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Anthropology 2351 - Taylor, Trisha --Spring 2017: Home

Karen farmer, Myanmar

Annotated Bibliography

Guidelines for Annotated Bibliography
Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for your ethnography review. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information. At the professional level, annotated bibliographies allow you to see what has been done in the literature and where your own research project build upon those ideas of develop something new. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources (books, scholarly articles, web sites, blogs, periodicals, etc.) that you are using to gather information about your fieldwork project. Whether you are reading about you site location or a potential theory you plan to discuss, you will include the citation on your annotated bibliography. What is also included is a summary and/or an evaluation of that source.

Consider the following as you annotate your sources:

Summarize: Some annotations merely summarize the source.

  • What are the main arguments?
  • What is the point of this book or article?
  • What topics are covered?
  • If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say?

Assess: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it.

  • Is it a useful source?
  • Is the source credible?
  • Is the information reliable?
  • How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography?
  • Is this source biased or objective?
  • What is the goal of this source?

Reflect: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research.

  • Was this source helpful to you?
  • How does it help you shape your argument?
  • How can you use this source in your research project?
  • Has it changed how you think about your topic?

Research and Writing Assignment

Guidelines for the Ethnography Review
Once you have made your observations and assessments of the work under review, carefully survey your notes and attempt to unify your impressions into a statement that will describe the purpose of your review.

Your arguments should develop the thesis of your review in a logical manner. That logic, unlike more standard academic writing, may initially emphasize the author’s argument while you develop your own in the course of the review. The relative emphasis depends on the nature of the review: if readers may be more interested in the work itself, you may want to make the work and the author more prominent; if you want the review to be about your perspective and opinions, then you may structure the review to privilege your observations over (but never separate from) those of the work under review.

Introduction

In general your introduction should include the following:

  • The name of the author and the book title and the main theme.
  • Relevant details about who the author is and where he/she stands in the genre or field of inquiry. You could also link the title to the subject to show how the title explains the subject matter.
  • The context of the ethnography is within anthropological literature, yet the author will have a particular concentration (e.g. political, medical, environmental, ecological) that you need to address. Describe the theoretical and methodological context of that concentration.
  • The thesis of the book. Identifying the ethnographies particular novelty, angle, or originality allows you to show what specific contribution the piece is trying to make.
  • Your thesis about the ethnography.

Summary of content

  • This should be brief, as analysis takes priority. In the course of making your assessment, you’ll hopefully be backing up your assertions with concrete evidence from the book, so some summary will be dispersed throughout other parts of the review.
  • The necessary amount of summary also depends on your audience. Assume the class and myself are your readers and we have never read the ethnography before.

Analysis and evaluation of the book

  • Your analysis and evaluation should be organized into paragraphs that deal with single aspects of your argument. This arrangement can be challenging when your purpose is to consider the book as a whole, but it can help you differentiate elements of your criticism and pair assertions with evidence more clearly.
  • You do not necessarily need to work chronologically through the book as you discuss it. Given the argument you want to make, you can organize your paragraphs more usefully by themes, methods, or other elements of the book.
  • Include comparisons to other anthropological texts you have read, keep them brief so that the ethnography under review remains in the spotlight. You must make at least 2 – 3 connections to other literature you have read during this course.
  • Avoid excessive quotation and give a specific page reference in parentheses when you do quote. Remember that you can state many of the author’s points in your own words.

Conclusion

  • Sum up or restate your final judgment regarding the ethnography. You should not introduce new evidence for your argument in the conclusion. You can, however, introduce new ideas that go beyond the book if they extend the logic of your own thesis.
  • This paragraph needs to balance the book’s strengths and weaknesses in order to unify your evaluation. It’s not enough to only discuss what the author did well, you must evaluate areas for improvement. What do they all add up to? 

Finally, a few general considerations:

  • Review the book in front of you, not the book you wish the author had written. You can and should point out shortcomings or failures, but don’t criticize the book for not being something it was never intended to be.
  • With any luck, the author of the book worked hard to find the right words to express her ideas. You should attempt to do the same. Precise language allows you to control the tone of your review.
  • Never hesitate to challenge an assumption, approach, or argument. Be sure, however, to cite specific examples to back up your assertions carefully.
  • Look back to your brainstorm and evaluate the bias of the author.
  • Try to present a balanced argument about the value of the book for its audience. You’re entitled—and sometimes obligated—to voice strong agreement or disagreement. But keep in mind that a bad book takes as long to write as a good one, and every author deserves fair treatment. Harsh judgments are difficult to prove and can give readers the sense that you were unfair in your assessment.

                                                    

Resource used in creating this assignment:

The Writing Center. (2010-2014). The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/book-reviews/

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