Paper Proposal and Annotated Bibliography

Paper Proposal and Annotated Bibliography INSTRUCTIONS

As students transition from the first unit into independent research projects, usually around midterm, they submit a proposal and an annotated bibliography for instructor feedback before continuing on in drafting their major research paper for the course.


This assignment helps you to transition from the class unit to your own research. It asks you to present your essay preparation and research in advance of the first draft of your major research paper. Because our way of writing is based on inquiry in research and reading, and your arguments derive from your synthesis of the evidence you have found through your readings and research, this assignment prompts you to do that inquiry as you develop your plans for your paper. It allows me to check in about your topic and inquiry before you draft the research-based essay.


The purpose of this assignment is to help you practice the following skills that are essential to your success on the major research paper as well as in your academic career:

  • Research, including research for different purposes (background information, critical framing, people’s opinions, specific facts, etc.)
  • Synthesis of divergent views (when two sources argue differently about your topic)
  • Synthesis of different fields (e.g., critical race theory as a way of looking at commercials with Serena Williams)
  • Writing process, in this case starting from sources instead of necessarily starting from an already strongly held opinion


This assignment will also help you to become familiar with the following important content knowledge in this discipline:

  • The conventions for annotated bibliographies
  • The identification, summary, and evaluation of different kinds of sources
  • Your ability to speak knowledgeably about, and write an argument based on, your chosen topic area

Tasks (Two Parts)

Paper Proposal

Your proposal, or what is basically an abstract, will be no more than 350 words. It is written based on your research and reading, so it attempts to concisely convey a lot of work you’ve already done. No words should be superfluous in this; it should be difficult to say it all briefly, if you have researched and read widely and critically.

It must do three things:

  1. Identify a central research question and that question’s stakes (why it’s so important, to whom);
  2. briefly describe the kinds of sources that your argument will engage, using the types of sources in the class unit as models for the type of sources you should be using;
  3. and describe concisely how your planned argument will advance and contribute to the discourse surrounding your topic.

Ideally, you will be tying together multiple threads through your writing in essay cycle 2 (see point 2 above, about types of sources). For instance, your paper might engage with questions of the value of sports for lower socioeconomic status children and the importance of dance education for a paper that seeks to argue for greater access to dance for children who can’t afford studio fees; or, more specifically about sources, you might mention your use of recent articles about the dissolution of the player’s coalition in conversation with critical or historical articles that explain the history of African American activism to show the historical and critical basis for this current issue alongside, maybe, your proposal for “solving” it. When you talk about those sources, you may point to the specific ones you’ve found and put in your annotated bibliography, but do not need to spend time going into much depth about each source, since the annotated bibliography does that. You may continue to use sources from the introductory unit, but it is not required; they will continue to serve as examples of the type of text to look for and the types of questions and conversations you will locate and with which you will engage.


The abstract will be formatted on its own page, separate from the annotated bibliography, should be double-spaced and formatted according to MLA Style guidelines (i.e., Times New Roman 12 pt. font, 1-inch margins, proper citations for any quotes you may use to engage critics).

Annotated Bibliography

You are required to annotate five sources relevant to your research topic. These sources need not be entirely scholarly, peer-reviewed articles, though you will want to include some such sources (at least one) as an indication that your research can function as part of a scholarly discourse. In general, even when a source is not scholarly, it should have a similar depth of approach–whatever its field–to the texts we read together as a class. You are invited to be creative about what kinds of sources you use. For example, blog posts, videos, tweets, news articles, documentaries, and films are as valid for the kind of cultural studies exploration we are doing as are the above mentioned scholarly works, as long as you can justify the critical import of the source. Your bibliography must, like the abstract, follow MLA guidelines for style and formatting.

Annotations are generally 150-200 words. For sources that are particularly important to your argument, you may need to say more, but no entry should exceed 300 words.

An effective annotated bibliography entry consists of five parts:

  1. Bibliographic line: a citation in MLA format (for our class).
  2. Structure line: an overview of what the source looks like, where and when it appeared, whether it’s long. Think of the source as a tool: what kind of tool is it and what does it contain? Tell us how to recognize it, noting things like if it is primarily opinion, if it has a lot of sub-sections, if it has charts. Possibly tell us a thing or two about where it was published or the author, if those details help your reader.
  3. Descriptive line: an overview of the content of the source, including the genre, its main idea, its purpose–a general summary of its topic and idea.
  4. Content line: a more detailed summary of what it says and how. Identify the main line(s) of reasoning, the kinds of evidence it uses, anything especially controversial or noteworthy in its argument (especially what you’ll engage with in your paper).
  5. Assessment line: particular areas of the source that are useful for your research, or how it interacts with your bigger question, or how it interacts with other sources, or who might find it useful. For this assignment, make this specific to how you’ll use the source in your planned paper.


Lines 2-5 are a paragraph following the citation. The citation is formatted in “hanging” paragraph format, with the first line flush with the margin and the following lines (if any) indented; the paragraph is formatted in standard paragraph format, with the first line indented and the subsequent lines flush with the margin. Entries are in alphabetical order.

Criteria for Success

To earn full points for this assignment, the evidence of thorough, inquisitive research must be obvious to me, your reader. The proposed paper must fit our final paper criteria (8-10 pages, attempting to engage with your synthesis of multiple sources, ideally multiple kinds of sources, answering a question that is at issue to our audience or a particular audience you’ve identified and justified, important to us/that audience in some way). The abstract and the annotated bibliography should obviously support the same project. You may acknowledge parts of your proposed paper that are not finalized, noting, for instance, that the way an opposing view can be countered sufficiently needs more work; however, the overall sense of the proposal should be that you have thought through your plans and are prepared to begin writing. Though we won’t do it this way, in theory you could sit down in-class on the due date and draft a paper or thorough outline based on all this work.

Following the instructions will satisfy half of the requirements of each part of the assignment as I grade; the depth and thoroughness of your thinking and the clear path toward your next essay make up the rest of the score.

Format and Submission

This is a formal writing assignment. It will be formatted as all formal work is in our course, with a heading, headers on subsequent pages, 1” margins on all sides, evidence of thorough editing, and so on. Both parts of the assignment will be in one document, paper proposal abstract first, with the annotations beginning at the top of a new page. You will submit the assignment by the deadline on Canvas as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf file.


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