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Annotated Bibliography: How to!  

Has your professor told you to create an annotated bibliography? We can help!
Last Updated: Apr 13, 2017 URL: Print Guide
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What is an Annotated Bibliography?

What is a bibliography vs. a works cited page?

A bibliography is a list of works you consulted while preparing to write your essay.  These are sources you located that you MIGHT use and cite in your essay.  You may not end up using all of them.  A works cited page, on the other hand, identifies sources you DID use in your paper.  It is the last page of your essay.

So, what is an annotated bibliography?

A working annotated bibliography is a work in progress—it shows what you have so far.  The annotations are notes you take about the work.  You must do the following for each entry:

1.    Cite the source (just as you would in on a works cited page)

2.    Summarize the source—what does it argue, and what main points does it make?

3.    Evaluate the source—why is it a good source? (think about who wrote it, when it was published, what it uses to make its arguments, etc.)

4.    Assess how you will apply the source—how will it support your argument?  How can you use it in your essay? (i.e. expert opinion, good case studies, solid research, supports a particular point, shows counterpoint, etc.)

-- From Professor Trine Miller. Many thanks for permission to use her work.


Annotated Bibliography

Need to create an annotated bibliography? This guide will help you understand:

  • What an annotated bibliography is
  • How to make one
  • Tips and tricks to save time and improve quality

"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." from the Owl at Purdue

Learn more! Watch this very short video from Brock University Library.


Examples of Annotated Bibliographies

Here is an example of one annotated citation from an annotated bibliography. Notice that It begins with a citation, then the annotation consists of three paragraphs summarizing, evaluating it, and assessing how it might be used. Your annotation might be shorter! Some professors will ask for just one paragraph. This example is from the OWL at Purdue:

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 insecurities and failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters in Lamott'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, Lamott includes 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.

Below are two more examples from College of Marin professors: Trine Miller's English 150 course and Colleen Mihal's Speech 120 course.

More Help

Four final tips:

  1. If your source has an abstract (summary), use it to help you summarize the article. Read the summary a number of times and then try to put it in your own words.
  2. It's useful to say something briefly about author's background -- is she a professor of psychology, is he a journalist, etc.?
  3. It's useful to tell us what kind of source it is: a book, a magazine article, a scholarly journal article, etc.
  4. Keep in mind that the point of created an annotated bibliography is to make your final project -- an essay or a speech -- better!

For more: The OWL at Purdue's Annotated Bibliography Guide


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