Overview: 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 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 about a historical outcome, 2) you
have found credible sources that are relevant, and 3) you understand how the sources will help
you answer your question.
Format and Content: Your annotated bibliography should be at least 2 pages, double-spaced
(typed, with 12-point font and normal margins). At the top of the document, state your research
question. Then list at least 5 credible sources that help answer your research question. The
sources should be listed in alphabetical order and formatted as reference list entries, written in
Below each source, you should write a short paragraph about the source. This is the key
information to include:
a) 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.
b) 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.)
c) 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.)
For additional guidance about formatting and content, you can look at the example
annotated bibliography I have posted in the “Research Paper Resources” section of the course
website. You are also welcome to ask the Professor and TAs.
Selecting a Historical Outcome: You should start by choosing a major historical outcome that
you want to try to understand in more depth than what you already know. As you proceed in
your research, you will clarify the specific outcome you are trying to explain (such as when
exactly it happened, where it happened, etc.) Here I will provide some examples of the types of
outcomes you can choose from and how to start learning about them:
– Events – actions by people that occurred at a particular time (and usually also a particular
place). This includes wars, protests, the passage of major laws, economic depressions, etc.
Sometimes, events (like wars) can also be broken up into smaller/ events (e.g., battles). For
these kinds of outcomes encyclopedia entries are a good starting place.
– Trends/long-term changes – some outcomes are less something that “happens” at a moment
in time, or even a period of time, than a long-term change in some aspect of society –
demographic changes like increasing racial diversity, declining rates of marriage, etc.;
economic changes like industrialization or globalization of financial markets; political
changes like partisan polarization, etc. With these types of outcomes, you want to look for
reports or studies that have statistical data that shows the change over time. (Even better are
sources that visually display the change-over-time in the form of charts).
– Cultural institutions, practices, or ideologies: examples are the seven-day week, the prison,
the model minority myth, etc. These are trickier to study, simply because they are less linked
to a particular time and place than are events or trends. One has to locate the institution,
practice, or ideology in a particular time and place; identify its key features; and then work
backwards to trace its origins. For these kinds of topics scholarly books are probably going
to be necessary to get a grasp on the key features of the thing you’re interested in.
For whatever historical outcome you choose, you ultimately 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, etc.) and look for sources that address these questions. Figure out the specific time
(or time range) that the outcome occurred, where it happened, and other basic facts about the
You can choose a historical outcome that relates to some issue we’ll discuss in this
course (e.g., the rise of undocumented immigration in the U.S. in the late-20th -century).
However, if you do so, you will need to go beyond the lectures and assigned readings to gain a
deeper understanding of the historical outcome.
Developing a Research Question: Once you’ve chosen a historical outcome, found some
credible sources, and collected basic facts about it, you will develop your own research question.
The research question is what you will try to answer by finding and synthesizing information
from your sources. See the “Mapping your Research Ideas” handout for advice about how to
come up with different questions from which to choose.
The research question for this paper should be a why question – a question about the
explanation/causes of the historical outcome. In other words, it must go beyond describing the
outcome (i.e., what happened) to presenting (and assessing) explanation(s) for why the outcome
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 10 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 explain your historical outcome, not just describe it.
You can use a variety of different kinds of sources for your literature review. See the
readings for October 12 for information about different types of sources. 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.
I highly recommend saving your sources as .pdfs and collecting them in a folder on your
electronic device. This will make it much easier to look through sources than just bookmarking
them in your browser. I also highly recommend recording the citations for sources as you find
them You can use a citation generator like Zotero. However, be sure to check that all of the
necessary information is included; citation generators don’t always work.
Recommended Databases and Search Engines:
● Google – https://google.com – 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 – https://scholar.google.com/ – Allows you to search for a wide variety of
academic books, articles, and research reports.
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
Overview: For this assignment you will write an annotated bibliography, which will help you