Dr. Katherine D. Harris
English 201 (Fall 2007)

Conference Proposal & Annotated Bibliography

Due Date: October 30
Proposal: 150-300 words
Annotated Bibliography Sources: 5-7


The Conference Proposal (aka Abstract)
A conference is a good way to introduce yourself to the profession. But, it all begins by identifying a conference that you’d like to attend and then submitting a proposal. We’ll draft, revise and present a conference proposal in order to prepare for writing the full conference paper. The annotated bibliography will be early evidence of your research. After reviewing all proposals (posted to the wiki), we’ll begin to assemble an actual conference with panels, moderators and presentations to occur on the final exam day.

Finding a Conference
Most conferences begin with themes focused on a particular period, theoretical point of view or literary figure.  Here is your opportunity to find a conference that piques your interest.  More importantly, you'll need to find a panel that's relevant to your research interests.  To do this, look through the archives of the Calls for Papers managed by University of Pennsylvania (http://cfp.english.upenn.edu/).  All CFPs that have been distributed over this listserv for the last ten years are archived with this group.  However, you need to find a conference that has not yet occurred.  Either search the archive using keywords or browse under the headings provided.  The headers contain lots of information:

CFP: [Medieval] *3 sessions* Piers Plowman, Trevisa, Bible and Literature: In Memory of David Fowler (Kalamazoo 08) Jen Gonyer-Donohue (Tue Sep 04 2007 - 02:10:09 EDT)

Medieval is the time period period. Three panels (or sessions) are being organized which means that the organizers are looking for at least nine presenters (three on each panel). The topics of the three panels are listed just after the *.  In parenthesis is the name of the conference and the year. The due date for proposals is usually mentioned in these headers as well.  The final parenthetical statement is the time and date that the CFP was sent to listserv subscribers.  You don't need to be a subscriber to respond to one of the CFPs, but it's helpful to subscribe if you would like to attend conferences. 

We will discuss writing a conference proposal with the help of Gregory Colón Semenza's chapter on conferences (added reading found in Moodle for October 16).  Semenza provides explicit examples for writing a proposal (or abstract). An abstract is usually 150-300 words depending upon the CFP requirements.  We'll stick to that standard. 

In addition to an abstract, you'll need to do some research towards writing a full conference paper (usually 8 pages only!).  Because a conference paper is usually presented orally and is so brief, you won't be able to present dense arguments or lengthy quotes.  For this reason, your research will be limited to providing an annotated bibliography for only 5-7 sources, not including your primary source.  Below are instructions for creating an Annotated Bibliography. 

Submitting the Assignment
Both the Abstract and the Annotated Bibliography are due on October 30. Please bring them as paper copies and FTP a copy to our course folder.  On this day, we will share abstracts and receive peer reviews.  The intention is to create a fully formed 8-page conference paper that will then be presented during our class conference on December 18th.  We will peer review drafts of the conference paper as well as practice presentation techniques before that day rolls around. 



How to Create an Annotated Bibliography

Selecting the Sources:

The quality and usefulness of your bibliography will depend on your selection of sources. Consider these questions to help you find appropriate limits for your research:

  • What kind of material am I looking for? (academic books and journal articles? government reports or policy statements? articles from the popular press? primary historical sources? etc.)
  • Am I finding essential studies on my topic? (Read footnotes in useful articles carefully to see what sources they use and why. Keep an eye out for studies that are referred to by several of your sources.)
  • Creating the Bibliographic Entry

    After you have obtained your articles or book chapters, create an annotated bibliography.

    An annotated bibliography gives an account of the research that has been done on a given topic. Like any bibliography, an annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of research sources. List the works you find using the proper format for bibliographic citations (the MLA form for "Works Cited" as described in MLA Handbook). Place an asterisk next to each work that is available in King Library.

    MLA (Modern Language Association) Style

    • MLA documentation is generally used for disciplines in the humanities, such as English, languages, film, and cultural studies or other theoretical studies. These annotations are often summary or analytical annotations.
    • Title your annotated bibliography "Annotated Bibliography" or "Annotated List of Works Cited."
    • Following MLA format, use a hanging indent for your bibliographic information. This means the first line is not indented and all the other lines are indented four spaces.
    • Begin your annotation immediately after the bibliographic information of the source ends.

    Annotating an Article
    In addition to bibliographic data, an annotated bibliography provides a concise summary of each source and some assessment of its value or relevance. The below guidelines will help you annotate your articles.

    Summarizing the Argument of a Source:
    An annotation briefly restates the main argument of a source. An annotation of an academic source, for example, typically identifies its thesis (or research question, or hypothesis), its major methods of investigation, and its main conclusions. Keep in mind that identifying the argument of a source is a different task than describing or listing its contents. Rather than listing contents (see Example 1 below), an annotation should account for why the contents are there (see Example 2 below).

    Example 1: Only lists contents:

    McIvor, S. D. "Aboriginal Women's Rights as ‘Existing Rights.’" Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 2/3 (1995): 34-38.
    This article discusses recent constitutional legislation as it affects the human rights of aboriginal women in Canada: the Constitution Act (1982), its amendment in 1983, and amendments to the Indian Act (1985). It also discusses the implications for aboriginal women of the Supreme Court of Canada's interpretation of the Constitution Act in R. v. Sparrow (1991).

    Example 2: Identifies the argument (*research question **method & main conclusions ):

    McIvor, S. D. "Aboriginal Women's Rights as ‘Existing Rights.’" Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 2/3 (1995): 34-38.
    This article seeks to define the extent of the civil and political rights returned to aboriginal women in the Constitution Act (1982), in its amendment in 1983, and in amendments to the Indian Act (1985).* This legislation reverses prior laws that denied Indian status to aboriginal women who married non-aboriginal men. On the basis of the Supreme Court of Canada's interpretation of the Constitution Act in R. v. Sparrow (1991), McIvor argues that the Act recognizes fundamental human rights and existing aboriginal rights, granting to aboriginal women full participation in the aboriginal right to self-government.**

    Reading Strategies

    The following reading strategies can help you identify the argument of your source:

  • Identify the author's thesis (central claim or purpose) or research question. Both the introduction and the conclusion can help you with this task.
  • Look for repetition of key terms or ideas. Follow them through the text and see what the author does with them. Note especially the key terms that occur in the thesis or research question that governs the text.
  • Notice how the text is laid out and organized. What are the main divisions or sections? What is emphasized? Why? Accounting for why will help you to move beyond listing contents and toward giving an account of the argument.
  • Notice whether and how a theory is used to interpret evidence or data. Identify the method used to investigate the problem/s addressed in the text.
  • Pay attention to the opening sentence(s) of each paragraph, where authors often state concisely their main point in the paragraph.
  • Look for paragraphs that summarize the argument. A section may sometimes begin or conclude with such a paragraph.
  • Assessing the Relevance and Value of Sources

    Your annotation should now go on to briefly assess the value of the source to an investigation of your research question or problem. Try to assess the source's contribution to your project.

  • Are you interested in the way the source frames its research question or in the way it goes about answering it (its method)? Does it make new connections or open up new ways of seeing a problem? (e.g. bringing the Sparrow decision concerning aboriginal fishing rights to bear on the scope of women's rights)
  • Are you interested in the way the source uses a theoretical framework or a key concept? (e.g. analysis of existing, extinguished, and other kinds of rights)
  • Does the source gather and analyze a particular body of evidence that you want to use? (e.g. the historical development of a body of legislation)
  • How do the source's conclusions bear on your own investigation?
  • In order to define its contribution, you will need to assess the quality of the argument: why is it of value? what are its limitations? how well defined is its research problem? how effective is its method of investigation? how good is the evidence? would you draw the same conclusions from the evidence?
  • Some language for talking about texts and arguments:

    It is sometimes challenging to find the vocabulary in which to summarize and discuss a text. Here is a list of some verbs for referring to texts and ideas that you might find useful:

    account for























    refer to



















    The evidence indicates that . . .

    The article assesses the effect of . . .

    The author identifies three reasons for . . .

    The article questions the view that . . .

    Web Sources for writing Annotated Bibliographies: