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Geographies of Canada

Spring 2018


The Annotated Bibliography / Policy Brief



This course is organized around the following three major topics and themes:


Broader Themes:

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

White settler society and Aboriginal rights

Climate Change and the Arctic

Human/Environment interactions and responsibility

Bill C-62

Politics of immigration and citizenship in Canada


Your assignments for GGR202 will parallel this structure. You will be given the opportunity to do research and write an annotated bibliography and short policy brief on each of these three topics.  However, you will only be required to complete this assignment for the first topic and then one of the other two. In other words, after completing the first topic, you can choose between the 2nd and 3rd topics.


If you are unhappy with your performance on an earlier annotated bibliography / policy brief, you have the option of completing all three – the top two marks will be used in your final mark. **Please note that this option is only available to you if you completed the first assignment**


Regardless of which topic you are working on, the instructions and expectations for the assignments are the same. You are expected to produce an annotated bibliography and short policy brief for each assignment you complete.

            Please note that the assignment deadlines are firm for each topic:

                        Topic 1: Due Monday, Feb. 12th at 11:59pm

                        Topic 2: Due Monday, March 12th at 11:59pm

                        Topic 3: Due Monday, April 2nd at 11:59pm                                     


Step 1: Picking a focus

For each assignment, you are required to find a focus. This can be a specific policy or a current event – but it should be related to the broader theme of the section. The more specific you are able to be, the easier this assignment will be. For example, if the theme you were researching was the role of sports in the Canadian national identity, you could choose to focus on hockey as the Canadian national sport. However, this is a very broad topic. You would be better prepared to succeed if you were to examine something more specific – like examples of how hockey players are informally policed to maintain the white settler narrative of the Canadian nation. You are therefore encouraged to do some preliminary research to find specific topics, events, and policies related the theme you are investigating.

Step 2: The Annotated Bibliography


Once you have identified a specific topic, you will research this specific topic and report on the information you find in the form of an annotated bibliography.


What is an annotated bibliography?


An annotated bibliography gives an account of the research that has been done on a given topic. Like any bibliography, an annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of research sources. In addition to bibliographic data, an annotated bibliography provides a concise summary of each source and some assessment of its value or relevance. This last point is particularly important – identifying what is unique about a source and how it informs your understanding of the topic.

Selecting the sources:

The quality and usefulness of your bibliography will depend on your selection of sources. Define the scope of your research carefully so that you can make good judgments about what to include and exclude. Your research should attempt to be reasonably comprehensive within well-defined boundaries. Consider these questions to help you find appropriate limits for your research:

·       What problem am I investigating? What question(s) am I trying to pursue? This is not just about your main question, but also the supporting questions – how you are framing the debate you are investigating.

·       What kind of material am I looking for? (You will need at least one academic journal articles as well as articles from the popular press. You can also use government reports and policy statements if they are relevant.)

·       Am I finding essential studies on my topic? (Read footnotes in useful articles carefully to see what sources they use and why. Keep an eye out for studies that are referred to by several of your sources.)

Summarizing the argument of a source:

An annotation briefly restates the main argument of a source. An annotation of an academic source, for example, typically identifies its thesis (or research question, or hypothesis), its major methods of investigation, and its main conclusions. Keep in mind that identifying the argument of a source is a different task than describing or listing its contents. Rather than listing contents, an annotation should account for why the contents are there.

Identifying the value of a source:

An annotation also includes an assessment of what the source offers to your investigation into the topic. Does it offer a new perspective? Is it identifying or supporting a general trend within the literature? How would you use this source in making your own argument? In addressing your own questions? You should also include a statement or two assessing the credibility of the source – is it something you can believe in? Why or why not? (There is information available on the course’s libguide to help you with this assessment.)

Besides enlarging your knowledge about the topic, writing an annotated bibliography lets you gain and demonstrate skills in two areas

1.     information seeking: the ability to scan the literature efficiently, using manual or computerized methods, to identify a set of useful articles and books

2.     critical appraisal: the ability to apply principles of analysis to identify unbiased and valid studies.

adapted from:



What are the specific instructions for THIS annotated bibliography?

To complete this assignment, you will have to use library resources to find both mainstream media sources and academic journal articles related to your topic. You will need:

3 governmental or mainstream media sources: these can be online or print articles from newspaper, magazines, and other sources of popular media as well as governmental policy papers. When seeking these sources for your topic, you should strive to have as many different perspectives represented as you can. This will make it easier to see what is emphasized versus missing in each report. Note: depending on your particular topic, it is likely that you will find a lot of articles. It is recommended to find a way to narrow your focus – whether it is on a particular event, a particular place, or a particular period of time.

Note: To assess credibility for mainstream media sources, see the information and criteria available on the course’s libguide.


1 scholarly article: you must identify one peer-reviewed scholarly article (peer-reviewed means that the article has been reviewed by experts in the topic area to determine if the scholarship is rigorous and trustworthy). Note: you might not find many scholarly articles directly related to your topic. If you have a very recent topic, this is because the peer-review process takes years to complete so there is a delay in publication. It might also be that no one has written about the specific thing you are researching. That is ok. What you need to do is be creative – think about the themes in your topic and see if there has been research done on similar topics or events that you can apply to your own topic. The scholarly articles can help give you perspective on your topic, but you might have to work a little harder to make the connections.


Dr. Andrew Nicholson, the geography librarian, has compiled a list of useful links and instructions for research both mainstream media sources and scholarly articles. This information is provided on the libguide posted on the blackboard site for the course. If you have questions about how to do these searches, I highly recommend you contact Dr. Nicholson or another librarian for assistance.


Your annotation of each source should be approximately 5-6 sentences – be sure to include an assessment of the value of the article to you. Simply summarizing the article is not sufficient.






Step 3: The Policy Brief


Once you have completed your annotated bibliography, you will now make an argument in the form of a policy brief.


What is a Policy Brief?


The policy brief is a document which outlines the rationale for choosing a particular policy alternative or course of action in a current policy debate. It is commonly produced in response to a request directly from a decision-maker or within an organization that intends to advocate for the position detailed in the brief. Depending on the role of the writer or organization producing the document, the brief may only provide a targeted discussion of the current alternatives without arguing for a particular one (i.e. those who adopt the role of ‘objective’ researcher). On the other end of the scale, i.e. advocates, the brief may focus directly on providing an argument for the adoption of a particular alternative. Nevertheless for any case, as any policy debate is a market-place of competing ideas, the purpose of the policy brief is to convince the target audience of the urgency of the current problem and the need to adopt the preferred alternative or course of action outlined and therefore, serve as an impetus for action.

Adapted from: http://www.policy.hu/ipf/fel-pubs/samples/PolicyBrief-described.pdf


Steps to writing THIS policy brief:


First, select an organization or group on whose behalf you are writing this policy brief. (note: this can be a real organization or a hypothetical one, but in either case, you need to identify why this group/organization is interested in your topic area). Once you have chosen your organization, decide if you want to write as an objective researcher or an advocate (see the above description of a policy brief to clarify the difference between these roles).


Second, choose an audience for your policy brief. The most common audience for a policy brief is the decision-maker but, it is also not unusual to use the document to support broader advocacy initiatives targeting a wide but knowledgeable audience (e.g. decision makers, journalists, diplomats, administrators, researchers). As with all good marketing tools, the key to success is targeting the particular audience for your message.


Note: please use footnotes if you need to clarify to whom you are writing or on whose behalf you are writing.


Third, choose one of the following three geographic concepts to help frame your analysis (note that we will focus on each of these in turn, so we might not have gotten to them all in class yet, but you can still use them if you think they are useful):

Geographic Imaginaries: How do people’s perceptions of different geographic regions or areas inform their attitudes towards those areas? What are those perceptions based on? How can they be challenged?

Scalar analysis: How do understandings of your topic change based on the scale of analysis used? Does it matter if it is studied from a national, provincial, regional, or neighborhood level?

Boundary Making: How are boundaries made to keep people or things either in or out of that place? How do people use laws, infrastructure, language, and other tools to enforce spatial boundaries?


Note: if you have a different geographical concept or approach you would like to use, speak to your Teaching Assistant for approval and then include a footnote indicating who approved it.


Parts of your policy brief


1)    Title of the paper

The title aims to catch the attention of the reader and compel him/her to read on and so needs to be descriptive, punchy and relevant.


2)    Context and importance of the problem

The purpose of this element of the brief is to convince the target audience that a current and urgent problem exists which requires them to take action. The context and importance of the problem is both the introductory and first building block of the brief. As such, it usually includes the following:

– A clear statement of the problem or issue in focus.

– A short overview of the root causes of the problem

– A clear statement of why this issue matters which clearly establishes the current importance and policy relevance of the issue.

It is worth noting that the length of the problem description may vary considerably from brief to brief depending on the stage on the policy process in focus, e.g. there may be a need to have a much more extensive problem description for policy at the evaluation stage than for one at the option choosing stage.


3)    Critique of policy option(s)

The aim of this element is to detail shortcomings of the current approach or options being implemented and therefore, illustrate both the need for change and focus of where change needs to occur. In doing so, the critique of policy options usually includes the following:

– A short overview of the policy option(s) in focus

– An argument illustrating why and how the current or proposed approach is failing.


It is important for the sake of credibility to recognise all opinions in the debate of the issue.


4)    Policy recommendations

The aim of the policy recommendations element is to provide a detailed and convincing proposal of how the failings of the current policy approach need to changed. As such this is achieved by including;

– A breakdown of the specific practical steps or measures that need to be implemented

– Sometimes also includes a closing paragraph re-emphasising the importance of action.

Adapted from: http://www.policy.hu/ipf/fel-pubs/samples/PolicyBrief-described.pdf

You are expected to draw upon the research you did for the annotated bibliography. Therefore, you should be citing your sources (using APA format, in-text citations, and a list of references) wherever applicable. You should have a minimum of 4 sources cited in your policy brief – at least 1 of which is scholarly.


Note: Review sample policy briefs available on the course’s libguide for examples of how to present/format a policy brief. This is important as presentation is part of the rubric for this assignment.




Logistics for completing this assignment:


Title Page       


From: (organization on whose behalf you are writing)

To: (target audience)


Your Name

GGR202: Geographies of Canada

TA: Your TA’s name




Annotated Bibliography

Cite all of your articles and references using APA style citation (see libguide for description). List the articles alphabetically by author’s last name.

Annotate: after each citation, include a paragraph that both identifies the main thesis or question for the article as well as your assessment of its credibility and its value for your investigation.

·      4 sources (at least one of which is scholarly)

·      5-6 sentences annotation per source (no more than ½ page per annotation)


Policy Brief

·      3-4 pages, double spaced, 12 point font, regular margins

·      In-text citation required (reference page not necessary unless sources not in annotated bibliography are used.)

·      Headings are encouraged


Submit your completed assignment to both the regular Blackboard dropbox and the Turnitin dropbox on Blackboard by the following dates:

Topic 1: Due Monday, Feb. 12th at 11:59pm

                        Topic 2: Due Monday, March 12th at 11:59pm

                        Topic 3: Due Monday, April 2nd at 11:59pm 


Marking Rubric:

(Therse are the general guidelines the TA’s will use for marking)



A: Excellent

B: Good

C: Adequate

D: Marginal

F: Inadequate

Quality of Response to Task

Contains all required elements and sections; no errors in formatting; completes assignment exactly as required.

Contains most required elements and sections; few errors in formatting; completes assignment almost as required.

Contains some required elements and sections; some errors in formatting; completes assignment generally as required.

Contains few required elements and sections; many errors in formatting; significant parts of assignment incomplete or inappropriate.

Does not address question or task; fundamental errors in formatting; wholly mis-understands assignment.


Clearly and succinctly identifies the main arguments of the source. The unique contributions of this source to student’s understanding of the topic is clearly outlined. Critical assessment of perspective and contribution is provided.

Identifies the main arguments of the source, but tends towards description of content. The unique contributions of the source are acknowledged at least to the point of making it clear what it contributes to the literature selected.

Descriptive analysis of the source. Identifies key points but not clear regarding main argument or research question.

Why the student thinks the piece is interesting is included; however, the critical assessment of the source’s perspective or contribution is weak.

Insufficient analysis of the source’s main argument. Identifies one or two points, but not enough to show uniqueness of source. Insufficient or inconsistent descriptions of why sources are of interest and how they inform the student’s understanding of the topic.

No analysis of source – only brief comments about the articles. No assessment of value provided. Annotation is only description of article.

Quality of Thesis  / Argument

Insightful, original analysis; excellent use/understanding of geographic theory; policy brief fully controlled by precise, well-defined thesis.

Strong analysis that frequently goes beyond obvious or surface meanings; good use of geographic theory; thesis appropriate and central to the policy brief, but may lack some precision.

Simple analysis that at times goes beyond obvious or surface meanings; use of geographic theory adequate in most sections, but missing and/or incorrect in others; general thesis or controlling idea is evident but unclear.

Very little analysis; some use of geographic theory, but insufficient and/or incorrect in several ways; thesis is vague or not central to policy brief.

No analysis; use of theory absent or wholly incorrect; no discernible thesis.

Selection and Application of Evidence / Support

Fully supports all arguments with relevant evidence and well-developed, persuasive reasoning.


Supports most arguments with relevant evidence and clear, consistent reasoning.

Supports most arguments with limited, but adequate evidence and reasoning; essay contains too much description; some arguments unclear and/or unsupported.

Provides insufficient/ irrelevant evidence and/or poor reasoning to support several key arguments;

brief tends towards description or subjective opinion.

Fails entirely to support arguments with evidence or reasoning, and/or misrepresents evidence used to support arguments; brief is mostly unsupported opinion

Writing and Presentation

Writing is eloquent and clear; very few errors that compromise understanding; absence of biased or colloquial language; excellent diction and sentence structure; excellent presentation; no errors in source documentation.

Writing is clear; minor errors that do not seriously impede understanding; a few examples of biased or colloquial language; good diction and sentence structure; good presentation; few errors in source documentation.

Writing is competent; some errors but paper is generally understandable; some biased or colloquial language; some problems with diction or sentence structure; acceptable presentation, but some errors in places; some errors in source documentation.

Writing is not quite competent; major errors or numerous minor ones that impede understanding in places; many examples of biased or colloquial language; many problems with diction and sentence structure; poor presentation; many errors in source documentation.

Unacceptable writing; significant errors make parts of paper very difficult to understand; frequent use of inappropriate language; serious problems with diction and sentence structure; significant problems with presentation; fundamental errors in source documentation.




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