The Humanistic Tradition I

From the Ancient World to The Reformation

Instructions for the Preparation of the
Statement of Topic and the Annotated Bibliography


Choosing a good topic for an essay is hard but necessary work.  A few preliminary suggestions are accordingly appropriate:

1. The topic must interest you and you should consider it important;
2. It must be limited; choose a broad topic and narrow it down;

3. It must be feasible within the time limits of this course and using local resources (libraries, computer networks, and so on);

4. Primary sources for your topic must be available and you must be able to read them.

5. It must respond to a significant question or questions you (and your potential readers) want answered.

1. Begin by listing all the possible topics that occur to you.  If you need help, skim through the entire The Humanistic Tradition (the pictures and readings may be particularly useful) for ideas.  Also check the on-line student handbook ( – each chapter has suggestions for essay topics.  You can put down anything, from topics you would personally like to know more about to topics you think you should know more about.

2. Group your potential topics (put similar topics together, making perhaps a single topic that includes others); then rank them in order of importance; your preferred topic should be first.

3. Think about your preferred topic:  List everything that you already know about it and the questions about it that you would like to have answered.

4. Using both your knowledge and your questions, write a rough draft of your topic statement.  Explain your subject clearly (including information regarding people, places, time frame, etc.) and list the questions you want answered.  Also explain why the topic is worth researching.

5. Go to the library and find out if primary and secondary materials are available to get you started.  You should find at least four or five items, including at least two primary sources.

6. If adequate materials are available locally, then write a draft of your topic statement following the required format and turn it in to your instructor.  Then, using your instructor’s comments, revise your topic statement so that it is suitable for presentation in class and bring with it your list of available materials.

7. Each student will explain the subject of his/her topic to the class, list the questions to be answered, indicate the historical method to be used, and suggest available sources.  Class members will be asked to help clarify the topic and the questions asked.  If necessary, a private conference with the instructor will be held.

8. Using the suggestions from classmates and the instructor, a revised Statement of Topic will be prepared following the required format and turned in:

    a precise statement of the topic;
    the questions to be answered;
    a statement of the topic’s importance;
    the historical method;
    the preliminary bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

9. When your topic is approved by your instructor, you are ready to begin your research and the compilation of the Annotated Bibliography.  For specific suggestions concerning the preparation of an Annotated Bibliography, consult the guide below.

The Humanistic Tradition I

From the Ancient World to The Reformation

Format for the Statement of Topic and Annotated Bibliography on
[Your Topic]

The Statement of Topic

1. A precise statement of the topic and preliminary thesis (about one substantial paragraph).

2. The historical questions to be answered (Who, What, Where, Why, When, etc.)

3. A statement of the topic’s importance.

The Annotated Bibliography
I. Primary Sources.

II.  Secondary Sources.

    A. Books.

    B. Articles in Scholarly Journals.

III. Internet Resources.

IV. Indexes/Research Aids Consulted:

The Humanistic Tradition I

From the Ancient World to The Reformation

The Annotated Bibliography

1. After your research topic has been defined and before you begin serious reading, you should first prepare an Annotated Bibliography of primary and secondary sources.  Your bibliography must contain a mix of print (about a third), electronic, and web sources.  It must not list only web sites.

2. Compile a Bibliography by following these steps:

A. Using a standard survey text or the computerized card catalog, locate good (i.e. recent and by reputable historians) secondary sources that deal with your topic.  The Humanistic Tradition has suggested readings at the end of each chapter.  Or find an article in an appropriate academic encyclopedia, like the Encyclopedia Britannica, which is available on-line through UNC-Pembroke’s library (not a popular encyclopedia like the World Book).  From either source, obtain an overview of your topic; write down facts, events, names, or questions that occur to you; these will become guides to future research.  Scan the author’s notes and bibliography, writing down titles that appear useful.  Note if there are bibliographic guides for your topic.

B. Using your list of facts, events, names, etc. and your bibliographic entries, go to the library:  using the Catalog, Standard Secondary Works, Indexes, etc, prepare (using a word processing program) a bibliography of locally available materials; it should include primary sources and secondary sources (books and articles).  A minimum of ten (10) items is required, five of which must be primary sources.  The others must be books, articles in scholarly journals (like The American Historical Review or The Journal of Modern History), or Internet resources.

Required Bibliography Format (use Turabian or a standard format):

   Twyman, Michael.

Lithography 1800-1850. The Techniques of Drawing on Stone in England and France and Their Application in Works of Topography. London: Oxford University Press, 1970.  NE2425.T85
3. Locate each book or article and skim it, asking yourself:  does this source help me with my topic?  If not, write a note on the back of your card and save the card; if so, write a brief annotation on the card summarizing the content of the source and indicating how it will help.

4. When you have completed your search and have located the required ten sources, prepare an annotated bibliography to be turned in.  Use the required format.

An Annotated Bibliography on
(Your Topic)

I. Primary Sources.

II.  Secondary Sources.

A. Books.
1. James, John. Chartres. The Masons Who Built a Legend. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982.  BX 4629.C47.C374.

 A careful analysis by an architect of how Chartres Cathedral was actually built.  By painstakingly studying the stones used to build the cathedral, James has identified the work of each separate team of masons and the sequence in which the parts of the building were erected.

2. Panofsky, Erwin. Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism. Cleveland and New York: Meridian Books; The World Publishing Company, 1957.

A profound and controversial essay in which Professor Panofsky parallels the development of Gothic architecture with that of scholastic philosophy.  In the words of Whitney S. Stoddard, Panofsky “connects the more encyclopaedic and co-ordinated Summae of the thirteenth century with the design of High Gothic cathedrals.  According to Panofsky, the controlling principle of Scholasticism and Gothic architecture is manifestatio: elucidation or clarification.  Starting in the early thirteenth century, the systematic articulation of the Summae as books with an overall plan of chapters and subdivisions points to the ambition of the Scholastics:  the achievement of a comprehensive and explicit order in their writings, ‘a postulate of clarification for clarification’s sake.’  In general terms, Panofsky equates this principle of clarification in the Summae with the ‘principle of transparency’—a dominant principle of High Gothic architecture.”

B. Articles in Scholarly Journals.
1. Dow, Helen J. “The Rose Window,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 20 (July 1957): 248-297.

[Annotation following the format above]

III. Internet Resources.

IV. Indexes/Research Aids Consulted:

A. The Humanities Index, 1950-1984.  Topics researched: Chartres Cathedral; Gothic Cathedral; etc . . . .

This Page is Maintained by Robert W. Brown
Last Update:  29.IX.2006

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