How to write 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 final 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 both descriptive and critical; they may describe the author's point of view, authority, or clarity and appropriateness of expression.


THE PROCESS

Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

  1. First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents written by people with subject expertise that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic.  Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic. A librarian or a subject expert can be useful in identifying worthwhile citations to explore. 
  2. Briefly examine and review the actual items. You can do an initial appraisal that is quick, or a deep appraisal that is more thorough. 
  3. Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.
  4. 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 the topic or your research.

SAMPLE ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ENTRY FOR A JOURNAL ARTICLE

 

Huyler, Stephen P. Painted Prayers: Women's Art in Village India. New York: Rizzoli, 1994. Print.

 

Huyler studied and documented Indian religion, art, and culture for more than 40 years. He spent more than 23 years cataloguing Indian women who paint their homes as part of their religious rituals. The cultures of India are "complex and diverse, ranging from strict patriarchal systems...to indigenous matriarchies." The synthesis of all these diverse cultures is that at some point each year, the women "create decorative designs on their walls or floors, intending to cleanse, beautify, honor, prevent evil,... or pray for a specific wish." The paintings are visual prayers. The book is filled with gorgeous photographs culled from the more than 30,000 the author took during his travels. He interviewed countless women in hundreds of communities, but for the book "focused on several communities in each of seven Indian states."

Those paintings are ephemeral, visual prayers intended to communicate with God. The concept of communication with God intrigued me and the gesture of visual prayers took me back to my village. Painting on walls goes far back in time from cave paintings.This book reminded me of the practices of women in my family and community of painting their door-fronts and walls on a daily basis or during festival as part of a feminine cultural heritage. I have begun to experiment with ephemeral work and wall paintings even before I read this book.

 

Adapted for OCAC from a document originally written by Research & Learning Services, Olin Library, Cornell University Ithaca, NY, USA following provisions of this Creative Commons Commons Deed, version 4.0