Bibliography Project

Draft, updated March 21, 2017


In pairs or groups of three students, you will compile a bibliography of books, articles, and unpublished dissertations on a subject chosen in consultation with your instructor. You will also write a collaborative bibliographical essay, in which you describe what is available, what the different interpretations are, and what accounts for these different interpretations. The length of the bibliography will depend on the subject. The accompanying bibliography essay will be some five to seven eight to twelve pages long, depending on the topic and team. (I will still accept essays up to twelve pages, since that was the original plan.)

Key deadlines

  • Get group and project approved by no later than March 21 in class (and no earlier than March 7).
  • Submit completed project electronically by May 5 (Friday), 10:00 p.m.
  • I also strongly encourage you to submit a preliminary bibliography several weeks in advance to ensure that your plans and my expectations are in accord.

Choosing a topic

Finding a topic that is neither too broad nor too narrow can be difficult. Figure out what interests you, identify some preliminary material, and then seek advice from your instructor.

Suggestions for identifying a topic

  • Talk with classmates and journal about the things you have found intersting so far.
  • What kinds of historical or other societal questions interest you outside of German history? Thinking about these can help lead you to a topic in German history.
  • Browse in German History in Documents and Images, which addresses core issues in German history.
  • Browse the bibliography in your textbook.

Getting approval

To avoid any misunderstandings, each group needs to get approval from the the instructor in writing, i.e., via email. Thus, if I say in class that a topic is good, you still need to email me this, including everyone else in the group in the correspondence. This applies even to proposals made on March 21 in class.

Sometimes, topics will evolve over time, departing somewhat from original plans. If this happens with your group’s project, consult with me to make sure I am on board with the change and to see if I have any advice. Here, too, we will want to create a written record by getting any new plans into email.

Finding and evaluating material

After getting approval, you will want to find and evaluate relevant scholarship and, if appropriate, primary sources. But first you should agree on how you plan to share information with other people in your team.

Collaborative tools

Many of you work and will find it difficult to meet on a regular basis. You might also find trying to collaborate via email creates extra work and maybe leads to lost information. One solution is to find a collaborative tool that each member of the team is comfortable with. Using Google Docs or Dropbox Paper, for instance, you can collect information for a preliminary bibliography on the same document online. You might also set up a shared folder on Dropbox, for example, to save copies of articles and book reviews you find, notes you write, etc.

Using the “track changes” and comments features of your word processor will also be important for working together.

Some of you might also find the bibliography tool Zotero useful, although it is probably overkill for this assignment, unless you already know it.

Finding material

  • The bibliography in our textbook offers an excellent starting point. So can the bibliographies of other standard surveys of modern Germany.
  • Follow the breadcrumbs you find, i.e., futher references in bibliographies and citations (endnotes or footnotes)
  • When you find something interesting, see what else that person has written.
  • Depending on the topic, your instructor might have some tips for you.
  • Not everything is available on Google or Wikipedia. You will also need to consult the following sources (and perhaps othere):
  • Library catalog
  • WRLC catalog (Washington Research Library Consortium)
  • Library of Congress catalog (use to usentify books, even if you can’t visit this library)
  • Worldcat catalog (use to identify books
  • Historical Abstracts (clunky but still essential for finding journal articles not on the very useful JSTOR; access both databases via the “Articles & more” tab on the library homepage)
  • ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (not all dissertations become books; do not overlook this often useful resource, which you can access on the library homepage)
  • Central European History, German History, and (to a lesser extent) German Studies Review , the most important English-language journals for German history (browse the last ten years of their tables of contents, which you will find via the library’s homepage)
  • If you identify a book or article, but it is not available in one of Mason’s libraries, try to get it via the WRLC. If it is not there, use Interlibrary Loan (ILL)
  • Don’t just look for specialized studies. You also need more general works so that you have a good idea of how your specific topic fits into the bigger picture.
  • Consult with classmates doing a project on a different topic in the same time period or on a related theme in a different time period.
  • New tip: If you think an important perspective is missing from the historiography, consider also looking to scholarship outside German history to help you ask questions and discuss methods.

How much material do you need?

The answer will depend on your topic. For some, it might be possible to assemble a comprehensive list. For others, it might be necessary to make choices, a proposition you should discuss with each other and with me to ensure you are using appropriate criteria.

You should also check in with me from time to time to discuss your progress and to make sure you are not forgetting to consider a particular aspect of your topic. This can be done in a group email, a group chat, or by appointment.

Evaluating the material you find

For each scholarly book or article you read, you need to gather information (including specific examples) on the following issues:

  • subject,
  • scope,
  • source base,
  • interpretation,
  • master narrative, and
  • relationship to other historiography.

Book reviews (from multiple journals) can help you learn to identify some of this information. Historiographical articles and articles that review multiple books at once can help you to contextualize the material too.

Putting it all together


Organize the bibliography into two sections, primary sources (if these are available for your particular topic) and secondary sources (the main focus of yourmefforts for this exercise). Organize each of these two sections alphabetically by author and formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style or the similarly conceived Turabian.

A useful reference is the Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide. Examples in it using hanging indentation are for the bibliography. The examples with numbers are for footnotes. For further details, including types of publications not covered in this quick guide, see chap. 14 of the manual itself, to which you have access on GMU’s network.

Short book reviews that you read for your own orientation do not need to go in this bibliography, unless such a review makes an important point that you wish to refer to in your essay. Article-length reviews amd historiographical essays do belong in this bibliography.

PDFs of journal articles and books should be treated as normal print publications, if are exact copies of the print publication. Other types of electronic resources will need special treatment, as outlined in Chicago.

For example bibliography entries, see chap. 14 of Chicago.


A bibliographical essay is different from a research paper in that it requires you to write about the historiography (and other relevant scholarship) on the topic you’ve chosen, not the topic itself. On the other hand, like a research paper, a bibliography essay requires analysis, evidence, and meaningful conclusions. Your bibliography essay should address the following questions:

What aspects of the topic have been studied? Based on what kinds of sources? Using what methods? With what conclusions? How do you account for the different interpretations? Which scholarship offers the most convincing accounts and why? What don’t we know? What kinds of work is still needed?

The essay should form a coherent, unified whole. Even if different members of the group write different parts of same essay, you must present it as a jointly authored product. How you divide the labor is up to you, of course, but you must all participate in the research and writing for a joint grade on the assignment.

Submitting your work

The essay must use a standard 12-point Times New Roman (or comparable) font and be double-spaced. For the bibliography itself, use single-spacing. Footnotes or endnotes should use a smaller font and be single-spaced.

Put everything together—bibliography and bibliographical essay—in a single file. Remember to include your names as well as a title for the essay.

Submit to me as an email attachment—with all members of the team in cc—and look for an email from me acknowledging receipt. Your work is not done until you have received confirmation of receipt from me.