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What is an annotated bibliography.
An annotated bibliography provides an overview or a brief account of the available research on a given topic. It is a list of research sources that takes the form of a citation for each source, followed by an annotation - a short paragraph sumarising and evaluating the source. An annotated bibliography may be a stand-alone assignment or a component of a larger assignment.
Purpose of an annotated bibliography
When set as an assignment, an annotated bibliography allows you to get acquainted with the material available on a particular topic.
Depending on your specific assignment, an annotated bibliography might:
- review the literature of a particular subject;
- demonstrate the quality and depth of reading that you have done;
- exemplify the scope of sources available—such as journals, books, web sites and magazine articles;
- highlight sources that may be of interest to other readers and researchers;
- explore and organise sources for further research.
What does an annotated bibliography look like?
Each entry in an annotated biliography has two components:
- a bibliographic citation followed by
- a short paragraph (an annotation) that includes concise descriptions and evaluations of each source.
The annotation usually contains a brief summary of content and a short analysis or evaluation. Depending on your assignment you may be asked to summarise, reflect on, critique, evaluate or analyse each source. While an annotation can be as brief as one sentence, a paragraph is more usual. An example is provided below.
As with a normal reference list or bibliography, an annotated bibliography is usually arranged alphabetically according to the author’s last name.
An annotated bibliography summary should be about 100 - 200 words per citation—check with your lecturer/tutor as this may vary between faculties and assessments. Please also check with your lecturer about the elements each annotation should include.
Steps to writing an annotated bibliography
- Choose your sources - locate and record citations to sources of research that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic.
- Review the items that you’ve collected in your search.
- Write the citation using the correct style.
- Write the annotation.
Questions to consider when selecting sources
The sources for your annotated bibliography should be carefully selected. Start by reading abstracts or skimming to help you identify and select relevant sources. Also keep in mind that, while annotated bibliographies are often ‘stand alone’ assignments, they can also be preliminary research about a particular topic or issue, and further research or a longer literature review may follow. Try to choose sources which together will present a comprehensive review of the topic.
Keep the following questions in mind to help clarify your choices
- What topic/ problem am I investigating?
- What question(s) am I exploring? (Identify the aim of your literature research).
- What kind of material am I looking at and why? Am I looking for journal articles, reports, policies or primary data?
- Am I being judicious in my selection of sources? Does each one relate to my research topic and assignment requirements?
- Have I selected a range of sources? Choose those sources that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic
- What are the essential or key works about my topic? Am I finding them? Are the sources valuable or often referred to in other sources?
Surveying the sources
Take notes on your selected texts as you read. Pay attention to:
- the author’s theoretical approach.
- which parts of the topic are covered.
- main points or findings on the topic.
- the author’s position or argument.
Evaluate and ask questions as you read
Record evaluations in your notes and consider:
- How, and how effectively, does this source address the topic?
- Does it cover the topic thoroughly or only one aspect of it?
- Do the research methods seem appropriate?
- Does the argument seem reasonable?
- Where does it stand in relation to other studies? Agree with or contradict?
How should I write the annotations?
- Each annotation should be concise. Do not write too much—annotations should not extend beyond one paragraph (unless assignment guidelines say otherwise).
- The summary should be a brief outline of argument(s) and main ideas. Only mention details that are significant or relevant, and only when necessary.
- Any information apparent in the title of thesourcel can be omitted from the annotation.
- Background materials and references to previous work by the same author usually are not included. As you are addressing one text at a time, there is no need to cross reference or use in-text citations to support your annotation.
- Find out what referencing style you need to use for the bibliographic citations, and use it consistently.
- In-text citations would usually only be necessary for quotations or to draw attention to information from specific pages.
- Unless otherwise stipulated, you should write in full sentences using academic vocabulary.
Contents of an annotated bibliography
An annotation may contain all or part of the following elements depending on the word limit and the content of the sources you are examining.
- Provide the full bibliographic citation.
- Indicate the background of the author(s).
- Indicate the content or scope of the text.
- Outline the main argument.
- Indicate the intended audience.
- Identify the research methods if applicable.
- Identify any conclusions made by the author/s.
- Discuss the reliability of the text.
- Highlight any special features of the text that were unique or helpful e.g. charts, graphs etc.
- Discuss the relevance or usefulness of the text for your research.
- Point out in what way the text relates to themes or concepts in your course.
- State the strengths and limitations of the text.
- Present your view or reaction to the text.
The citation goes first and is followed by the annotation. Make sure that you follow your faculty’s preferred citation style. The summary needs to be concise. Please note the following example is entirely fictitious.
In the sample annotation below, each element is numbered (see Key).
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This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.
A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).
An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation. Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following.
For more help, see our handout on paraphrasing sources.
For more help, see our handouts on evaluating resources .
- Reflect : Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?
Your annotated bibliography may include some of these, all of these, or even others. If you're doing this for a class, you should get specific guidelines from your instructor.
Why should I write an annotated bibliography?
To learn about your topic : Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information. At the professional level, annotated bibliographies allow you to see what has been done in the literature and where your own research or scholarship can fit. To help you formulate a thesis: Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So, a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.
To help other researchers : Extensive and scholarly annotated bibliographies are sometimes published. They provide a comprehensive overview of everything important that has been and is being said about that topic. You may not ever get your annotated bibliography published, but as a researcher, you might want to look for one that has been published about your topic.
The format of an annotated bibliography can vary, so if you're doing one for a class, it's important to ask for specific guidelines.
The bibliographic information : Generally, though, the bibliographic information of the source (the title, author, publisher, date, etc.) is written in either MLA or APA format. For more help with formatting, see our MLA handout . For APA, go here: APA handout .
The annotations: The annotations for each source are written in paragraph form. The lengths of the annotations can vary significantly from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages. The length will depend on the purpose. If you're just writing summaries of your sources, the annotations may not be very long. However, if you are writing an extensive analysis of each source, you'll need more space.
You can focus your annotations for your own needs. A few sentences of general summary followed by several sentences of how you can fit the work into your larger paper or project can serve you well when you go to draft.
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How to write an annotated bibliography
What is an annotated bibliography.
An annotated bibliography or annotated bib is a bibliography (a list of books or other works) that includes descriptive and evaluative comments about the sources cited in your paper. These comments are also known as annotations .
How do I format my annotated bibliography?
An annotated bibliography entry consists of two components: the Citation and the Annotation .
The citation should be formatted in the bibliographic style that your professor has requested for the assignment. Some common citation styles include APA , MLA , and Chicago . For more information, see the Style Guides page.
Generally, an annotation is approximately 100-300 words in length (one paragraph). However, your professor may have different expectations so it is recommended that you clarify the assignment guidelines.
An annotation may include the following information:
- A brief summary of the source
- The source’s strengths and weaknesses
- Its conclusions
- Why the source is relevant in your field of study
- Its relationships to other studies in the field
- An evaluation of the research methodology (if applicable)
- Information about the author’s background
- Your personal conclusions about the source
MLA style format (8th ed.)
Hanging Indents are required for citations in the bibliography, as shown below. That is, the first line of the citation starts at the left margin, and subsequent lines are indented 4 spaces. The bibliography is double-spaced, both within the citation and between them. The annotation appends the entry unless complete sentences are used, then a line space is added and the annotation begins with a paragraph indent, as shown in the example below.
Lozier, Jeffrey D., et al. "Predicting the Distribution of Sasquatch in Western North America: Anything Goes with Ecological Niche Modelling." Journal of Biogeography , vol. 36, no.9, 2009, pp. 1623-1627. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40305930. Accessed 14 June 2016. This paper critiques the use of Ecological Niche Models (ENM) and species distribution by performing a tongue-in-cheek examination of the distribution of the fictional Sasquatch, based on reports from an online Bigfoot archive.Lozier's paper powerfully demonstrates the issues faced by ENM, when reports come from non-specialists, and highlights key problems with sourcing data from unmediated online environments. The author neglects to compare the reliability of the many wildlife databases with the single Bigfoot database, as well as other key issues; however in closing, the paper briefly mentions that many issues lie outside the scope of the short article. Lozier's paper advises professionals in fields using ENM to carefully assess the source of the data on which the model is based and concludes that the distribution of rare species in particular is often over-reported to misidentification.
APA style format (7th ed.)
Refer to Section 9.51, p. 307 and Figure 9.3, p. 308 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed. [ print ] for detailed information on annotated bibliographies.
The following are general guidelines. Check with your instructor for
References follow the same alphabetical order as entries in a reference list [Section 9.43-9.44, p. 303]. The annotation is a new paragraph below its reference entry and follows block quotation format [Section 8.27, pp. 272-273]. Should the annotation have multiple paragraphs, the first line of the second and subsequent paragraphs are indented an additional 0.5in.
D’Elia, G., Jorgensen, C., Woelfel, J., & Rodger, E. J. (2002). The impact of the Internet on public library use: An analysis of the current consumer market for library and Internet services. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 53 (10), 808-820. https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.10102 In this study, the researchers examined if the Internet had affected public library usage in the United States. This study is distinct because its researchers surveyed library nonusers as well as users. The major finding was that 75.2% of people who used the Internet also used the public library. However, the researchers surveyed only 3000 individuals in a population of millions; therefore, these results may not be statistically significant. However, this study is relevant because it provides future researchers with a methodology for determining the impact of the Internet on public library usage.
Writing an annotated bibliography From Concordia University
How to prepare an annotated bibliography From Cornell University
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Annotated bibliographies From The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: The Annotated Bibliography
- The Annotated Bibliography
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Explanation, Process, Directions, and Examples
What is an annotated bibliography.
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.
Annotations vs. Abstracts
Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they may describe the author's point of view, authority, or clarity and appropriateness of expression.
Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.
First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.
Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.
Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.
Critically Appraising the Book, Article, or Document
For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, see How to Critically Analyze Information Sources . For information on the author's background and views, ask at the reference desk for help finding appropriate biographical reference materials and book review sources.
Choosing the Correct Citation Style
Check with your instructor to find out which style is preferred for your class. Online citation guides for both the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) styles are linked from the Library's Citation Management page .
Sample Annotated Bibliography Entries
The following example uses APA style ( Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , 7th edition, 2019) for the journal citation:
Waite, L., Goldschneider, F., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51 (4), 541-554. The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.
This example uses MLA style ( MLA Handbook , 9th edition, 2021) for the journal citation. For additional annotation guidance from MLA, see 5.132: Annotated Bibliographies .
Waite, Linda J., et al. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review, vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 541-554. The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.
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What is an annotated bibliography?
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for books, articles, and other resources that you have consulted for your paper. Each citation is followed by short paragraph that summarizes and evaluates the source.
The purpose of writing an annotated bibliography is to collect and summarize articles that relate to your topic, to learn about the existing research in your area of interest, and to help you formulate a thesis by reading the perspectives of other scholars.
How to create an annotated bibliography
To write an annotated bibliography,
- Keeping your research question(s) in mind, choose a few keywords that will serve as search terms.
- Browse the library's catalog or Search Discovery using your keywords.
- After you find sources related to your project, briefly read through the texts to determine which are the most relevant and helpful for answering your research question(s).
- Once you decide which sources you will include in your annotated bibliography, cite them using MLA format.
- Below each citation, write an annotation of the source.
Each annotation should achieve the following:
- Summarize of the source: What are the main arguments or ideas presented in the article or book?
- Evaluate of the text: What is the goal of the source? Is the information reliable?
- Reflect on its relevance to your paper: How can this source fit into your research? Was this source helpful to you? How can it help shape your argument? Has the source changed your perspective on your topic?
Willen, Gerald, editor. A Casebook on Henry James's The Turn of the Screw . Crowell, 1960.
Gerald Willen’s compilation consists of sixteen critical articles about Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw , including Henry James’s preface to The Aspern Papers . The book provides articles that present different viewpoints about The Turn of the Screw . The book also includes major articles by Edmund Wilson and Edna Kenton, which were two of the first critical studies produced about the novella. The articles address The Turn of the Screw from a psychological approach, the roles of certain characters, Henry’s James’s craft, and themes in the novella. The critics in this book present various arguments, which will be valuable to someone deciding on an augment for his or her paper or someone who is looking for counterarguments. This source will be useful to someone who is interested in reading multiple critical articles and getting an overview of the controversy around The Turn of the Screw .
How to write a research summary
A research summary typically includes the following:
- a list of the most helpful sources you have consulted
- a brief background on the articles and authors
- a description of similarities and differences between the selected sources
- a reflection on most significant themes you came across through your research and how they connect to or advance your argument
- an explanation of how your research has affected your perspective on your topic
- Example Annotated Bibliography
Attached is an example of a properly formatted annotated bibliography. Consult your professor's assignment instructions for specific details.
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What is An Annotated Bibliography?
An annotated bibliography is a list of sources (books, articles, websites, etc.) with short paragraph about each source. An annotated bibliography is sometimes a useful step before drafting a research paper, or it can stand alone as an overview of the research available on a topic.
Each source in the annotated bibliography has a citation - the information a reader needs to find the original source, in a consistent format to make that easier. These consistent formats are called citation styles. The most common citation styles are MLA (Modern Language Association) for humanities, and APA (American Psychological Association) for social sciences.
Annotations are about 4 to 6 sentences long (roughly 150 words), and address:
- Main focus or purpose of the work
- Usefulness or relevance to your research topic
- Special features of the work that were unique or helpful
- Background and credibility of the author
- Conclusions or observations reached by the author
- Conclusions or observations reached by you
Annotations versus Abstracts
Many scholarly articles start with an abstract, which is the author's summary of the article to help you decide whether you should read the entire article. This abstract is not the same thing as an annotation. The annotation needs to be in your own words, to explain the relevance of the source to your particular assignment or research question.
Annotated Bibliography video
MLA 9th Annotated Bibliography Examples
Ontiveros, Randy J. In the Spirit of a New People: The Cultural Politics of the Chicano Movement . New York UP, 2014.
This book analyzes the journalism, visual arts, theater, and novels of the Chicano movement from 1960 to the present as articulations of personal and collective values. Chapter 3 grounds the theater of El Teatro Campesino in the labor and immigrant organizing of the period, while Chapter 4 situates Sandra Cisneros’s novel Caramelo in the struggles of Chicana feminists to be heard in the traditional and nationalist elements of the Chicano movement. Ontiveros provides a powerful and illuminating historical context for the literary and political texts of the movement.
Alvarez, Nadia, and Jack Mearns. “The benefits of writing and performing in the spoken word poetry community.” The Arts in Psychotherapy , vol. 41, no. 3, July 2014, pp. 263-268. ScienceDirect , https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2014.03.004 .
Spoken word poetry is distinctive because it is written to be performed out loud, in person, by the poet. The ten poets interviewed by these authors describe “a reciprocal relationship between the audience and the poet” created by that practice of performance. To build community, spoken word poets keep metaphor and diction relatively simple and accessible. Richness is instead built through fragmented stories that coalesce into emotional narratives about personal and community concerns. This understanding of poets’ intentions illuminates their recorded performances.
*Note, citations have a .5 hanging indent and the annotations have a 1 inch indent.
- MLA 9th Sample Annotated Bibliography
MLA 8th Annotated Bibliography Examples
Ontiveros, Randy J. In the Spirit of a New People: The Cultural Politics of the Chicano Movement . New York UP, 2014. This book analyzes the journalism, visual arts, theater, and novels of the Chicano movement from 1960 to the present as articulations of personal and collective values. Chapter 3 grounds the theater of El Teatro Campesino in the labor and immigrant organizing of the period, while Chapter 4 situates Sandra Cisneros’s novel Caramelo in the struggles of Chicana feminists to be heard in the traditional and nationalist elements of the Chicano movement. Ontiveros provides a powerful and illuminating historical context for the literary and political texts of the movement.
Alvarez, Nadia, and Jack Mearns. “The benefits of writing and performing in the spoken word poetry community.” The Arts in Psychotherapy , vol. 41, no. 3, July 2014, pp. 263-268. ScienceDirect , doi:10.1016/j.aip.2014.03.004 . Spoken word poetry is distinctive because it is written to be performed out loud, in person, by the poet. The ten poets interviewed by these authors describe “a reciprocal relationship between the audience and the poet” created by that practice of performance. To build community, spoken word poets keep metaphor and diction relatively simple and accessible. Richness is instead built through fragmented stories that coalesce into emotional narratives about personal and community concerns. This understanding of poets’ intentions illuminates their recorded performances.
- MLA 8th Sample Annotated Bibliography
APA 7th Annotated Bibliography Examples
Alvarez, N. & Mearns, J. (2014). The benefits of writing and performing in the spoken word poetry community. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 41 (3), 263-268. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2014.03.004 Prior research has shown narrative writing to help with making meaning out of trauma. This article uses grounded theory to analyze semi-structured interviews with ten spoken word poets. Because spoken word poetry is performed live, it creates personal and community connections that enhance the emotional development and resolution offered by the practice of writing. The findings are limited by the small, nonrandom sample (all the participants were from the same community).
- APA 7th Sample Annotated Bibliography
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A bibliography is usually thought of as an alphabetical listing of books at the end of a written work (book, book chapter, or article), to which the author referred during the research and writing process. In addition to books, bibliographies can include sources such as articles, reports, interviews, or even non-print resources like Web sites, video or audio recordings. Because they may include such varied resources, bibliographies are also referred to as 'references', 'works cited' or 'works consulted' (the latter can include those titles that merely contributed to research, but were not specifically cited in text). The standard bibliography details the citation information of the consulted sources: author(s), date of publication, title, and publisher's name and location (and for articles: journal title, volume, issue and page numbers). The primary function of bibliographic citations is to assist the reader in finding the sources used in the writing of a work.
To these basic citations, the annotated bibliography adds descriptive and evaluative comments (i.e., an annotation ), assessing the nature and value of the cited works. The addition of commentary provides the future reader or researcher essential critical information and a foundation for further research.
While an annotation can be as short as one sentence, the average entry in an annotated bibliography consists of a work's citation information followed by a short paragraph of three to six sentences, roughly 150 words in length. Similar to the literature review except for the shorter length of its entries, the annotated bibliography is compiled by:
- Considering scope: what types of sources (books, articles, primary documents, Web sites, non-print materials) will be included? how many (a sampling or a comprehensive list)? (Your instructor may set these guidelines)
- Conducting a search for the sources and retrieving them
- Evaluating retrieved sources by reading them and noting your findings and impressions
- Once a final group of sources has been selected, giving full citation data (according to the bibliographic style [e.g., APA, Chicago, MLA] prescribed by your instructor) and writing an annotation for each source; do not list a source more than once
Annotations begin on the line following the citation data and may be composed with complete sentences or as verb phrases (the cited work being understood as the subject)—again at the discretion of the instructor. The annotation should include most, if not all, of the following:
- Explanation of the main purpose and scope of the cited work
- Brief description of the work's format and content
- Theoretical basis and currency of the author's argument
- Author's intellectual/academic credentials
- Work's intended audience
- Value and significance of the work as a contribution to the subject under consideration
- Possible shortcomings or bias in the work
- Any significant special features of the work (e.g., glossary, appendices, particularly good index)
- Your own brief impression of the work
Although these are many of the same features included in a literature review, the emphasis of bibliographic annotation should be on brevity.
Not to be confused with the abstract —which merely gives a summary of the main points of a work—the annotated bibliography always describes and often evaluates those points. Whether an annotated bibliography concludes an article or book—or is even itself a comprehensive, book-length listing of sources—its purposes are the same:
- To illustrate the scope and quality of one's own research
- To review the literature published on a particular topic
- To provide the reader/researcher with supplementary, illustrative or alternative sources
- To allow the reader to see if a particular source was consulted
- To provide examples of the type of resources available on a given topic
- To place original research in a historical context
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The land on which we gather is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.
The land acknowledgement used at UC Santa Cruz was developed in partnership with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band Chairman and the Amah Mutsun Relearning Program at the UCSC Arboretum .
Writing an Annotated Bibliography
What is an annotated bibliography.
A bibliography is a list of works on a subject that gives complete publication information and is formatted according to one of several documentation styles (MLA, APA, etc.). An annotated bibliography gives for each citation some commentary from the person who has compiled the list of works.
The standard format is to give each citation followed by its annotation. The arrangement is generally alphabetical order by author's last name. Long annotated bibliographies are often subdivided into sections with subheadings.
Annotated bibliographies are very useful to organize the research for a project and are a very common type of assignment. An annotated bibliography describes the field of research on a topic and should include sources that reflect the range of approaches to the subject. The annotations tend to do one or both of two things:
Description: a descriptive annotation provides a brief overview of the text.
This can include:
- a description of the contents and a statement of the main argument (i.e., what is the book about?)
- a summary of the main points
- a quotation or two to illustrate the style, tone, treatment of the subject
Evaluation: a critical annotation includes an analysis of the work. It implies an answer to the question: "Why am I including this source in my bibliography?"
Some useful points to consider are:
- the strengths and weaknesses of the text
- its accuracy, currency, and/or completeness
- the intended audience, the level of difficulty
- the qualifications and authority of the author and publisher
- the usefulness of the text for your research project or for further study
- the place of this text in the field of research covered in your bibliography
Most annotated bibliographies include a combination of descriptive and evaluative comments.
The key to writing a good annotation is to consider who will use it. If it is for someone else, what will your reader need to know in order to decide whether or not to read the text for him/herself? If it is for you, how can you sum up the work so that later you will remember your ideas about it? Be brief, clear, and succinct to convey the maximum useful information in your annotation.
Annotations can vary in length from very brief (a sentence or less) to very detailed (a page or more), but the average length of annotations is around 4-5 sentences or 150 words. The length is related to the purpose and intended audience of the annotated bibliography. Your annotations should be written in complete sentences or brief paragraphs.
Annotated bibliographies are useful for:
- Active Reading: Annotations make you think carefully about what you are reading: can you sum up an article or a book in a few sentences and state why the source is or isn't useful to your project?
- Keeping Track: Annotations can form the basis of a research bibliography for a large project, tracking what you've been reading, which sources you’ve found useful and why.
- Developing Your Ideas: Annotations can help you focus your own ideas on a subject through critically analyzing and articulating your ideas about other treatments of the subject.
- Surveying the Field: Annotations give an overview of a subject for your reader, showing the range of ideas, viewpoints, what has been "done" on this topic so far, and revealing what has not yet been examined in the literature.
Remember: Always check with your professor for the purpose, format and length requirements of any assignment, including an annotated bibliography, before completing it and handing it in.
Example #1a: Descriptive annotation
A descriptive annotation gives a brief summary of the main points and features of the work, without evaluating it. Note : The following two examples are in APA format.
London, H. (1982). Five myths of the television age. Television quarterly, 10, 1, 81-89.
Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: "seeing is believing"; "a picture is worth a thousand words"; and "satisfaction is its own reward." London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He doesn't refer to any previous works on the topic. London's style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader.
Example #1b: Critical Annotation
In addition to what a descriptive annotation should include, a critical annotation evaluates the usefulness of the work, gives a sense of its strengths and weaknesses, and may compare it to other works on similar topics. In this example, the words in bold indicate what has been added to the annotation above to make it a critcal annotation.
Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: "seeing is believing"; "a picture is worth a thousand words"; and "satisfaction is its own reward." London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He doesn't refer to any previous works on the topic; however, for a different point of view, one should refer to Joseph Patterson's "Television is Truth" (cited below). London's style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly illustrates London's points, but does not explore their implications, leaving the reader with many unanswered questions.
Examples 1a and 1b reproduced with permission from: Sexty, S. (n.d.). "How to write annotated bibliographies." Retrieved from https://www.library.mun.ca/researchtools/guides/writing/annotated_bibl/
Example #2a: Descriptive Annotation
Here is another pair of examples demonstrating the difference between descriptive and critical annotations. The words in bold indicate what has been added to make the second example a critical annotation. These two examples use MLA style.
Summers, Montague. The Vampire, His Kith and Kin. Dutton, 1929.
"The first serious study in English of the Vampire, and kindred traditions from a general, as well as from a theological and philosophical point of view." Concludes that "it is hard to believe that a phenomenon which has so complete a hold over nations both old and young, in all parts of the world, at all times of history, has not some underlying and terrible truth however rare this may be in its more remarkable manifestations." The study covers appearance, characteristics, causes for, feeding habits of, and precautions to be taken against. Includes case histories, ancient accounts, an anthropological-type survey of various nations, asides on premature burial, necrophilia, and various perverse and antisocial acts. Contains a chapter on the vampire in literature and a bibliography of both true and fictitious vampires. A fascinating account which proves the old adage about truth and fiction.
Example #2b: Critical Annotation
"The first serious study in English of the Vampire, and kindred traditions from a general, as well as from a theological and philosophical point of view." Concludes that "it is hard to believe that a phenomenon which has so complete a hold over nations both old and young, in all parts of the world, at all times of history, has not some underlying and terrible truth however rare this may be in its more remarkable manifestations." The study covers appearance, characteristics, causes for, feeding habits of, and precautions to be taken against. Includes case histories, ancient accounts, an anthropological-type survey of various nations, asides on premature burial, necrophilia, and various perverse and antisocial acts. Contains a chapter on the vampire in literature and a bibliography of both true and fictitious vampires. Although useful as a source for broad historical background, this work does not fully address the issue of the vampire's cultural significance. For a review of recent cultural studies work on the figure of the vampire that argues that its current popularity, with both the cultures that represent and the post-modern critics who study it, resides in the vampire’s representation of “racial and sexual mixing,” see Shannon Winnubst, cited below.
Example 2 adapted from McNutt, Dan J. The Eighteenth-Century Gothic Novel: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism and Selected Texts. Garland, 1975, pp. 61-62.
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An annotated bibliography provides an overview or a brief account of the available research on a given topic. It is a list of research
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