Religious Studies 390
Approaches to the Study of Religion

Guidelines for Abstracts and Annotated Bibliographies

I. Abstract

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"
Martin Kern

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.

II. Bibliography

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, as below).

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 Resources page).

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 date accessed.