Religious Studies 390
Approaches to the Study of Religion
Guidelines for Abstracts and Annotated Bibliographies
An abstract is a single paragraph, usually no more than 250 words, that succinctly summarizes
the thesis and argument of a paper. Technically an abstract presupposes that the paper is already
written, but in practice they are often written beforehand, in which case it could also be called
a prospectus or proposal. For our purposes, let's just call them abstracts but write them in the
mode of a proposal. Thus they may begin, "This paper will ...." Here is an example of an abstract
written in this mode:
"Ritualization of History in Early Chinese Imperial Ritual"
Referring back to the venerated models of pre-imperial bronze texts, I will analyze the religious
and performative nature of the First Emperor's stele inscriptions. These texts are the primary
textual monuments to create the new empire's cultural memory; amalgamating traditional forms
of cosmic and ancestral sacrifices and placed on sacred mountains across the recently conquered
territories, they transform the former subjects of Eastern Zhou history into objects of the
new, unified Qin history. Ritualizing the past through a performative act of reciting and inscribing
the achievements of the conquest, they synchronically, in a self-referential gesture, historicize
this performance in order to project a prospective memory of their own creation.
The abstract should be followed, on the same page, with an annotated bibliography containing
at least five sources (books or articles), no more than two of which can be websites. A bibliography
is always alphabetized by authors'/editors' last names, in a single list (not separated by type,
In an annotated bibliography, each entry is followed by a short description of the source and
its expected value. For our purposes, since I don't expect you to read each source in its entirety,
it will be enough to identify the author (including his or her disciplinary perspective)
and summarize his/her basic claim, thesis, or conclusion. A short paragraph should suffice. There
is an excellent guide to constructing an annotated bibliography at the Cornell
University Library website (this link is included on our Library
For the format of the bibliography entries themselves, use the following guide. It is taken from
my "Paper Format Guide," which is available through the online course syllabus. It basically follows
the Chicago Manual of Style, which is available at both the Infodesk and the Multimedia
Reference desk (in the new area on the second floor) in the Kenyon library.
Lastname, Firstname. Book Title. Place: Publisher, date.
Article in book (or encyclopedia):
Lastname, Firstname. "Article Title," in Editor (first name first), ed., Book title. Place:
Publisher, date. Pp. - . [Page numbers not necessary for encyclopedia article.]
Article in journal:
Lastname, Firstname. "Article Title," in Journal title, vol., no. (year), pp. - .
Lastname, Firstname. "Page title," <web address (URL)>, date of document (if known) or