Your major class research project for this semester is an annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography is a comprehensive bibliography of the range of research on a subject, with brief descriptive annotations (i.e., summaries) of select readings. A researcher who consults an annotated bibliography should be able to define the central research interests and variety of interpretations and theoretical perspectives within a relatively well-defined body of scholarship. A strong bibliography will identify the predominant interpretations on a particular research subject, outline critiques of the dominant perspective, suggest directions for current research, and provide bibliographic citation for subsequent researchers. An annotated bibliography is not really a unique interpretive work, in the sense that it does not need to say something no other scholar has said; instead, it should familiarize researchers with the full range of scholarship on a well-defined topic.  From your perspective think of it as an opportunity to read and summarize the scholarly literature on a subject that is interesting to you.

The topic that you focus on can be anything within applied anthropology that has produced a relatively large body of literature.  In general, you want a broad topic, rather than a highly specific topic; for instance, the anthropology of contemporary health care is a rich body of research, but the anthropology of health care in Indianapolis is unlikely to produce sufficient research. But at the same time, you also do not want to choose too broadly: e.g., the anthropology of health care, for example, would fill several volumes.

You will be expected to use campus resources as much as possible, but do not expect everything to be on campus. Do not entertain the possibility that the paper can be written by spending a few evenings on Google, even though Google Scholar is an outstanding online resource; your work with electronic resources will need to troll beyond the simple search engines.  The region has strong academic libraries that you should use either in person or via inter-library loan.

You must turn in a proposal for your annotated bibliography subject by September 28 that includes at least 10 references on your subject, five of which must be annotated, and includes roughly one paragraph detailing the subject.  I absolutely will NOT accept any annotated bibliography at semester's end that is on a subject that has not been previously approved.  The completed bibliography is due to me on or before December 1Email me if you have any questions.

What makes a good annotated bibliography?

Non-negotiable realities

I will grade this paper strictly for its length, content, adherence to style guidelines, diversity of resources, and spelling and grammar. The style guidelines outline how to prepare the final text. The annotation guidelines provide directions for how to gather a sufficient quantity of resources and prepare the annotations. Please review these guidelines closely and adhere to them during the production of your bibliography.  I am happy to read partial drafts and answer any questions you have during the preparation of the bibliography.


Include a brief summary of your topic at the outset of the paper. This should be at least three pages that briefly introduces the research subject, notes major interpretive foci within that work, outlines the state of research in the subject today, and focuses on how this research is part of contemporary applied anthropology.  You will be expected to make a clear statement in this opening topic summary of precisely how your subject can be appropriately considered an applied anthropological topic:  bibliography introductions that do not place your paper within applied anthropology will be significantly penalized, but at the same time I have a reasonably broadly defined sense of what constitutes applied scholarship, so talk to me if you're having some problems clearly conceptualizing how your interests can be construed as applied.  The summary should be followed by bibliographic entries for every resource identified during your research. As you will note in the next section, some bibliographic references may have little or no annotation, while others will be annotated, but every pertinent resource should be included. You do not need to include a concluding section to the paper after the annotations.


Annotations are capsule summaries that usually are about a paragraph or two paragraphs in length. You should annotate a wide range of sources, particularly scholarly books and refereed journals, but also dissertations, unpublished literature (e.g., contract archaeology reports), conference papers, popular texts, and websites, among other sources. Annotations do not need to be either critical or laudatory in tone; instead, they should aim to provide a clear and clinical description that would provide a subsequent researcher enough information to determine if that source is relevant to their own work. Good annotations minimally must include:

1. a full bibliographic citation using the American Anthropologist referencing system and style guidelines that follow: It must be possible for me to locate the source using your reference. You do not need to supply library data information, such as a Library of Congress catalog number or the specific collection in which you found this item. Any web site references must have a complete URL address and be accessible at the time your paper is completed. References to listservs (i.e., email bulletin boards that post messages on a particular topic to subscribing members) should provide the URL to the group archives and specify date(s) of communication(s) that you cite.

2. purpose of the study: For each annotated resource, what was the research question? Why was this question being examined?  Most scholarly researchers will pose their subject as a hypothesis or outline it in an abstract, but a few will force you to wade through the text to piece it together yourself. Non-academic writers often do not have a research question per se; instead, they have some subject focus that you should note with as much specificity as possible.

3. methodology: How was the research conducted? Exactly what was the data used to examine the question identified above?  If your subject was, say, body art and the author was angling his or her text to a popular audience, the writerís "methodology" might be visits to tattoo shops, discussions with folks with body adornment, illustrations of stylistic examples, description based on an unspecified number of visits to parlors and consumers, and so on. Some popular texts, websites, and so on simply will not have a methodology beyond their own reflective musings, but academic literature always will.

4. results: What did they find out? What in this interpretation, if anything, changed previous thinking on the topic? If the researchers stated hypotheses, were these borne out? Do the researchers specify directions for future research on the subject?  How useful was this reference?

When appropriate, you should note when articles are highly specialized or jargon-laden, identify authors who position their paper and research in relation to other researchers, note the general writing style of the piece, and comment on particularly unpersuasive or cogent interpretations.  However, think of them more as summaries than as opinionated reviews.  Good annotations can be anywhere from a paragraph to a page or so in length.

You may find citations for some resources that sound interesting, only to be unable to actually locate them during the semester. You should still provide citations for these resources, just donít annotate them: you do get some credit for finding the citation, even if the actual text eluded you, but if I can find the source using your citation this will reflect unfavorably on your research perseverance. You will be expected to have AT LEAST 25 annotated resources, in addition to unannotated bibliographic references. Good papers will have a considerable volume of citations including some sources that are unannotated, others that are noted in one or two sentences--if a source is not particularly relevant or truly worthless, this can be said in a sentence or two to dismiss the study and indicate why it is not relevant (e.g., outdated, an un-refereed website with suspicious facts)--, and a few citations that are on related topics.  Note references that you were unable to locate but have included because they sound relevant.  The more references your paper has, the better--this is a project in which overkill is encouraged, so include a reference for everything that is relevant to the topic. 

You can include no more than five internet resources.  An "internet resource" means a web page, NOT a journal article accessed through a web archive (e.g., JSTOR).  Length of the completed paper should be at the very barest minimum 15 pages; many papers will easily cover 25 pages.

You MUST submit an electronic version of your final paper to me.  You can send it via email.

There are several solid introductions to annotated bibliographies online that you can review.  Please keep in mind that some of these guides may use a different style guide than you are required to use, and some examples may be very brief or extremely long annotations, so adhere to the specific length and style guidelines provided on this page.

Style guidelines

Style guides are inflexible rules for how to prepare a text and reference resources in a systematic format. There are many different style guides across disciplines, but the anthropological norm for bibliographic referencing is the American Anthropologist guide. You must use their style guide to prepare your bibliographic references. Youíll be forced to adhere to such stylistic guides as long as youíre doing anthropological writing in any setting, and editors can be utter despots, so its a good idea to get a basic comfort level working with style guides if you havenít already. You should use the guidelines below to prepare the paper itself.

I will grade scrupulously for your adherence to the style guidelines. You are bound to find some odd resource that doesnít fit any of the examples in the style guide, so please let me know if any details are unclear or you have resources that do not readily fit the rules.

1. The paper must be double spaced throughout the text, including citations and annotations.

2. 1" margin on all sides--top, bottom, left, and right.  Yes, I will measure the margins.

3. Justify the document left (i.e., a jagged right edge like this web page); do not justify full, because the words often get spaced out in odd ways within sentences.

4. 12 pitch font only; no extra big fonts, too-small-to-read fonts, or exceptionally aesthetic fonts that look pretty cool but are a drag to read.

5. Staple completed papers in upper left hand corner. While they are picturesque, vinyl report sleeves do not stay attached; clip binders are somewhat more reliable, but they still tend to get pulled off when placed in a large pile of completed papers. Absolutely no loose papers or origami-type corner folds will be accepted.

6. Number pages throughout at bottom center of page.

7. Print on only one side of the paper.

8. For internet resources, bibliography must include a complete and accessible URL address. I should be able to look up and locate any site to which you refer.  

9. Spell check the document AND proof-read scrupulously for grammar errors:  I will grade closely for spelling and grammar errors, so please have me, another student, or an obsessive editor proofread before you turn in the final product.

10.  If I need to remind you or warn those who have yet to be ambushed by a computer glitch, PLEASE be sure to backup all your computer work: Remember that somehow computers know when your paper is due tomorrow, and armed with this information your motherboard decides this would be a good time to crash and delete your bibliography and two years of Sims backups.  You should always have a backup copy beyond simply saving it on your hard drive or a jump drive.  I will be sympathetic if your disc crashes the day before the paper is due or if you are unable to get a printer in the computer lab that can read your disc, but I cannot grade the papers if they are not turned in by the deadline.  Please backup your work and plan ahead so that you can deal with technological challenges and whatever else life may throw in your path at semester's end.

11. It sounds funny, but put your name on the paper.  You would be surprised at the number of papers that get turned in without identification.

The Bottom Line

The completed paper and electronic version of the bibliography are due to me on or before December 1. Because it takes a while to grade and return these papers, I cannot accept bibliographies late.  Please do not procrastinate, and do let me know if you have any questions about the paperís preparation.

Page last updated November 3, 2015