Preliminary Bibliography And Prospectus Template

College Composition II, WISE:

Assignment: Write a prospectus paragraph and a short (5 source) annotated bibliography on the effect of ancient civilizations on the modern world.

Audiences: Students and faculty in CENG 105WS and CHIS 201WS


  • To develop your skills in using the Woodruff Library’s research tools.
  • To expand critical thinking skills by teaching how to decide upon a topic, narrow the topic into a research question, write a prospectus, and prepare research notes.
  • To provide practice in scholarly writing.


The prospectus and annotated bibliography are commonly used to propose a project and to keep the project notes organized while writing the paper.  It is important that you master the annotated bibliography in order to plan, propose, organize, and research projects in college and beyond.

1.  Decide upon a research question:

  1. Think of a civilization (Before 1500 C.E.) which has had an effect, in some way, upon the modern world.  Now, do some preliminary research by findout how much information is available. Sources you might use for this purpose include your history texts, history Web sites, Internet search engines, and online encyclopedias.
  2. After you have some idea of the quality and quantity of research materials available, and the significant issues within that topic area, create a research question that will guide your search for information on your culture or civilization.  Think of a question that is narrow enough to answer in the length allotted for your research paper.

2.   Write a prospectus paragraph (typically about a 1/2 page):

The prospectus is the plan for your research project that you submit before actually writing the essay or completing the research. It should contain the following elements:

  1. State the research topic and your research question: “In my research I want to examine the Mayan culture. How has the Mayan Culture influenced modern cultures?”
  2. Delineate the main areas of your proposed research: “In order to answer this question, I will look at the building techniques of the Ancient Mayans by reading archeological journals to pinpoint some specific techniques they used, and see how knowledge of those techniques might have influenced modern archetectural design.”

3.   Write the annotated bibliography:

  1. List the source in correct CMS format for sources.  Sources should be double-spaced with a hanging indent.  Sources should be organized in alphabetical order. Try an online bibliographic citation system if you’d like.
  2. Immediately following the source information, include two short paragraphs:
    • 1-2 sentences that summarize the information available in the source material, and
    • a second paragraph with a 1-2 sentence explanation about how you will use that source to answer your research question.

Specific Requirements for This Assignment

This annotated bibliography assignment requires a total of five sources in the following categories that will support your research:

    • Two scholarly journal articles from two different  fields (e.g., history, gender studies, sociology, geography, philosophy, religion, art, anthropology, to name a few).
    • One encyclopedia entry.
    • One scholarly book.
    • One Web site.

Special Considerations

  1. The annotated bibliography is the first step to writing a research paper.  Think of this as the information gathering stage.
  2. The purpose of the preliminary research is to get an overview of the topic. The sources you consult during this step are not necessarily the ones you will use in the research for your paper.
  3. Your research question should be narrow enough to answer in 3-5 pages but broad enough to support five scholarly sources.
  4. In writing your annotations, do not repeat the source title in the description of the source or use the title as the explanation for how the source will help you answer the research question.  There is an example in Blakesley (266).   Although the annotation in the sample is too long for this assignment, it is a good example of how to make your description useful and informative.

Resources to Help You with This Assignment

  1. Interactive exercise on the Web: “How Do I Create an Annotated Bibliography?” (
  2. Sample prospectus on women and feminism in the Roman Empire (see below).

Objectives of This Assignment

  1. Use the writing process to best advantage.
  2. Use technology for writing and research.
    • Select and use appropriate writing processes and strategies to produce academic writing that satisfies the needs of or can be adapted to writing in core curriculum courses.
    • Apply conventions of writing effectively in any given rhetorical context with particular regard for audience and purpose.
    • Display higher-level critical thinking skills (as defined in Bloom’s Taxonomy) in academic work.
    • Use assigned software and technological platforms.

Grading Rubric

PtsRhetorical SituationAnnotationsFormattingUse of Language
100to90Research question is appropriate for assignment; document satisfies audience expectations.Required information is provided and thorough for each source.All citations and all aspects of paper meet formatting specifications.Style, tone, and expression appropriate for academic writing; diction well chosen; syntax and mechanics virtually error-free.
89to80Research question is sufficiently narrow but the document only partially responds to it.At least ¾ of the sources provide complete and thorough information.Occasional errors in citations and/or oversights in page formatting.Style and tone suitable for academic writing; syntax and mechanics have minor errors;  diction appropriate in most instances.
79to70Research question lacks specificity or is too narrow or broad for audience and purpose.Half or fewer sources provide complete and thorough information.Frequent deviations from citation and/or page requirements.Style and tone fall short of academic standards; distracting usage, diction, and mechanical errors.
69to60Research question does not address assignment or meet audience needs.Each source lacks part of required information.Formatting is of mixed styles or inconsistently used.Little resemblance to academic writing in most respects.
59to0Research question missing or inadequate.Annotation missing or uninformative.Formatting is care­less or lacking.Frequent errors inhibit clarity and meaning.

Student’s Name


Class Time


Prospectus for Feminists in the Roman Empire

Contrary to the Hollywood portrayal of women in the Roman Empire as little more than harlots, sex objects, or decorations for luxurious villas, a certain class of Roman women actually enjoyed social and political rights that women in later periods had to struggle to attain. For instance, women were allowed to inherit property and manage it themselves, and they could attend social functions of a kind reserved for men in other ancient cultures. They could even wear modern-style bikinis at the beach, something a Victorian woman would never dream of doing. Despite these freedoms, women could not vote in the Roman Empire. Even so, one has to wonder where these freedoms came from. Is it possible that there was actually a feminist movement in Roman times? Research suggests that “feminist” might be too strong a word for Roman women, but there was definitely a different climate for women in the Roman Empire than in other parts of the ancient world. The following sources will be used to illustrate this important aspect of how women fit into the culture of ancient Rome.


Bauman, Richard A. Women and Politics in Ancient Rome. New York: Taylor & Francis, 1992. Print.

From the middle of the fourth century to the end of the third women were very active in Roman political life. They conducted protests of various kinds, such as against the inferior status they had in marriage, against the high death rate in wars, and promoting new cults that could address their special interests.

This source provides a definite yes to the research question by giving examples that sound like the modern women’s movement, with Roman women organizing and standing up for themselves and their beliefs.

Carter, Molly. “World History: the Life of Women in Ancient Rome -.” Associated Content –

 Web. 07 Feb. 2010. <;

     Carter paints an unpleasant picture of Roman women, saying that women were little more than child bearers without liberties and had to be supervised constantly. She describes women being married at the age of 12 and having a lifespan that only last 30 years or less because there it was important for women to have as many children as possible.

     Although this is a very negative picture of women of this time period, it does support what other sources say about women being socially active and engaging in protest about events they disapproved of.

“The life of women in Ancient Rome – by Kris Moore – Helium.” Helium – Where Knowledge Rules. Web. 06 Feb. 2010.


     Moore’s findings indicate that women in the Roman Empire could participate in social and civic life to some degree, even though they were not allowed the full freedom that men enjoyed. One of the most important signs of their status that Moore discusses is the women’s right to inherit and own property.

     This source does not go far enough to support the idea of feminism in the Roman Empire, but it will help answer the question by revealing the limits of women’s rights.

NOTE: The above sample is not intended to suggest that this is a perfect document or even an example of the best work or that the sources are sufficient or of the best quality. Its only purpose is to show what goes in the prospectus and how the finished document should look.

In terms of formatting, one important thing to note is that the annotations are indented. The reason for aligning the annotation with the hanging indent is that it makes it easier for the reader to tell where each source begins.

The full title of this sample uses the title of the proposed paper after “Prospectus for.” Ordinarily you would not embellish the title of your own paper in any way. This means no quotation marks, no underlining, no italicized or large or bold font, no full caps, no asterisks or anything else except centering. In the case of this document, however, the paper’s title belongs in quotation marks because it is a title within a title.

Like this:


Prospectus and Annotated Bibliography

Summary: Consider how you will use your potential sources to address your research question.


  • Carefully examine each of your potential sources.
  • Plan how you will use ideas and evidence from the sources in your paper.
  • Develop a tentative structure for your paper.

Due: 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 18


Although the assignment for the prospectus is given before the assignment for the annotated bibliography, you may wish to do them in the opposite order, or work on both side-by-side. Implicit in this: You will need to read (or at least browse or skim) all your sources.

Part A: Prospectus

Draft an introductory paragraph for your paper. This introductory paragraph should include your thesis, which is likely but not required to be an answer to your research question.

Below the introductory paragraph, write a topic sentence for each supporting paragraph. Please write these sentences in a numbered list. Your papers will be around 7-10 pages, so I would expect to see at least 7 topic sentences after the draft introduction. 

These sentences should give your argument in capsule form. Be sure to write complete sentences, with at least a subject and a verb, so that I can understand your point.

You will not be required to use these exact sentences in your final paper---you can revise and reorganize as you see fit. I am just trying to get you thinking about how the pieces of your paper will fit together and hopefully make it easier for you to start writing.

You may want to discuss your prospectus with your study team during week 8. Explain your argument to members of your study team, and see how they respond. Just trying to explain your ideas out loud can help you to understand them better.

Part B: Annotated Bibliography

For each of your sources, you should have already written a short paragraph addressing the following points:
  • how you found the source (Google, library catalog, Academic Search Premier, reference from another source, etc.);
  • why you believe it to be credible;
  • why you think it might help you address your research question.
As you browse/skim/read your sources, please add an additional one or two paragraphs briefly addressing the following:
  • Describe the content of the source, if you have not already done so.
  • Explain how you plan to use ideas or evidence from the source in your paper. Or, if you decided not to use the source after all, explain why.

You may add sources that were not in your previous bibliography. (In fact, I may have encouraged you to do so.) If you do, be sure to annotate the new reference with your evaluation of the source's credibility, as well as how you plan to use it.

Finally, add at least once source from the official class readings that will help to support your argument. You need not give a full annotation - just explain how you plan to use the source.

If you realize that your argument requires a piece of information you don't have, make a note of this as well. You should try to find it out ASAP!

What to turn in

Type a document including the following two components.
  1. Your prospectus from part A.
  2. Your bibliography from part B, in a recognized citation style, with the required annotations addressing the credibility, the content, and your planned use of the source. Be sure to include at least one source from the official class readings.

Format as for an essay. Be sure to put your name and a title on the assignment and to acknowledge any help you received.

Turn in your document via PWeb by 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 18.


I will evaluate your assignment on 

  • the appropriateness of your thesis;
  • the clarity and apparent amount of effort put into your prospectus;
  • whether you have identified an appropriate variety and quality of sources to help you address your question;
  • whether you have given a correct list of references for those sources and annotated them as required.

Janet Davis (

Created March 12, 2009
Last revised January 19, 2011
Categories: 1

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