“10 primary sources… 15 secondary sources… with 150 words describing each source.”
…Nineteen pages and 4,520 words later, I am submitting my assignment.
For the life of me, I fail to understand why, exactly, annotated bibliographies exist. Perhaps their entire raison d’être is to validate a student’s sources with the topic of their thesis and provide minor course corrections prior to their work and efforts being nullified by a big fat zero. If I had succumbed to my frustration with the assignment, the feedback would undoubtedly resemble the following:
“You proposed to do a study of the effectiveness and content of pre-World War Two training at Annapolis and the resulting successes and failures of this professional military education on the submarine campaign against the merchant and naval forces of Japan during the war… Yet you ended up wandering onto unrelated tangents for 13 pages and concluded ‘school sux’ in the middle of your last page. I want the time I wasted reading this babble back…”
Upon further consideration, however, I believe the larger issue is one of content versus quality. There is a stack of various books to my immediate left which constitute the hard copy portion of by bibliography. I can feel proud of having such an extensive personal library on the topic of submarine warfare at hand, and nothing will ever replace the wave of nostalgia and awe when the collection includes first and second editions, signed by the long-forgotten author and fragrant with the scent of old libraries. Yet, the idea of diligently reading every single book from cover to cover forces me to stare thoughtfully as I contemplate why such an action suddenly seems foreign to someone who has always loved to read.
What it boils down to, in my opinion, is the fact that we have progressively moved from reading to scanning. Clay Blair Jr.’s Silent Victory has been a constant companion over the last month, and I have progressively moved from writing brief notes with page numbers reflecting the source of key information to simply dog-earing pages to return to later for supporting evidence. My conviction in supporting my thesis is strong enough to provide sufficient motivation to press forward with my haphazard approach to research, but there is a deep current of contention and concern which is guiding the planning of this thesis with the goal of making historic observations relevant and viable to modern audiences. The material in Blair Jr’s book, much like Theodore Roscoe’s United States Submarine Operations in World War II reflect a much different approach to presenting material in that some of the language and ideas contained in these texts would offend and disturb the sensibilities of current American students. Given the contention of facts and data found almost everywhere one turns in American society, writing about one specific topic seems to be an inevitable invitation for unrelated discussion to ensue, and perhaps this is a byproduct of our inability to effectively and objectively read for content as opposed to scan for concept.
Returning to my initial irritation with my annotated bibliography, I suppose what I am suggesting is that there is simply no realistic way for 25 separate and thorough sources to be intellectually digested and processed in an accurate manner with the current trends of “temporary attention” allocated to collecting information. As it stands, however, I will keep trudging along with the hopes of not only producing a thesis worthy of discussion and consideration, but a product which honors and continues the interest in the process behind the history that men created.