– that is, don’t feel like you’re going to get in trouble if you don’t get the exact number of words in paragraph two of your source entry, for example.  This is here to help you know where to start and how to proceed if you feel lost!  

Intro (at least 300 words)

  • Introduce your question
  • Explain how you got interested in your question/ Why you are interested 
  • Explain what you expect to find in your research (a hypothesis)
  • Explain what you will do if you find something that doesn’t fit your hypothesis
  • Write this in paragraph format (1-3 paragraphs)

Source Entries (at least 400 words each). You need four! 

  • You will have 4 sources
  • You will have an entry for each source
  • Each source will be a different genre
  • At least one of these sources needs to be a written non-fiction document, like an article or report
  • At least one of these needs to be a non-print source, like a video, song or interview
  • 400 words each
  • Each entry will have all four parts.

How do I write an entry?

Part 1:

The first part of your entry will be the “bibliographic entry.” This entry gives the publication information, author, date, title and so forth. There are many websites (like easybib.com) that can help you do this.  Here is one example:  

Fitzgerald, Jill. “Research on Revision in Writing” Review of Educational Research. 57.4 (Winter 1987): 481-506. 

Part 2: 

In the second part of your entry, you will write a summary. This will be useful to you later, because it will give you the rundown of what you’ve read (just in case you forgot.) 

It should convey what the author states in the article and not your opinions. Here is a good time to write what you think the main point is, but also what you think the most important points are (these aren’t always the same.) It’s also a good time to make note of what data, facts and evidence the author uses to support their claims, and how they use this evidence to arrive at their conclusions. This will probably be a paragraph long. 

Part 3:

In the third part of your entry, you will write a reflection. This part is perhaps the most important part, so don’t skimp here!  This is where you respond to the text you’ve read.  Do you agree or disagree?  WHY? BE SPECIFIC! And quote the text! What questions do you have? What don’t you understand? What other information do you need to look up to better understand this article? If you could say something to this author, what would you say? What does this document tell you about your research question? 

Also consider rhetorical factors here like the genre and the author’s credentials. How do you feel the author’s writing style, awareness of audience and purpose (reason for writing), and choice of genre affect the meaning and credibility of the document? 

Part three will probably be 1-2 paragraphs. 

Part 4:

Quotables. This last part doesn’t count toward your word count, but it will help you in Unit 3.  Here, you will make note of at least one direct quote from the author made that you feel really exemplifies the document’s claims or interpretations. Or, you might want to choose a sentence that you really agree with (or really DIS-agree with) that you want to refer back to later. You don’t need to repeat something you’ve quoted earlier– this is just a place to take note of quotations you feel you may want to use later. 

Put it in quotes– and don’t forget the page number (if applicable). 

Conclusion ( at least 400 words):

  • You will summarize what you found in your research
  • You will tell readers what surprised you, or how your understanding of your question deepened or changed. (Spoiler: if the answer is “not at all”, you did not do enough research.) 
  • You will explain why what you learned is important
  • You will explain who you think needs to know about it and why (Another spoiler: be specific!  The answer can not be “everyone.”  That is too big of an audience.  Narrow it down to who needs to hear about it first!) 

To clarify, your finished product will have:

  • Intro 
  • Source Entry 1 (a non-fiction document)
  • Source Entry 2 (a non-print source)
  • Source Entry 3 (you choose genre)
  • Source Entry 4 (you choose genre)
  • Conclusion