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Chronological Annotated Bibliography Using Dipity

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Annotated Bibliographic Timeline of The UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident
Image Credit: 

Screen shot of sample bibliography created on Dipity.

Brief Assignment Overview: 

Using the free digital timeline website, Dipity, students can organize and annotate their sources chronologically.  This enables students to visualize the sequence of events and better address how particular texts interact with or talk past each other.

Type of Assignment: 
Assignment Length: 
Pedagogical Goals - Literature: 
Additional Pedagogical Goals: 

The assignment is designed to help students with their research, summary, and citation skills, as well as familiarize them with a particular digital environment.

Required Materials: 

Students will need Internet access and a computer.  They will also need to create a free account with Dipity - which will allow them to make up to three time lines.

Timeline for Optimal Use: 
Full Assignment Description: 

This particular assignment was part of a larger unit in which students were asked to map out the life of an Internet meme of their choosing.  To prepare for the essay they would be writing, I had them create an annotated bibliography of at least five iterations of their meme.  Using Dipity for this assignment helped students to organize their sources chronologically and therefore visualize how the various iterations of the meme evolved.  They were expected to include an image with each annotation, a paragraph describing the source, its argument, its author, and its "publication" venue.  Dipity is useful in that it allows students to compile multimedia materials related to their topic, and it also provides multiple viewing modes through which to access the material. 

Here is a student example (graciously offered by one of my students).  Notice that you have several viewing options in the upper left-hand corner, and you can adjust the scale of the timeline to see more events or zoom in on particular events.

Suggestions for Instructor Preparation: 

I found it was particularly helpful to create a mock-up of the assignment to model for the students.  I would point out that the Dipity site can run somewhat slowly at times - meaning that the creation process and/or loading the embedded timeline can sometimes take a while. The site is fairly intuitive, so it is not necessary to spend time demonstrating it in class.  My students did not seem to have much trouble figuring it out on their own.  Just in terms of annotated bibliography assignments in general, a lot of students seem to have a hard time grasping how robust their annotations should be.  So I recommend spending a fair bit of time explaining that one or two sentences is not sufficient for generating a useful source annotation.

Additionally, the Dipity format doesn't really lend itself to including a "proper" citation, so you may want to consider how you want students to provide official citations (beyond just the links in each "event" entry). I organize my courses using a PBWorks wiki, so I had my students embed the timeline on a wiki page and then provide citations below it.  You could just as easily have students e-mail you links to their time lines and provide their citations in a separate Word document.

Instructions For Students: 

You will create an annotated bibliography with (at least) 5 entries related to a particular meme (or online version of a cultural idea/event/issue) that you want to investigate. One of the entries will be for the “original” iteration of the meme, and the other entries will be for texts that deal with the same idea in different ways. It will be important, therefore, to choose texts that are clearly related but different enough that you can talk about the diverse ways the idea manifested across media and publication venues. Ultimately, you will choose at least three of these texts to write about in essay one, Mapping a Meme.

Below is an example of an "annotation" - it includes a full bibliographic citation (formatted in MLA style) and a paragraph offering a brief summary of this book’s argument. If I were annotating an article, I would do the same thing. For a video or visual text, I would offer a brief description of the text’s elements or storyline and summary of its message.

Aristotle. Rhetoric. Trans. W. Rhys Roberts. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984. Print.

  • Aristotle defines “rhetoric” as not merely the art of figures of speech, but as the ability to see available means of persuasion, focusing on types public speaking.  Here, his emphasis is on the external effects of speech in terms of political implications and audience response (i.e. the public ends of oratory).  For Aristotle, public speech consists of three vital elements: the arguments a speaker uses, the character of the speaker, and the disposition of the audience.  He finds ethical appeals to be the “controlling factor” in a speech, and explains that these consist of good sense, goodwill, and good character.  

For your assignment, after your provide a brief summary, make some sort of assessment of your source and offer some criticisms. Is your source scholarly, popular, or perhaps some of both? What does its purpose seem to be? Is it current? Is the research (if here is any) biased or objective? Why? Are the facts well documented? Who is the author? Is s/he qualified in this subject?

After summarizing and assessing, you can now reflect on this source. How does it fit into your research? Is this a helpful resource? What are the main similarities and differences between this and the “original” iteration? How well do you think you can connect it to other sources you might use in essay 1?

For each source, be sure to include an image and a link to the original source.  When you are finished, copy and paste the embed code into a wiki page in your student folder.  Be sure to set your timeline's viewing permissions to "public" or else I will not be able to see/evaluate it.

Evaluation Suggestions: 

I used the Learning Record in this class, so my evaluative comments were largely based on the students' progress.  However, here is the rubric I used:

[  ]  The sources’ main arguments are made clear at the beginning of the annotation

[  ]  Thorough

[  ]  Accurate 

[  ]  Supported with quotes and paraphrase

[  ]  Annotations are well-organized and follow similar organizational patterns

[  ]  Writing relatively free from grammatical error

[  ]  Quotes are properly framed

Notes on Reception, Execution, etc.: 

On the whole, my students seemed to do well with the assignment and appreciated the departure from a traditional writing assignment.  They had trouble in terms of writing robust enough annotations, but I suspect that if I spent more time explaining my expectations this would be less of a problem.

Course Description: 

I used this exercise in my intermediate writing course (The Rhetoric of Stand Up Comedy). This course examines how comedians use humor to advocate positions in public controversies, to construct notions of group identity, and to criticize public figures – essentially, how they use humor to persuade. If laughter is a sign of persuasion (a question the course explores), students think through why audiences do or don’t laugh, are or are not persuaded by a text. Students think and write critically about what makes comic performances compelling, focusing closely on the relationship between performers and their audiences. They track how the purpose and message of texts changes as jokes move across media and venue in the digital age, looking at a wide range of sources - from comedy albums to HBO specials, from YouTube to Twitter.

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