How to Choose the Best Gifts for Writers

How to Choose the Best Gifts for Writers

Choosing gifts.  Some people are really…gifted in this area.  If you're trying to manage your money wisely (like I am), you don't want to just give people more “stuff” to take up space in their lives.  The thought really does count. So how do you choose the best gifts for writers in your life?  To answer this question, I reached out to some of my writer friends.  I asked them, “what are some of the best gifts you have received or would really enjoy?”  (Of course, some of my favorites made the list too!)

This page contains affiliate links – they don’t cost you a penny, but they sure help to pay off those student loans!  For more information, please see my disclosure page.

I asked 18 writers for recommendations on the best gifts for writers! #christmas #birthday #amwriting - https://www.thecafescholar.com

#1 Know your Budget.  You can afford the best gifts for writers. Trust me.

The best gifts for writers say "you are a writer and I take you seriously and support you in your writing." - #gifts #birthday #christmas #writers https://www.thecafescholar.com

Your favorite writer – be it a spouse, best friend, sister, parent, teacher, or even literally your favorite writer – isn't going to feel MORE loved by more money.  (Usually). Of course, if you have the finances to replace her dinosaur computer and bless her socks off, do it! But you can do really thoughtful gifts that cost very little and mean a whole lot.  Rachel Fordham's husband framed a print with favorite books for Christmas one year.  Jenny Leo‘s husband is pretty creative too – he made her a Writer's block clock.  She says, “anything that says to the recipient “You are a writer and I take you seriously and support you in your writing” is a hit with me.”  Leah Banicki loves a thoughtful thank-you card from a reader.

Which begs the question.

That writer you love because she is related to you, or he's your best friend?

Have you READ what they've written?

Yes, you.  I don't actually care if it's a genre you like or not.  Show the writer in your life that you care…that you take her seriously.  Read what she wrote, and then you can write a really thoughtful note.

#2 Know your Writer.  People who give the best gifts for writers are really observant.

Pay attention…does she have a favorite planner?  Does he have a pen that you always see him use?  Get smart.  Here's a tip for any gift-giving, not just for writers…keep a list. I used to call it my “stalker list.”  =D  If someone mentioned their favorite sushi order or always got the same drink at Starbucks, or something they didn't like, I would add it to my file.  Then, when the time came to give a gift, even just a random surprise, I could give something truly thoughtful.

I'm giving away all my secrets…now you know how I bought your Starbucks drink before you got there.

Here's a funky “know your writer” thing.

Some people think that gift cards are not so personal. But anyone who knows me knows that I love to study at Starbucks and other cafes (duh.  The Cafe Scholar.)  Most people also know that I LOVE to read and devour books like the Cookie Monster eats his cookies.

Actually, NOT like the Cookie Monster eats his cookies.  Have you noticed they all end up on the floor instead of in his mouth?

There's a point.  A Starbucks or Kindle gift card would not be impersonal for someone like me, because, well, cue “these are a few of my favorite things!”  So if you know your writer loves to go to a special place to work or relax, a gift card might be the perfect fit.  I have a feeling that Chautona would appreciate a Denny's gift card. Just saying.

A caveat here…don't get a super personal gift if you don't know your writer well enough.  Planners are really cool, and I think they make a great gift for writers…but it's a very personal choice.  I *gasp* don't even use one.  I use my Google Calendar, Coschedule for content planning, and right now I'm using a composition book with some elements borrowed from the bullet journal world, combined with The 12 Week Year, to keep track of progress towards goals.  I know I'm not the only writer or online business owner with planners that sat on the shelf all year because they weren't the right fit.  The write fit?  On the other hand, if you know someone has just been dying to try out the Cultivate What Matters Powersheets or the Brilliant Life Planner, and maybe it was out of her budget, that would be a really thoughtful gift.

One more thing…

Your gifts for writers don't actually have to be writing-related.  The suggestions I give here are more oriented towards writing-type-gifts.  But Chautona says:

Or be BRAVE…and get them something that reflects who they are as a person outside of writing.  Most of us love writing-themed gifts, but we really are more than “just” authors. So don't be afraid to just go with some other element in our lives if nothing resonated in the writing realm.

I would add – if you're shopping for gifts for writers who write as their regular job, look for gifts outside just writing. If you're shopping for gifts for writers that are new to publishing (or not there yet), a writer-themed gift might show them you take their writing seriously.

Keeping those two things in mind – knowing your budget and knowing your writer – here are some great gifts for writers!

Writers are Readers

Don't forget, to write well, you have to read, and many writers write because they fell in love with books.  Writers are readers.  So, gifts for readers also make great gifts for writers.

 

Most writers have a drinking problem.

Mine is that after I finish all that iced tea, I have to wait in line for the bathroom at Starbucks.

But seriously, most of us are working through coffee or tea alongside our words and oxford commas.  One of the best gifts for writers might actually be a mug of their favorite work-friendly beverage.

  • Cool mug: get a nerdy writer mug or even something that fits a theme from a favorite book.  Teacups are neat too (especially depending on your favorite writer's genre), but for me?  I would run out of tea way too fast.
  • Coffee, tea collections, hot cocoa.  This is a great one because you can make it work with just about any budget.  Get a tea sampler, or even build your own.
  • Coasters. Because setting your notes in a puddle created by a sweaty iced tea glass is no fun. I've been known to bring my coaster to Starbucks with me.  There are even some cute just-for-writers coasters :).


 

Essentials: The Paper and Pen Variety

It might be the most cliche gift for writers.  It also might be one of the best gifts for writers…or at least the one a writer is most likely to use!  Take a little time to observe what your favorite writer uses if you want to get the best fit.  Most of us, like Cassie, and ok, like ME, have a notebook addiction and will love bound paper in just about any form.



 

 

Productivity:  Because, let's face it, your favorite writer has to get stuff done.

Techy Stuff:

Gifts for Writers - these writers loved that replacement laptop!

Screenshot of Chautona's Gifts for Writers Recommendations

Experiences:

  • Deposit for a conference you know they're planning to attend.  Or even the whole conference if you're buying a spendy gift (Recommended by Chautona)
  • Coaching with their favorite author!

Gift Cards

Yes, they actually can be just what your writer friend wants!  Buy your gift cards through Swagbucks to get cash back and stretch that dollar!  Can't you see your debit card doing Pilates?

  • Coffee shops (or Denny's!  Bring on that hot chocolate!)
  • Kindle/Amazon
  • Bookstores

Wearable Gifts for Writers:

  • Nerdy Writer T-Shirts
  • Super comfy sweatshirt or those sweat pant dress pants
  • Slipper socks
  • Writing gloves (I so want some of these).

 

A huge thank you to my writer friends who helped me put together this post:

Leah Banicki, Rachel Fordham, Chautona Havig, Allison Garcia, Jane Lebak, Stephanie Daniels, Bethany Turner, Janine Rosche, Morgan Busse, Heather Gilbert, Jenny Leo, Charis Zdrojewski, Leslie Leonard, Lana Higginbotham, J'nell Ciesielski, Joyce Williams, and Denise Weimer!

You can see some of their awesome books below!


 

Are you a writer?  What's the best (read: funniest, most encouraging) gift you've gotten?

I asked 18 writers for recommendations on the best gifts for writers! #christmas #birthday #amwriting - https://www.thecafescholar.com

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When you have to Reorganize a Research Paper

When you have to Reorganize a Research Paper

Using Microsoft Word Headings to Reorganize a Research Paper

This post is part of The Cafe Scholar’s Guide to Writing Awesome Research Papers. I'm going to show you a neat way to reorganize a research paper in Microsoft Word, but if you haven't written your outline yet, check out this post first.

Here's one of my favorite Microsoft Word tricks to easily organize and reorganize your research paper! | https://www.thecafescholar.com

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. That just means that I may receive a small commission if you buy a product linked on this page.  It sure helps towards paying off those student loans! For more information, please see my disclosures page.

In my post about creating your research paper outline, I mentioned that your organization and structure will probably change several times as you write your paper. Sometimes you come up with a clever way to word your thesis, and then you need to make your paper structure match. Other times, as you are writing and revising, you realize that something might make more sense in a different part of the paper. This can result in a bunch of cut-and-paste madness. It’s kind of a pain, and it is really easy to lose track of something or miss a section as you go, especially if you have to do a lot of scrolling to move a paragraph somewhere else in the paper. Part of the challenge of writing a longer paper is easily seeing all the structure so that you can make sure it flows the right way.
Last spring I figured out a really cool way to reorganize a research paper (and other documents) and see everything at once. All you need for this cool trick is Microsoft Word (which I think everyone should be using for research writing!).

Office Home & Student 2016 for Mac

Step 1: Create your Headings

The first step to reorganize a research paper is to create formatted (tagged) headings.  This is easiest to do in the outline stage. In your outline in Word, highlight the heading for a category and click the Heading 1 button under Styles in the ribbon. This changes the format of this heading to match the selected style, but it also marks it in Word as a level 1 heading, which will help later. Do the same thing for all of your top level categories.
Here's one of my favorite Microsoft Word tricks to easily organize and reorganize your research paper! | https://www.thecafescholar.com
Next, take your subcategories, and make them all the Heading 2 style. It’s important to click the Heading 2 button in Styles – don’t just click Bold or change the font, because that will change the appearance but won’t give it that heading tag.
If you’ve already written the rough draft of your paper, you will need to go create those headings and format them using the Heading 1 and Heading 2 styles. Make a heading for each paragraph, even though you probably won’t use most of these headings in your final draft.

Step 2: Go to Outline View

Click the Outline View button in the bottom left corner to see your paper in Outline View.

Here's one of my favorite Microsoft Word tricks to easily organize and reorganize your research paper! | https://www.thecafescholar.com

From here, you can either use the plus and minus buttons next to each heading to expand or collapse them, or (quicker way), next to Show in the top left, select Level 2 from the drop down menu. This will show you all of your Heading 1 and Heading 2 text in outline form.

Here's one of my favorite Microsoft Word tricks to easily organize and reorganize your research paper! | https://www.thecafescholar.com

Another option is to use the Collapse Headings function in Word. This is actually how I learned to organize my research papers. But some of the Mac versions of Word don’t have this function, so I switched to the Outline view method.

Step 3: Reorganize at Will

When you want to move a section in the outline view, just make sure that section is minimized, and then cut and paste just the header. This will move all the stuff underneath that header, all together as one unit. If you want to move a subcategory, make sure the header is minimized. Then cut the heading, and paste it where you want it. The same can go for an entire larger category; if you cut and paste while it is minimized, all the content under that heading will come with it.
When you are done reorganizing, go back to Draft View or Print Layout View to see your paper…looking like a paper again! If you used the Collapse headings function, you can just expand those minimized headers for the same result.

Step 4: Check your Transitions

If you do some reorganization after you’ve written the paragraphs, some of your transition sentences might not work with your new organization.  After you have moved all your puzzle pieces around, go back and review your transitions from one section to the next and from one paragraph to the next to make sure they still make sense.

Final Draft

When you are done with your final draft, you might not want to keep some of those headings. That’s okay; they were just a tool. Make sure they are expanded out first, and then you can delete the ones you don’t want to keep.

What if I need to turn in a rough draft without all these extra headings?

Here's one of my favorite Microsoft Word tricks to easily organize and reorganize your research paper! | https://www.thecafescholar.comSometimes, your professor might want to see a rough draft, and you may want to give it to them without all the extra headings, just as if it were your final draft. If that is the case, save your rough draft with a new file name. Now you have two separate files, one to work on, and one to hand in to your professor. In your professor’s version, expand everything out of the headings and remove the headings you don’t want. But leave the headings in your personal copy. Then, when you go to make corrections and revisions later, you don’t need to add them all back in and you can take advantage of this reorganization trick.
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How to Craft the Perfect Research Paper Thesis

How to Craft the Perfect Research Paper Thesis

I’m going to nerd out for a minute here, because creating a beautiful research paper thesis statement is truly a craft. Writing a great research paper is truly a craft.  Yes. Writing is an art, a craft, and you are a craftsman, an artist, a writer, even if you are a biology major writing the term paper for your US History class.  Unlike some things we learn in college, writing is one skill, one craft that you will need and use in any career that requires a college degree.  Treat writing as a craft, take pride in your work, and the difference will be noticeable!
This post is part of “The Cafe Scholar’s Guide to Writing a Research Paper”, which walks you through the process of writing awesome research papers step by step from start to finish.
A great research paper thesis is truly a craft, and it can make or break your paper. | thecafescholar.com
Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. That just means that I may receive a small commission if you buy a product linked on this page.  It sure helps towards paying off those student loans! For more information, please see my disclosures page.
College professors often include the phrase “thesis-driven” in the requirements for research paper assignments.  If they don’t, they are assuming you already know this.  So know this: any paper or essay you write should include a great thesis statement and should be thesis-driven, meaning that the content is driven by and proves the thesis.  As we will see, however, the thesis itself is driven by the research you have done.

What is a thesis statement?

If you know the answer to this question, you’re probably wondering why I even ask it.  Well, here’s the story: I’ve taught college freshmen that didn’t know the answer, so I don’t want to make any assumptions here.  The thesis statement is a statement of your argument. Not like the one you had with your roommate last week.  What are you trying to convince your reader?  That’s your argument.  Every paper is, on some level, a persuasive essay.  When we write a research paper, we are going to be more subtle about our persuasion, and we’re going to let the evidence do most of the work, but we are trying to persuade our reader of something.  So what are you trying to say?  What are you trying to convince me? That’s your thesis.

What makes a good research paper thesis?The thesis is critical to a great paper. What are the key components of a good research paper thesis? | thecafescholar.com

It’s not rocket science to write a thesis statement, but writing a good research paper thesis takes some work.  It’s a craft.  A good thesis is usually one sentence, and usually the last sentence in the introductory paragraph or towards the end of the introduction.  It is beautifully worded, but not too wordy.  These should be the most carefully chosen words in your paper.  A good research paper thesis reflects the content and the organization of the paper.  And, it needs to be a sound argument supported by the evidence you will show in your paper.

So how do you craft a good research paper thesis?

It’s actually a circular process.  It starts at the beginning of your writing process and keeps coming back around, all the way to the end of the writing process.

Thesis in the Research Paper Proposal

When you write your research paper proposal, you’ve only done some basic research to get an idea of the question you want to answer.  But, at this point, you should have an idea of what you think that answer – that thesis – will be.  What do you think your further research is going to find?  Don’t spend too much time making this first thesis pretty.  It is going to change, possibly big time.  But this will give your research a direction, and your professor might be able to warn you off if you are trying to argue a thesis that will be difficult to prove.

Thesis in the OutlineYou will touch your research paper thesis several times: while writing your proposal, in the outline, after the outline, and on each draft. | thecafescholar.com

When you get to writing your research paper outline, you now have a good deal of the research done.  You know by now what the evidence shows, so one of the first steps in writing your research paper outline will be rewriting your thesis to match your developing argument.  Write that new thesis (or rewrite the old one), and use that to give your outline some direction.  But, don’t be surprised if, as you work on the outline, you decide to change things up.  This is normal – this is really good, actually, because you don’t want to just write a paper to prove what you think the evidence shows; you want the evidence to tell you something true that you will argue as your thesis.
When you are done writing your outline and have it organized the way you want, you’ll want to circle back on that thesis again.  Here is where you’re going to put the time in.  Start asking questions.  Does your outline represent a strong argument for that thesis statement?  Does it support your thesis?  If not, you will need to change either your thesis or your outline.  Hint, hint. It is much easier to go back and change your thesis now that you know what the evidence shows.  Once you are sure what you want your thesis to say, make sure it includes or reflects the structure of your paper. For example, one version of my thesis for a research paper on the causes of the American Civil War went like this:
The Second Great Awakening was a major driving force behind the American Civil War, especially as it contributed to religious sectarian division between North and South, increased public participation of African Americans in organized religion, and the growth of the abolition movement over the anti-slavery movement.

The Breakdown:

What I want to convince my reader: Second Great Awakening was a major cause of the American Civil War
Supporting evidence that I will use in my paper: it contributed to sectarian division, it increased public participation of African Americans in organized religion, and it fueled the growth of the abolition movement.  Each of these is a section in the paper, and this is the order they show up in the paper.
When you have your thesis in the order that reflects the organization of your paper, start trying out different ways to say the same thing.  You want a thesis that is succinct, not too wordy, and it needs to be super clear what you are trying to say.  This is where you get to make it prettier.

Writing the Paper

After each draft of writing the paper itself, you are going to revisit that thesis.  Does your paper argue the thesis? (Do they match?)  Does the wording and tone of your thesis match the wording and tone of the rest of your paper?  Basically, now that you’ve written a paper to go with your thesis, you need to make sure that both the content and style of your thesis fit your paper. This will often mean tweaking your thesis yet again.  But hopefully, if you did good outline work, your argument won’t change too much when you write the paper itself, and you can focus on making it look and sound good.

Get Research Paper Thesis Feedback…Right Here!

Working on a research paper right now?  Drop your thesis and a short outline in the comments, and we'll give you some feedback!

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How to Write an A+ Research Paper Outline

How to Write an A+ Research Paper Outline

Did you know that a solid research paper outline is the key to an A+ research paper?  You’ll want to spend a good amount of time on this step, even more time than actually writing out the paper itself.  The outline is going to help you structure your paper in a way that makes sense and then pull together your research to fill in the details.  A good research paper outline will save you time writing your paper, and it will help you create a focused, well-supported argument and a stronger paper.
This post is part of The Cafe Scholar’s Guide to Writing Awesome Research Papers. Before you get started on your outline, make sure to check out the posts on planning your research paper and finding great academic sources!
A good research paper outline is key to writing an A+ paper. | https://thecafescholar.com

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. That just means that I may receive a small commission if you buy a product linked on this page.  It sure helps towards paying off those student loans! For more information, please see my disclosures page.

#1 Start with the Thesis

Yep - that means you should spend a lot of quality time working on your research paper outline - maybe even more time than writing the paper itself! | https://thecafescholar.com

Any work you do on your research paper outline needs to start with your thesis.  Now, your thesis is going to evolve and get refined as you complete your research and writing, but you need to start with your thesis so you know where you are going.  The thesis is your argument – not like the one you had with your sister last week, but rather, what are you trying to convince your reader?  How are you going to convince them?  Another post in this series will cover how to refine your thesis and make it shine, but for now, come up with the answers to these questions.  Then, break down the steps of how you will convince your reader into categories.

For example, for a paper I wrote last year about the religious causes of the American Civil War, my thesis towards the beginning of the project was  “The Second Great Awakening was a major driving force behind the American Civil War, especially as it contributed to religious sectarian division between North and South, increased public participation of African Americans in organized religion, and the growth of the abolition movement over the anti-slavery movement.”

My Categories:

– the religious sectarian division between North and South

– increased public participation of African Americans in organized religion

– growth of the abolition movement over the anti-slavery movement

#2 Map out your Research Paper

A mind map will help you organize and plan your research paper outline. | https://thecafescholar.com

When I plan a research paper outline, I find it easiest to use a mind map type brainstorm, although you could probably use your favorite brainstorming technique.  Start with a circle in the middle with the basis of your thesis: “Second Great Awakening was a major cause of the American Civil War.”  Then, branch out from there with your categories.  I usually add a category for background information, which won’t be listed out in my thesis but will come right after the introduction.  How much background information will depend on the length of your paper and the type of paper.  A history paper might have more background information, for example.  Sometimes your professor will give you guidelines in this area.

The research paper outline is probably the most important part of your paper! Once you have a good thesis, start mapping it out with a mind map. | https://thecafescholar.com

Then, add subcategories for each of those categories.  Each category will become a section of my paper, and each subcategory will be its own paragraph.   How many categories you have will depend mostly on how you can group the topics in your paper together, but how many subcategories you have will depend on the length of the paper.  A good guide is roughly 2 paragraphs per page.  Sometimes a subcategory might need two paragraphs, but I recommend planning out your paper as if each subcategory will only be one paragraph.  You may end up with too much material and have to trim some out later, but that is easier than having to go do more research later just to meet your page count.

Finally, I branch out from each subcategory with quick notes about a few sources I might use for that subcategory.

The research paper outline is probably the most important part of your paper! Once you have a good thesis, start mapping it out with a mind map. | https://thecafescholar.com

#3 Create the Research Paper Outline Structure

Next, on my mind map I number each of the categories based on the order I think I want to put them in.  I do the same thing with the subcategories within each category.  Don’t spend too much time on this step, because you can (and probably will!) change it later.

Now it is time to actually create the research paper outline.  Open up a Word document, create your header information (name, course, etc.) and a tentative title for your paper.  Don’t worry too much about the title either; it will probably change as you write the paper.  Now, write out your research paper outline using the structure below and the information from your mind map.

Here is a sample of how to format your research paper outline. | https://thecafescholar.com

#4 Add the Evidence

Now, start pulling together the evidence you will use to argue (convince your reader) of your thesis, and add a few quotes under each subcategory.  When you do this, include the full quote even if you think you will paraphrase it in the paper.  That way, when you go to write the paper itself, if you decide to use the actual quote instead of a paraphrase, you have it right there and don’t have to go find it again.  Also, you want to include your citation information just as you would in the actual paper.  So create the citation as a footnote or parenthetical citation depending on which format is required for your class.  This is going to save you time later.  Study smarter, right?

As you pull together all the supporting information for your argument, there is a good chance that some of your categories or subcategories will change, or that you will change the order you want to share them.  That’s good!  When you think you have everything pulled together, feel free to move around sections or rename them as you go.

#5 End with the Thesis

Writing a good research paper outline starts and ends with your thesis. | https://thecafescholar.com

When you have all the evidence pulled together and you think you have everything the way you want it, go back to your thesis.  Make sure that your research paper outline is arguing your thesis.  Your argument may have changed as you wrote the outline.  If so, that’s fine, but you just need to revise your thesis now that you have done all the research and prepared everything.

At this point, you have a research paper outline!  What that means is that your paper is basically written, in bullet point form. When it comes time to writing the paper itself, all you will need to do is fill it in by turning those outlined points and quotes into cohesive paragraphs.  If you do the research paper outline well, you will have done the bulk of the work and the next step will be so much easier!

Okay, time to get started!  Go ahead and start working on your outline!  Want some feedback?  Comment below and let us know what research paper you’re working on, and what you think your thesis and some of your categories might be!

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. That just means that I may receive a small commission if you buy a product linked on this page.  It sure helps towards paying off those student loans! For more information, please see my disclosures page.

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How to Write a Terrific Annotated Bibliography

How to Write a Terrific Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a lot like the bibliography you would find at the end of your research paper or a book, but with more information.  Besides research paper assignments, you will find annotated bibliographies as part of a dissertation or thesis.  There are even published books that are extensive annotated bibliographies on a particular topic.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. That just means that I may receive a small commission if you buy a product linked on this page.  It sure helps towards paying off those student loans! For more information, please see my disclosures page.

What is the purpose of an annotated bibliography, and how do you write a really great one? This post will teach you how to write a terrific annotated bibliography for your next research paper. | https://thecafescholar.com

This post is part of The Cafe Scholar's Guide to Writing an Awesome Research Paper.  When you are finished working on your annotated bibliography, make sure to go back and check out the rest of the series!

 

What is the Purpose of an Annotated Bibliography?

What is the annotated bibliography used for and why do you need to create one? | https://thecafescholar.com

An annotated bibliography has a few different uses.  In a more extensive piece of academic writing, the annotated bibliography helps the reader who wants to dig deeper to find just the right source for his or her interest.  For the writer, the annotated bibliography will become a go-to resource to continue the research process.  This is true for anything from a shorter research paper to a full-length book.  You can refer back to the annotated bibliography to see what sources you found during the planning stage and why you thought they would be helpful, so you can have a better chance at finding the information you are looking for when you actually get down to writing.  Also, the process of writing an annotated bibliography will help you to evaluate your sources up front and make sure you are finding sources that will be useful for your paper before you get elbow-deep in writing.  This is really important.  What if you put all this work into writing a paper and then you realize there aren’t enough quality sources out there (or aren’t enough that meet your professor’s requirements, or aren’t enough in a language you can read…yes this has happened to me!)?  Since our mission is to study smarter, we obviously want to avoid wasting time like that.  The annotated bibliography will help you make sure you have what you need, so even if your professor doesn’t require one, you should create one anyways!
 

What Information Should you Include in your Annotated Bibliography?

What information do you need to include in your annotated bibliography? | https://thecafescholar.com

First, before you start working on your annotated bibliography, make sure to read any instructions provided by your professor, as he or she may have some specific requirements you need to satisfy.
 

Full Citation

First, you need to include the full citation for the source, properly formatted in the correct style for your discipline (such as Turabian/Chicago style, APA, MLA, etc.).  An app like Zotero can do this for you.
 

Classify the Source

You will want to categorize the source as a primary or secondary source.  This is especially important if your professor requires a certain number of primary sources for the assignment.  If you aren’t sure whether a source is a primary source or a secondary source, see my post about the difference between primary and secondary sources.  There are a few ways you can do this in your annotated bibliography.
Method one: You have a heading, “Primary Sources,” and list all of your primary sources, and do the same for the secondary sources.
 
Method Two: For each source in your annotated bibliography, state “primary source” right after the citation.
 
If your professor doesn’t state a preference, I prefer Method 2 because it is easier to do it this way if you are using a reference manager such as Zotero to create the annotated bibliography.  (I will share how to do this in a later post.)
 

Describe the Source

You will want to answer some questions, in a few sentences, to include the most important information about the source.   What type of source is it?  Is it a book, newspaper article, artifact, journal, etc?  Who is the author?  You already know the name from your citation above, but you want to identify anything about the author that will make this particular source helpful for your assignment.  For example, if the author was a black abolitionist preacher during the Civil War era, you are going to read the source differently than if it was written by a 20th-century historian.
 

Discuss the Importance or Usefulness of the Source

Evaluate the source: what is the usefulness of this source for this paper or project? | https://thecafescholar.com

Why is this source going to help you with this paper?  Does it provide a different perspective or a first-hand account of your research paper topic?  Is there a particular chapter or section that may prove useful for your paper?  Include this information here.

How Long Should the Annotation Be?

The annotation may vary from 1-2 sentences to a shorter paragraph, depending on the type of source and how much information is available.
 

Here is an example of a shorter annotation:

Essick, Abraham. “Franklin County: Diary of Abraham Essick (1849-1864; 1883; 1888).” Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, 1998. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/FD1005.
(Primary) This source is the diary of a Lutheran minister who preached before congregations all over the North, as well as in Winchester, Virginia.
 

And here is an example of a longer annotation:

McMath, Ann, and C. Stewart Doty. The Journal of Ann McMath: An Orphan in a New York Parsonage in the 1850s. Albany, N.Y.: Excelsior Editions, State University of New York Press, 2011. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=3407253.
(Primary) Ann McMath’s diaries chronicle her experience living in New York after it was “burned over” by religious enthusiasm. She was raised from the age of 14 in the home of her uncle, a preacher whose ministry reflected the values of the “Burned Over District.” McMath describes her conversion experience, reading habits, religious experiences, interactions with other religious traditions, and friendships with women such as Sarah and Mary Payne, who connected their religious beliefs with participation in abolition, feminist, and temperance movements. She also describes the involvement of her pastor uncle in both the abolition and temperance movements.
 

How Many Sources Should you Include?

How do you know how many sources to include in your annotated bibliography? | https://thecafescholar.com

If your professor does not specify the number of sources required for the annotated bibliography, then you want to aim for about 20% more than would be required or expected for the paper.  The reason is that there will always be sources that you thought you would use, but that didn’t work out in the long run.  If you include enough extra sources in the annotated bibliography, you won’t have to do as much extra research later to meet that minimum requirement if not all of your original sources work out.
 
Now you are ready to go write your annotated bibliography! Be sure to refer back to the post about finding good academic sources; the better sources you find, the easier it will be to write a great annotated bibliography and a great research paper.
I use this free worksheet to pull together all the information I need for an outstanding annotated bibliography.  |  https://thecafescholar.com

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. That just means that I may receive a small commission if you buy a product linked on this page.  It sure helps towards paying off those student loans! For more information, please see my disclosures page.

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What is the Difference Between a Primary Source and a Secondary Source?

What is the Difference Between a Primary Source and a Secondary Source?

What is the difference between a primary source and a secondary source? When should you use a primary source, or when should you use a secondary source? | https://thecafescholar.comThis post is part of “The Cafe Scholar’s Guide to Writing a Research Paper” series, which walks you through the process of writing awesome research papers step by step from start to finish. When you are done figuring out the difference between a primary source and a secondary source, be sure to check out the rest of the series!
Do you know what a primary source is?  If so, awesome! If not, you’re not alone.  When I was teaching a freshman class last semester, I realized many of my students didn’t know what I meant by “primary source” on their research papers.  This is really important for academic writing, so I thought I would give you a brief introduction to the difference between a primary source and a secondary source.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. That just means that I may receive a small commission if you buy a product linked on this page.  It sure helps towards paying off those student loans! For more information, please see my disclosures page.

What a Primary Source Isn’t

Do you know the difference between a primary and secondary source? Learn what a primary source isn't...and what a primary source IS. | https://thecafescholar.com

Some of my students thought that the primary source was the most important source in their paper or the source they were going to base most of their paper on, and the secondary sources were any other sources they planned to use.  That’s not what primary source or secondary source means, so I’m hoping this post will clear that up.  Whether a source is considered primary, secondary, or tertiary has nothing to do with how you will use it in your paper.  Instead, it has to do with how close that source is to the event or subject being studied.

What is a Primary Source?

A primary source is a source directly connected to the event that happened (or is happening).  For example, a letter or diary from the Civil War era is a primary source.  A photograph or piece of artwork would be a primary source, as would an interview or the writings of someone from that time period.  To go back to my American Civil War example, a collection of sermons from a preacher from that era would be a primary source.

Examples of Primary Sources from Different Fields

Are field notes a primary source or secondary source? | https://thecafescholar.com

If you are writing about science, math, economics or statistics, your field notes, data collected or a particular statistic would be a primary source.
If you are writing about literature or about an author, the literature would also be a primary source.  If I am writing a paper about the Hunger Games (yes, I did), I can’t get any closer to the subject than the books and movies themselves.  If I were to write a paper about Suzanne Collins, then the Hunger Games books would still be a primary source, since they are her writings.
If you are writing about art or an artist, the artwork itself would be considered a primary source.
If you are writing about religion, a particular scripture might be a primary source.

What is a Secondary Source?

A secondary source is a source written by a scholar based on a study of the primary source(s).  Secondary sources are very important because we don’t do scholarship in a vacuum; we want to understand what someone else has learned from a source.  Also, they can help us learn from primary sources we might not have access to, and bring together information from several primary sources and tie it together.

Examples of Secondary Sources from Different Disciplines

In science or education, a secondary source might bring together evidence from several research projects to come to a conclusion.
In literature, an analysis of the book, a book review, or biography of the author would be a secondary source.  (But an autobiography written by the author herself would be a…you guessed it, primary source!).
In art, a book, article, or review about the work of art or a biography of the artist would be a secondary source.
In biblical studies, a commentary or sermon on a scripture passage would be a secondary source.

What is a Tertiary Source?

Maybe you hadn't even heard of that one!  A tertiary source brings together information from multiple secondary sources to come to a conclusion.  The writer of the tertiary source isn’t accessing the primary source material; everything is coming secondhand, so when you read a tertiary source, you are getting it third hand.  Most lower level textbooks and encyclopedias fall into this category.  You can tell by looking at what the writer has cited.  Is she citing a combination of primary and secondary sources?  Then the article or book is a secondary source.  Is she citing only secondary sources?  Then the article is a tertiary source.

Can the Same Source be a Primary Source and a Secondary Source?

How do you know if a source is a primary source or secondary source? | https://thecafescholar.com

Yes, a source can be both primary and secondary, depending on the context, but not usually both at the same time.  It depends on how it is being used.  Here are a few examples:
Religious Studies: If you are writing a paper about the Gospel of John, a sermon on the Gospel of John from the 1950s is a secondary source; that sermon is talking about the primary source, which in this case would be the scripture itself. On the other hand, if you are writing a paper about religious views in the 1950s, a sermon from that time period would be a primary source, since it was written in a religious context during that time period for the purpose of teaching religion.
Literary History: If you are writing about Jane Austen, a review of one of her books might be a secondary source.  But if you are writing about how views of Jane Austen changed over time, that same review would be a primary source since it is a “real-time” depiction of someone’s view of Jane Austen.

In academic writing, you need to use a balance of primary and secondary sources. | https://thecafescholar.comWrite with a Balance of Primary Sources and Secondary Sources

When you wrote your first essays in elementary and middle school, most of your sources were tertiary: textbooks and encyclopedias.  You started to use some secondary sources, such as biographies, as well.  You might encounter some primary sources inside your textbooks, but you typically wouldn’t be expected to use them in an assignment. The only primary sources you might use would be in book reports, where the book you read would be your primary source.  (Also, no one calls it that in elementary school. ? ).
In high school, you were still using a combination of secondary sources and tertiary sources, but there would be more primary and secondary sources; the balance shifted.
In college and graduate level writing, the balance shifts again.  You should be using a combination of primary and secondary sources, with gradually more and more on the primary source side the further you go in your academic career.  You typically won’t use tertiary sources in academic writing at this point; you will use them to get a general idea of the topic and figure out which secondary sources to look into, but it will be the primary and secondary sources quoted and cited in your research.  On the other hand, you are pretty much always going to be using secondary sources.  As I mentioned above, we don’t do research in a vacuum; even at the most advanced level we always need to know what other scholars are saying about the topic.  And since we can’t focus on every single detail at once, secondary sources allow us to benefit from someone else’s research in a particular area.

One last thing.

I know I say this all the time (I think in every one of these research paper posts…), but when you are working on a research paper or project, you always want to check your professor’s requirements.  Some professors will require you to include a certain number or certain percentage of primary sources.  This will depend on the discipline and the level of the class.
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