Guidelines for Annotated Bibliography Project: Sacred Scriptures

Assignment: This assignment is a short research project on one tradition's sacred scriptures. By short I mean more comprehensive than you can find on online encyclopedias but less thorough than a semester-long research project. You will decide on a topic related to an aspect of one tradition's sacred scriptures. Guidelines for these topics are presented below. Your assignment is to find two books and two journal articles that you would use to write a research paper about the topic (Note: for this assignment you will NOT be actually writing a research paper). Your assignment is to prepare an annotated biliography which provides a critical review of the literature related to your topic. Follow the format in How to Write an Annotated Bibliography and refer to Critically Analyzing Information Sources.

After you prepare the annotated bibliography, you will generate 3 questions -- based on your research -- that are important to understanding the topic that you chose. You will then write a one-paragraph thesis for that topic.

The Sacred Scriptures: The written sacred scriptures in each tradition are:

Hinduism: The Vedas

Buddhism: The Three Baskets, the Mahayana sutras

Judaism: The Hebrew Bible (Torah, Nevi'im, Ketubim)

Christianity: The Christian Bible (Old and New Testaments)

Islam: The Qur'an

Examples of Types of Topics:

What Constitutes a Good Short Research Paper?

Although a research paper depends upon accurate explanations of information you read in books, a short research paper is neither a book report nor an encyclopedia entry. A research paper does not simply reproduce information you read somewhere else. Rather, it fits information into a coherent coherent thematic framework. For example, let's say you decide to research the development of the Christian New Testament. You learn how the various gospels were written and transmitted and eventually became the New Testament books used today. Your research paper would not just reproduce this information like an entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Instead, ask yourself, is there a framework into which these facts fit? This framework will become your theme and the 3 or 4 points you will use to explain the theme. You do not have to invent your own theme; you may find one of the themes presented in your research persuasive. However, you also incorporate other information and test the theme against competing viewpoints and information. The result is your own work, explaining but not exactly reproducing the works you read. In the example above, you may decide to use as your theme the theory that different gospels represented different (and sometimes competing) Christian communities. However, there are arguments both for and against this theory and your essay would take at least one other viewpoint into account. Why is this the best framework? What makes it persuasive? This theme should be presented in your first paragraph so that the reader knows your particular framework and the path you are going to follow to explain it. The academic term for a theme which answers important questions is a thesis.

A research paper, even a short one, takes some time to formulate. First you have to assemble facts, then you have to think hard about what those facts mean. You must be careful to cite the sources of your information throughout (not just direct quotes). The reader should be able to check your information easily from your citations. The general rule is that any information that is not widely known must be cited. For example, it is generally known that the four gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However, it is not generally known that some scholars believe that Matthew and Luke relied upon Mark as a source for their own gospels. The reader should be able to find out who postulated that theory. If you take notes as you read, citation is much easier.


Your completed assignment should contain: 1) a paragraph explaining three critical questions germane to your topic; 2) a paragraph generating a thesis based upon these research questions, and 3) the annotated bibliography. Click here for sample format.

Dates to remember

October 18 : Draft of paper topics due: short paragraph explaining which tradition and topic you will research (5 points)

October 21-25 : Meetings with professor to firm up topic, discuss sources (5 points)

Nov. 8 : List of sources due (not annotated, but in correct bibliography format) (5 points)

Nov. 15 : Short paragraph due explaining paper topic, thesis, and one sample annotation (5 points)

Nov. 20 : Annotated bibliography assignment due. LATE PAPERS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.