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Bibliography Assignment

Dr. Max Grober's Bibliography Assignment for C/I 11-D:
Young People Doing Cool Stuff in the Eighteenth Century
Web Adaptation by John West, Associate College Librarian.

The purpose of this assignment is to give you some practice at searching for the kinds of primary and secondary source materials that you might use in preparing a research paper.

By the time you’ve finished, I hope you’ll have acquired a better idea of how to get the most out of an on-line library catalog, some of the periodical indexes, and a web search engine.

More important, though, I hope you’ll have a better idea of how one source can lead you to another – how you can use the expertise of those who have already done research in the area of your topic to get straight to the most useful sources without delays or wasted effort.

Ideally, the bibliography you turn in should be more than a random collection of titles that happen to be connected to your topic

It should represent an intelligent and informed assessment of the information you’ve been able to gather about the available sources, and an honest statement about the sources that you would actually be willing to invest your time in reading if you were going to write a research paper.

In order to provide that, you’ll have to do more than just pull titles off a computer screen.

You’ll have to lay your hands on actual books and articles (or at least get full-text versions on screen), and either read or skim until you have a reasonable idea of how much good they can do for you. I don’t insist that you have physical possession of every title you cite. Our library, after all, is relatively small.

Still, at some point during this process, you’ll have to hold enough books and articles in your hands to be able to make fairly confident judgments about the other titles you find.

If you take this assignment seriously, it will be just as much work as writing a paper, but in the long run it will be worth it.


Prepare a bibliography of at least ten items on one of the topics at the end of this assignment sheet, or on an approved topic of your choice. Your bibliography should contain at least one item from each of the six categories listed below. You may use any standard form of citation (consult a style handbook such as The Chicago Manual of Style or The Random House Handbook for details).

For each item on your bibliography, write a brief statement (no more than two or three sentences) about what it appears to contain and/or why it might be useful for you to read.

  1. A substantial article from a reference work.

    The Britannica is fine, but remember that there are many specialized encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks that might be more useful for particular topics, e.g., Grove’s Dictionary for musical topics, The New Catholic Encyclopedia for religious topics, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, etc.

  2. A scholarly monograph.

    A monograph is a nonfiction book on a specialized topic written by a qualified scholar. For history books, that usually means a college professor, but there are many independent scholars whose books would also be considered scholarly monographs. This category does not include textbooks, books specifically intended for general readers, or fiction. A monograph is usually the product of original research in primary sources. If a book is published by a university press and sold primarily to scholars and college libraries, it’s usually in this category, but monographs are sometimes published by general publishers and marketed to casual readers if the topic is sufficiently appealing.

  3. An article in a scholarly journal.

    A journal (as opposed to a magazine such as Time or Newsweek), is a periodical that publishes shorter pieces of research by professional scholars. Scholarly articles are typically ten to forty pages long. To get an idea of what a scholarly journal looks like, go to the new periodical stacks in the library and look at an issue of The American Historical Review or Eighteenth Century Studies.

  4. A printed bibliography or list of suggested reading from one of the above.

    Reference works and scholarly monographs often contain such lists or bibliographies. Sometimes articles do as well. If you can find a recent bibliography or reading list on your topic, you will have something priceless: the considered judgment of a professional who has spent years working in the field as to which sources are most useful and important. If you really hit the jackpot, you’ll find an annotated bibliography. This will contain not just bibliographic citations, but specific statements about the useful qualities of each work listed.

  5. A primary source.

    A primary sources is anything produced by the people who were actually involved in the events you are investigating, either as participants or as witnesses. Thus, primary sources come directly to you from the period you are studying, in this case the 18th century. A primary source can be a piece of writing such as a poem, a novel, a journal, a letter, a sermon, a philosophical essay, a decision in a legal case, and so forth (translations are ok). It can also be a musical composition, a work of art, or an artifact such as a garment, a tool, a coin, and so on (photographs or other reproductions of the originals are fine. Primary sources are to be distinguished from secondary sources, which are things produced by those who were not involved in the events, usually during a later period and usually based on primary sources. Boswell’s London Journal (the part actually written by Boswell) is a primary source; the editor’s preface, introduction, and footnotes are secondary sources. Voltaire’s Candide is a primary source for understanding Voltaire’s thought; Peter Gay’s monograph Voltaire’s Politics: The Poet As Realist is a secondary source.

  6. A web site with links to primary and/or respectable secondary materials.

    I use the word respectable to remind you that not all the information on the web is of equal value. Some of it comes from people who know what they’re talking about, but much of it comes from people who simply have a lot of spare time – often because their former friends got tired of listening to their crackpot theories. Thus, while Billy-Bob’s Conspiracy Page may be quite entertaining, it’s not necessarily an ideal place to start searching for information about the Freemasons in the 18th century. Reliable sites often include links to less reliable sites, so you should always carefully evaluate everything you find on the web.


Note: These are just suggestions. Feel free to ask for an explanation of any topic that strikes you as interesting, or to suggest another topic from the 18th century that appeals to you. Also feel free to modify the scope of your topic as your research gives you a clearer idea of what sources are available.

Admiral Byng Grub Street
Architecture Images of the Americas
Automata India and Britain in the 18th century
The Bangorian Controversy Jacobites
Bath Journalism
Beggars, charity, and/or workhouses London life in the 18th century
Blindness and vision The Lunar Society
Booksellers and book publishing Medicine - hospitals, inoculation, medical education, etc.
Calendar reform Mental illness and/or its treatment
Childbirth and/or midwifery Military
Childhood Miracles - Hume, et al.
Classical economics - Adam Smith, et al. Music in England - e.g., the rivalry between Handel and Bononcini, a.k.a., Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Clubs and/or coffee houses Nursing and/or wet nursing
Crime and punishment - prisons, executions, reform movements Old age
Death, dying, burial, etc. Prostitution
and more... and more...

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