In the last few years of teaching, I have been persuaded by a few friends to include annotated bibliographies as assignments in some of my classes. Such an assignment gets students experience with some of the important steps of literary scholarship: finding secondary criticism and digesting it. While I could just assign the standard end-of-term research paper, that often results in students looking around for any quotations they can throw in to meet the arbitrary requirement of sources. I think that annotated bibliographies can provoke students to read the other sources more carefully, reading for the source’s own argument rather than how it can fit into one’s paper that is due in 12 hours.
In this semester’s Reading Media and Technology in Contemporary Literature and Theory course (I know, it’s an awful name), I have decided to ask my students to contribute to a group Zotero library. This has the advantage of teaching them a very useful tool as well as allowing us to share our knowledge with one another.
In particular, I am wondering:
- Should I require students to read not just articles, but one full book?
- Should I stipulate that a particular source may be posted only once and by only one student?
- Should I give them a single due date for the assignment or due dates following each of the three units?
Here’s a draft of the assignment, and I’m interested to hear what you think.
Annotated Zotero Group Bibliography
This assignment asks you to summarize and critically assess 6 sources and contribute them to a shared, collaborative, online bibliography using the Zotero 2.0 beta plug-in (www.zotero.org) for Firefox.
For each of the 3 units of the course, you will find 2 articles or books that comment or expand on the texts and/or subjects we have been considering. An online source is only acceptable if it comes from a peer-reviewed journal. (Feel free to run sources by me if you are not sure that they are scholarly.) You should write a minimum of 2 paragraphs on each source. The write-up should provide a summary of the major concerns of the text, perhaps with a representative quote or two, and should indicate how the piece contributes to your body of knowledge about its subject. For example, you might write about how Hamlet on the Holodeck imagines the changes that will be made to fiction through the ever-increasing use of the computer and also discuss how Murray’s work amplified your conception of the reader’s active role in making meaning from any text.
At least one of your sources must be on something broader than a single text/author.
Once you have created your entry from your source in Zotero, you will place your write-up in the “Abstract” section of the source’s entry. You should also tag your entry with your name using the “Tags” field. Finally, you will need to drag and drop your source into our class’s group library.
- Download and install Firefox (http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/personal.html), if you don’t already have it.
- Download and install the Zotero 2.0 beta plug-in for Firefox (www.zotero.org). N.B. You must use the 2.0 beta plug-in. I have been using this plug-in for months and have had no stability issues whatsoever.
- Watch the video explaining Zotero at http://www.zotero.org.
- Join our class group (http://www.zotero.org/groups/reading_technology_english_465).
- If you’d like to know more about Zotero, watch a few more screencasts at http://www.zotero.org/support/screencast_tutorials.