Not Your Grandma’s Annotated Bibliography

The annotated bibliography is a stalwart assignment for students undertaking research projects. 1 I frequently encounter the annotated bibliography with the classes I support.

In upper level classes, students know the drill: collect 5-10 ‘scholarly sources’ and write a few sentences about why each source might be useful for their research papers.  Ready, set, go!

Sometimes, this assignment can feel mechanical; as long as the sources meet basic requirements (NOT a Wikipedia entry) and supports a question (I think this article will tell me about what a non-state is) generally, it’s fine. But what if we could transform the classic assignment, aka, your grandma’s annotated bibliography? In this post, I will propose modifying the traditional annotated bibliography into an enhanced ‘learning intervention’ 2 that will push students to give greater consideration to who they are citing, what types of journals are they using and begin to assess the quality of the the scholarship they are citing? An enhanced annotated bibliography is a moment of creating an environment in research education for learning for understanding. 3 

Clearly, this would not be your grandma’s annotated bibliography.

Front Row Center: ACTUALLY my great-grandma

Front Row Center: ACTUALLY my great-grandma

The Enhanced Annotated Bibliography

  1. Collect 5-10 sources that inform your topic using the library catalog (monographs/books) *and/or* the databases discussed in a research session with your librarian to locate journal articles.
  2. Cite each of the sources in the style of your faculty’s choice. 4
  3. Compile a basic dossier about the author(s) (basic author bio, institutional affiliation). If you located a book, locate and cite reviews of the book. What did the reviews say about the book? Provide information about the press that published the item.

If you located a journal article, track if and how the article has been cited. Locate information about the journal in terms of disciplines represented, what is the editorial process like?

For example:

Halberstam, Judith. The Queer Art of Failure. Durham: Duke University Press. 2011.

Judith Halberstam (Jack Halberstam) is a Professor at the University of Southern California of American Studies and Ethnicity and is the author of five books published primarily by university presses in the United States and various journal and magazine articles.

The Queer Art of Failure is a well-reviewed book in American Studies journals, Queer Studies Journals, and Gender Studies journals published by Duke University Press, a leader in the humanities and the social sciences publishing.

Reviews Consulted

  1. Ayu Saraswati. “The Queer Art of Failure by Judith Halberstam (review).” American Studies52.2 (2013): 179-180. Project MUSE. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <>.

Nishant Shahani. “The Future Is Queer Stuff: Critical Utopianism and Its Discontents.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 19.4 (2013): 545-558. Project MUSE. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <>.

Tara Mulqueen. “Succeeding at Failing and Other Oxymorons: Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure.” Theory & Event 16.4 (2013). Project MUSE. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <>.

Next, conduct an audit of your bibliography. Are there any patterns that emerge? How many of your authors present as white? How many of them practice in the global north? What disciplines are you encountering? What do you think these patterns of trends suggest about the results you are encountering? Can you find additional sources that diversity the pool of authors you will cite?

My hope is that your annotated bibliography will challenge students to think critically about the scholarly record, read the sources they collect more deeply, and ask questions as they revise the research.


  1. “Annotated Bibliographies” UNC Writing Center
  2. Learning Interventions is a term I learned about through a MOOC I am taking through MIT about the history of educational technology
  3. While “routine learning” helps students learn mechanical tasks, learning for understanding aims to foster deeper, conceptual understanding generally through experiential learning.
  4. Chicago, obviously

“Email Newsletters are the New Zines”

Caitlin Dewey shared this post in this afternoon’s edition of Links I would ghat you if we were friends

I am also WILD about newsletters. I read a series of them every morning in my effort to reclaim my attention away from ‘teh social mediaz’ . As Owens notes, it might be counterintuitive that email newsletters are popular given the blogging death knell of late, but here we are:

So why are readers responding so well to these newsletters when they seem to fly in the face of everything we’ve learned over the past decade about what web users want? It could be that, like those within the zine community, newsletter readers enjoy feeling like they’re in some sort of exclusive club. Sending a newsletter seems more like a private, intimate conversation compared to when you write for the open web. “I feel more connected to people in the private space because I’m able to be a little bit more authentic or more honest,” said Quah. “If you say something you believe might be controversial on Twitter, and if you have a big enough following your mentions will become a fucking disaster. It’s one thing to be able to manage that at a very public level, and it’s another thing entirely to manage it in an inbox.” Crampton also liked producing something that wouldn’t be chewed over by social media users. “Only the people who’ve opted in actually receive it,” she said. “It’s not sitting there on the internet for any drive-by random person to have a go at it. That’s the appeal of it.”

The Cats in My Life

This was the first experiment in producing slideshows in WordPress. After quitting Haiku Deck, I needed another venue to to create slides to use in my teaching. I abandoned my efforts to make a batch of master slides in Google in favor of centralizing my teaching content in one place that I control. I will continue sharing slide decks here under the materials category. Feel free to tune in and remix; my content is CC-BY 4.0 International.

Creative Commons License
your libarchivist by your libarchivist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Reclaiming my Attention

At the start of the year, I saw this tweet:

Since adopting a password manager in 2013, I’ve become more aware of all the accounts I’ve accumulated over the years and this tweet motivated me to evaluate whether or not I want to keep them. I installed a Chrome extension that shows you how to delete accounts that expedited the process of removing obvious choices.  Soon after, I appraised my workflows, social networks, and applications. I eliminated more accounts namely Evernote, bitly, and Haiku Deck. Today, I am using fewer apps than I was in January: #winning.

I also read that tweet as a call to reclaim my attention. The fabulous podcast Note to Self recently discussed information overload and it really resonated with me. I often feel anxious that I am missing an essential conversation on Twitter or did not catch the must-read news article about the presidential election. I used to pride myself in my multitasking abilities, but now realize multitasking has led me to feel burned out and overloaded.

So, I decided to reclaim my attention.

I took the #infomagical challenge and deleted a number of apps from my phone (heyyy Facebook & Twitter) and gave my homescreen the Marie Kondo treatment. Looking at my phone feels less overwhelming.

It's my #infomagical phone

I also limited the number of icons that I see on the dock of my computer. I installed a Chrome extension to limit time spent on Facebook and Instagram. Rather than checking Twitter and Facebook for the latest articles in The New York Times or The Atlantic, I subscribed to newsletters that appear in my inbox every morning. The newsletters ensure I will see the articles I need to read. Now, I have a pleasant morning routine of drinking coffee and reading my newsletters. I don’t feel like I am chasing content like a hungry wolf anymore. Per #infomagical, I set information goals for myself; my morning routine and social network boundary help me meet them while maintaining my mental sanity.

Silicon Valley wants your attention; attention is a valuable currency that can translate into favorable stock prices. Social networks want new users to expand growth; they want you to log in, to click links, to view ads. They want you to feel FOMO; inflaming it with email updates and telling you what you’ve missed since you last logged into the sites. ‘Pay attention to me!’

Digital fluency, for me, is not just about mastery of tools; digital fluency is also the ability to set boundaries with those tools to meet your information needs and not Silicon Valley’s.