What is an annotated bibliography?
What is the purpose of an annotated bibliography?
Organization of an annotated bibliography
Annotations vs. Abstracts
Elements of an annotation
Structure of an annotation
Examples of an annotated bibliograhy entry
Links to annotated bibliographies on the web
Examples of book-length annotated bibliographies at Scribner Library
What Is an Annotated Bibliography?
An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (may be any variety of materials, books, documents, videos, articles, web sites, CD-ROMs, etc.) with an accompanying paragraph that describes, explains, and/or evaluates each entry in terms of quality, authority, and relevance.
What Is the Purpose of an Annotated Bibliography?
An annotated bibliography may serve a number of purposes, including but not limited to:
A review of the literature on a particular subject
Illustrate the quality of research that you have done
Provide examples of the types of sources available
Describe other items on a topic that may be of interest to the reader
Explore the subject for further research
The annotated bibliography may be selective or comprehensive in its coverage. A selective annotated bibliography includes just those items that are best for the topic while an exhaustive annotated bibliography attempts to identify all that is available on a subject.
Organization of an Annotated Bibliography
The organization of the annotated bibliography, if not prescribed by faculty instructions, may be one of various methods, including but not limited to:
Chronological: either by date of publication or by period of subject matter (century, era, decade, event, year)
By format (articles, books, government documents, media, web pages, etc.)
Annotations vs. Abstracts
Annotations in an annotated bibliography usually perform two functions, describe the source and evaluate the source. The annotation is a concise description of a particular source, including important aspects of content not evident in the title. It enables the researcher to establish the relevance of a specific journal article, book, research report, or government document, etc. and to decide whether to consult the full text of the work. Abstracts, such as those found in various periodical databases or those accompanying scholarly journal articles are usually just descriptive summaries.
Elements of an Annotation
Information found in an annotation may include:
1. qualifications of author(s);
"Based on 20 years of study, William A. Smith, Professor of English at XYZ University...";
"...sets out to place John Turner in eighteenth century England and show the development of his philosophy in relation to contemporary social mores";
3. audience and level of reading difficulty:
"Smith addresses himself to the scholar, albeit the concluding chapters on capital punishment will be clear to any informed layman";
4. bias or standpoint of author :
"Turner gears his study more to the romantic aspects of the age than the scientific and rational developments";
5. relationship to other works in the field:
"Here Turner departs drastically from A. F. Johnson (Two will not, New York, Riposte Press, 1964) who not only has developed the rational themes of the eighteenth century but is convinced the romantic elements at best are only a skein through the major prose and poetry";
6. findings, results, and conclusions (if available); and
7. format/special features
(e.g., bibliography, glossary, index, survey instruments, testing devices, etc.).
Structure of an Annotation
Length: Generally, annotations constitute one paragraph and are approximately 100 -150 words long, with a goal of concise and explicative annotations
Person: The third person is the standard, though first person may be appropriate for certain types of annotated bibliographies.
Language and Vocabulary: Use the vocabulary of the author, as much as possible, to convey the ideas and conclusions of the author. If you use a quotation excerpted from the work set it within quotation marks. Vary your sentence structure and try to avoid repetivitive vacuuous phrases in your annotations, such as, "The author states," "This article concerns," or "The purpose of this report is," as well as sentences starting with "It was suggested that," "It was found that," and "It was reported that."
Format - Sentences: Whole sentences are preferable, but single descriptive words, and simple phrases or lists may be acceptable.
Format - Paragraphs: Annotations should be one paragraph long. The paragraph should contain a statement of the work's major thesis, from which the rest of the sentences can develop.
The bibliography portion of the annotated bibliography usually follows one of the standard citation formats, APA, MLA, Chicago, etc. Citation format information is available from the library's Cite a Source web page. The most complete citation resources remain in print; copies of the APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, ASA and ACA style guides are available at the reference desk.
For more information ask a reference librarian.
Examples of an Annotated Bibliography Entry
Broude, Norma. Impressionism: a feminist reading. New York: Rizzoli, 1991.
In this publication Broude has taken full advantage of her feminist lens to scrutinize modern French science. Her text is accessible and reader-friendly and uses poststructuralism without becoming a slave to its theories. Her systematic examination of the field, particularly in "The Gendering of Art, Science, and Nature in the Nineteenth Century," reveals underlying patterns of gender discrimination inherent in traditional French philosophy, which upholds Descartes' "I think, therefore I am." Her examination of the social relations between art and science compels readers to take a harder more skeptical look at the sexual politics of postmodernism, whose theory seems to be rooted within the French Cartesian tradition. Her book should be required reading for anyone interested in art, the feminine principle, and how it is treated in a male-oriented universe. (From Feminist Art Criticism; an annotated bibliography. New York, G.K. Hall, 1993)
Dorival, Bernard. "Ukiyo-e and European Painting." pp. 27-71. In Dialogue in Art; Japan and the West. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1976.
Known in France around 1860, Ukiyo-e prints had an immediate influence on the vision and the craft of painters. First, Theodore Rousseau and Millet and then Whistler, Manet, and mainly Degas were profoundly affected. Asymmetrical compositions, scenes and landscapes represented from above or below, figures shown in close-up, pale palette, flat areas of color, the replacement of Albertian perspective with the system of opposed diagonals: all these innovations were taken up by the Impressionists, particularly Monet, who learned moreover not to reduce the scene he was painting to the limits of the canvas, and absorbed a pantheistic feeling for nature contrary to traditional Western humanism. Japanese graphic art had a continuing influence on French painting from the Post-Impressionists to the Nabis and the Fauves, as well as on the work of Ensor, Munch, Klimt and others. After the Renaissance rediscovery of ancient art, nothing had so influenced European painting as Japanese prints. (From Les Fauves; a sourcebook. Westport, Greenwood Press, 1994)
Links to Annotated Bibliographies on the Web
Annotated Bibliography of Government Documents Related to the Threat of Terrorism and the Attacks of September 11, 2001 Example of an annotated bibliography arranged alphabetically by document title within broad subject areas, such as Weapons of Mass Destruction, Afghanistan, and Organizing the Government to Combat Terrorism.
Annotated Bibliography and Guide to Archival Resources on the History of Jewish Women in America Example of an annotated bibliography organized by format, i.e., categories of books, articles, collections of memoirs, oral histories and creative writings, as well as archival resources.
Avian Collision and Electrocution: An Annotated Bibliography Example of an alphabetically arranged annotated bibliography that also provides indexing for various subject, taxonomic, and geographic categories of information.
Scientific Misconduct: An Annotated Bibliography Example of a simple, alphabetically arranged, selective annotated bibliography.
Some Book-Length Annotated Bibliographies at Scribner Library
African American women : an annotated bibliography / compiled by Veronica G. Thomas, Kisha Braithwaite, and Paula Mitchell. 2001 (Location: Reference Collection -- 1st floor Call Number: E185.86 T46 2001)
Animal rights movement in the United States, 1975-1990 : an annotated bibliography / Bettina Manzo. (Location: Reference Collection -- 1st floor Call Number: HV4764 .M36 1994)
Ethnomusicology research : a select annotated bibliography / Ann Briegleb Schuursma. (Location: Reference Collection -- 1st floor Call Number: ML128.E8 S4 1992)
Peyotism and the Native American church : an annotated bibliography / Phillip M. White. 2000 (Location: Reference Collection -- 1st floor Call Number: E99.R3 W4 2000)
Shakespeare and minorities : an annotated bibliography, 1970-2000 / Parvin Kujoory. 2001 (Location: Reference Collection -- 1st floor Call Number: PR2992 .K8 2001)
Katz, William A., "Annotations" in Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science (Vol. 1; New York: Marcel Dekker, 1968)
Willams, Owen, "Writing an Annotated Bibliography," University of Minnesota, Crookson Library. Retrieved November 17,2004 "Writing Annotations," University of Toledo Libraries Retrieved November 17, 2004
"Writing an annotated bibliography," Lawrence University, Seeley G. Mudd Library Retrieved November 17, 2004
Annotated Bibliography Samples
This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.
Contributors: Geoff Stacks, Erin Karper, Dana Bisignani, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-20 13:19:26
For a sample of an entry from an annotated bibliography entry in PDF, click on the downloadable file in the media box above.
Below you will find sample annotations from annotated bibliographies, each with a different research project. Remember that the annotations you include in your own bibliography should reflect your research project and/or the guidelines of your assignment.
As mentioned elsewhere in this resource, depending on the purpose of your bibliography, some annotations may summarize, some may assess or evaluate a source, and some may reflect on the source’s possible uses for the project at hand. Some annotations may address all three of these steps. Consider the purpose of your annotated bibliography and/or your instructor’s directions when deciding how much information to include in your annotations.
Please keep in mind that all your text, including the write-up beneath the citation, must be indented so that the author's last name is the only text that is flush left.
Sample MLA Annotation
Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor Books, 1995.
Lamott's book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecuritiesand failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters inLamott's book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one's own internal critic.
In the process, Lamottincludes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun. Lamott offers sane advice for those struggling with the anxieties of writing, but her main project seems to be offering the reader a reality check regarding writing, publishing, and struggling with one's own imperfect humanity in the process. Rather than a practical handbook to producing and/or publishing, this text is indispensable because of its honest perspective, its down-to-earth humor, and its encouraging approach.
Chapters in this text could easily be included in the curriculum for a writing class. Several of the chapters in Part 1 address the writing process and would serve to generate discussion on students' own drafting and revising processes. Some of the writing exercises would also be appropriate for generating classroom writing exercises. Students should find Lamott's style both engaging and enjoyable.
In the sample annotation above, the writer includes three paragraphs: a summary, an evaluation of the text, and a reflection on its applicability to his/her own research, respectively.
For information on formatting MLA citations, see our MLA 2016 Formatting and Style Guide.
Sample APA Annotation
Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
In this book of nonfiction based on the journalist's experiential research, Ehrenreich attempts to ascertain whether it is currently possible for an individual to live on a minimum-wage in America. Taking jobs as a waitress, a maid in a cleaning service, and a Walmart sales employee, the author summarizes and reflects on her work, her relationships with fellow workers, and her financial struggles in each situation.
An experienced journalist, Ehrenreich is aware of the limitations of her experiment and the ethical implications of her experiential research tactics and reflects on these issues in the text. The author is forthcoming about her methods and supplements her experiences with scholarly research on her places of employment, the economy, and the rising cost of living in America. Ehrenreich’s project is timely, descriptive, and well-researched.
The annotation above both summarizes and assesses the book in the citation. The first paragraph provides a brief summary of the author's project in the book, covering the main points of the work. The second paragraph points out the project’s strengths and evaluates its methods and presentation. This particular annotation does not reflect on the source’s potential importance or usefulness for this person’s own research.
For information on formatting APA citations, see our APA Formatting and Style Guide.
Sample Chicago Manual of Style Annotation
Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess. London: Routledge, 1998.
Davidson's book provides a thorough examination of the major roles filled by the numerous pagan goddesses of Northern Europe in everyday life, including their roles in hunting, agriculture, domestic arts like weaving, the household, and death. The author discusses relevant archaeological evidence, patterns of symbol and ritual, and previous research. The book includes a number of black and white photographs of relevant artifacts.
This annotation includes only one paragraph, a summary of the book. It provides a concise description of the project and the book's project and its major features.
For information on formatting Chicago Style citations, see our Chicago Manual of Style resources.