How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography 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, in such a way that the reader can decide whether or not to read the work itself. ANNOTATIONS VS. ABSTRACTS A bibliography is a list of sources and is a standard appendage to a scholarly book or article. Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Abstracts are not evaluative. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they expose the authors point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority. The annotations are valuable because they help the reader understand the particular uses of each item. The ideal annotated bibliography discusses the relationship of one item to another. THE PROCESS 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 authors background and views, ask at the library for help finding appropriate biographical reference materials and book review sources. The following 6 points provide guidance for writing an annotation: 1. The authority and the qualifications of the author, unless extremely well known, should be clearly stated. Preferably this is to be done early in the annotation: “John Z. Schmidt, a Russian history professor at Interstate University, based his research on recently discovered documents.” 2. The scope and main purpose of the text must be explained. This is usually done in one to three short sentences. For example, “He reveals that a few Germans played a key role in the events leading up to the revolution. They provided money, arms, and leadership that helped the revolution get started.” Unlike an abstract, which is a descriptive summary, the writer cannot hope to summarize the total content of the work in the annotation. Focus on key concept(s). 3. The relation of other works, if any, in the field is usually worth noting: “Schmidts conclusions are dramatically different from those in Mark Johnson Why the Red Revolution?” 4. The major bias or standpoint of the author in relation to the theme should be clarified, when relevant: “However, Schmidts case is somewhat weakened by an anti-German bias, which was mentioned by two reviewers.” 5. The audience and the level of reading difficulty should be indicated: “Schmidt addresses himself to the scholar, but the concluding chapters will be clear to any informed layman.” This is not always present in an annotation but is important if the work is targeted to a specific audience. 6. At this point the annotation might conclude with a summary comment: “This detailed account provides new information that will be of interest to scholars as well as educated adults.” This is your “take-away” message from the scholarly work. Your annotated bibliography will be no more than 10, well-written, sentences and is a single paragraph. SAMPLE ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ENTRY FOR A JOURNAL ARTICLE The following example uses the APA format for the journal citation. Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & 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. Additional tutorial is provided by the Purdue OWL Retrieved and adapted from: http://lrc.coastalbend.edu/print_content.php?pid=138369&sid=1200147 With permission, the content on this page was reproduced and adapted from original material created by: Olin Library Reference Research & Learning Services Cornell University Library Ithaca, NY, USA This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.