Writing an Annotated Bibliography

This guide explains what an annotated bibliography is, gives examples of annotated bibliographies, helps you find sources and cite them

Your Librarian

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Kate Flower

Your Librarian

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Pamela Contakos

So You're Writing an Annotated Bibliography ...

What is An Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for 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 so other researchers can select from among them.

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 expose the author's point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority.

The Process

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 citation style.

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. 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. 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. In evaluating the collection, you need only comment on the relevant information rather than try to cover the entire book. If an entire book has information relevant to your topic, hit the highlights rather than trying to cover the entire book in an annotation.

Critically Appraising the Book, Article, or Document

For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, think about the following questions:

What are the author’s credentials–institutional affiliation?  Is the source current or out-of-date for your topic?  If the source is published by a university press, it is likely to be scholarly. Is there a bibliography?  Is the information covered fact, opinion, or propaganda? Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched, or is it questionable and unsupported by evidence?  Are the ideas and arguments advanced more or less in line with other works you have read on the same topic? Does the source extensively or marginally cover your topic?

Adapted and used with permission from Research & Learning Services, Olin Library, Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY, USA