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Annotated Bibliography Guidelines for Essay Topics in Environmental Science and Technology

Task Guidelines

Task:

Your annotated bibliography is basically a listing of books, articles, etc. with short summaries of their contents. There is no fixed limit or maximum for the number of books, nor is there a fixed limit or maximum for the length of the summaries. Here are some guidelines:

3. Essay (two topics, choose one)

TOPIC 1

Given the historical cases we have considered in class, and current cases you have researched, argue:
A. That science and technology are on the whole good for the environment
B. That science and technology are on the whole bad for the environment
C. That it is not possible to determine if science and technology are good or bad for the environment
Note that this is an argumentative thesis, so whether you choose A,B or C you must give an argument as to why this is the case.
5-8 pages, double spaced. Bibliography required. Referencing Chicago or MLA.

TOPIC 2

Pick a so-called “green” technology, and argue that:
A. This technology is bad for the environment and should be changed or should not be used
B. This technology is good for the environment, and should be adopted
C. It is not possible to determine if this technology is good or bad for the environment
5-8 pages, double spaced. Bibliography required. Referencing Chicago or MLA.

Decide on your Thesis
Choose one of the essay topics from the syllabus and fashion it into a thesis statement. It does not have to be detailed or final at this point; it only needs to point you in the right direction. Keep in mind that it will probably change as you do research, and you may discover that your conclusion was incorrect. If you do discover that your thesis just won’t work, consider changing it rather than discarding it.

Number of Books and Articles
The number of books and articles you need varies depending on your thesis, broad theses require more sources, and narrow theses require fewer. Once you have decided on a thesis, make a list of several topics related to that thesis. This is not required, but it is recommended. For example, for the essay topic relating to the electric automobile, you could have a topic entitled “automobile pollution.”

There are a few general points to be made here. The first is that the topic list will help you to find books, but you will discover that many of these books will not be useful to you as they don’t directly discuss your topic. I personally suggest that you:

a) Spend a few hours on the internet searching for library books and articles about your subjects.

b) Spend a day in the library finding these books and skimming them before checking them out, rather than taking out one or two at a time, or taking out a ton of books at once. There are no set in stone guidelines for the number of books or articles you are required to use. I would expect you to look at 2-3 books and 1-2 articles for each subject. For a topic with more related subjects, I would expect more sources.

Using your Sources

Essay Topics

Once you have a selection of books and articles that are relevant to your thesis, read them. While you read these sources, I would recommend that you:

a. Keep a statement of your thesis nearby, so you can remind yourself of what you are looking for.

b. Write down references from the book that relate to your thesis. Even if you choose not to use that source for your annotated bibliography, you can still use the references when you are writing your paper.

Writing the Summaries

The idea of an annotated bibliography is to produce a list of books with short summaries that make clear how these books are related to your thesis. You are not expected to summarize the entire book, only the main points that are relevant to your argument. Since you will already have a list of point form references from your readings, you can use these to construct short summaries for your books and articles. The length requirements for these summaries varies, here are some guidelines:

a) They should not be too long (1-2 paragraphs maximum), or too short (at least a paragraph)

b) The summary should be long enough to show me that you have read the book or the article

c) The source does not determine the length of the summary in any direct way, a short article may have more information relevant to your topic than a book, and a long book may have less relevant information than a short one.

d) You must state clearly how the source will or will not be useful to you in making your argument.

Bernal’s book is a general history of science that uses the underlying economic and political circumstances of each time period to explain the direction and development of science. Starting with the ancient civilizations and going up to the end of the Medieval period, Bernal links key scientific developments (discoveries, institutions, ideas) to the demands created by the economic structures of society. For example, he argues that the spread of science followed the development of capitalism in early modern society.

This book will be useful as Bernal claims that the feudal economy was local, scattered and expanding, rather than centralizing. Medieval Europe lacked centralized government since the collapse of the Roman Empire, new agricultural technologies emphasized expansion rather than centralization, and Medieval hydraulic engineering was not tied to single, large floodplains as was the case in the ancient civilizations.

2.W TeBrake, “Taming the Waterwolf: Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management in the Netherlands during the Middle Ages”, Technology & Culture, Vol 43, N 3, July 2002

TeBrake’s article challenges the view that physical conditions in Medieval Holland were generally stable, by arguing for large scale land sublimation due to extensive hydrological engineering for agriculture. He outlines how small interventions to create farmland out of swamp led to greater flooding, and the need for more advanced, large-scale hydrological engineering. The Dutch ended up with a complex system for water management, using increasingly sophisticated technologies. This source will be useful as it shows how a complex, large scale technological system can exist outside of a large-scale, centralized government.

The Final Essay

Guidelines for Choosing a Thesis

I expect that you will use a good number of the sources in your annotated bibliography for your final paper, but there is no requirement for you to do this. You may find that the sources you used for your bibliography helped you to develop your thesis, but do not help you in your actual argument.

Conclusion

The point of this assignment is to get you reading for your essay earlier in the term, and to demonstrate to me that you have made a good faith attempt to read and understand a number of sources related to your topic. I fully expect that your thesis and your sources will change as you go along. In general, it is better to have a flawed thesis, start work early and change that thesis as you read the literature, than to spend half the term trying to come up with the ideal thesis, and waste weeks of writing and editing time.

You are not familiar with the literature, that’s why you are taking the course, so the chances of you coming up with a whiz-bang thesis without reading more of the literature are pretty slim. The annotated bibliography is a work in progress, but it will give you a head start on your essay, and it will help you to improve your thesis as you discover more about your subject.

Grading Criteria Annotated Bibliography

Thesis Statement

a) Is it clear and understandable?
b) Is it related to one of the three topics listed?

Length

a) Is the assignment 5 pages long?
b) Are the individual summaries 1-2 paragraphs long

Summaries

Bibliographic Entries

a) Full bibliographic reference (any style as long as consistent, for books it must have author, title, publisher and year, for other sources enough detail to find them)

b) Type of reference: students are required to provide at least 50% academic references (format is not relevant, e.g. electronic sources are acceptable as long as they are academic), other references may be of any kind, e.g. newspaper articles, websites, documentaries, etc.
Summary of Source
a) Did the student present the author’s arguments clearly and understandably, and do they demonstrate that they understand the arguments.

b) Did the student provide details from the source in an understandable way, and do these details demonstrate that the student understands the ideas.

c) Is the summary good enough that I would be able to decide whether or not to read the source to answer the thesis question after reading it.

d) Does the student state how the source will or will not aid them in the writing of their paper, and does the student do so clearly.

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