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What is an Annotated Bibliography?
An annotated bibliography is a list of scholarly
resources for anyone who wishes to research a particular subject.
It contains all the information necessary for someone else to
find a copy of that material and a bit of commentary to explain
why it is useful or why it should be avoided.
The exact format varies, but most bibliographers
model their own versions on the Works Cited or Bibliography
page from a style guide such as APA or MLA. Usually, the researcher
provides all the information necessary to track down the listed
books such as publication data or library call numbers. Typically,
the entries are listed in alphabetical order by author's last
name, though in the case of particularly long bibliographies,
it may be useful to subdivide the entries according to subcategories.
Following the general publication information, the researcher
provides a short note (hence "annotation") explaining what's
useful to know about that source. The annotation might only
be a sentence or two long, or it might be a short paragraph
or two at most. Frequently the annotation lists information
- A brief summary of what the book covers, or a brief summary
of the author's argument.
- How easy it is to obtain the book (Is it still in print,
is it available at local libraries or bookstores? Is it
only available through Orbis or Interlibrary loan?, etc.)
- How up to date the book or article is (Sometimes, a book
printed in 2001 may simply be a reprint of a book written
in 1901, check the copyright history inside the book's first
- It notes if any chapter or section in particular looks
especially useful (especially if only one chapter or section
deals with the subject, and the rest of the book deals with
- Whether or not the book has its own bibliography in the
back, and how extensive that bibliography is.
- How long or short the book or article is (A 450 page book?
A short one-page article?)
- A discussion of what this book argues or offers for readers
which similar books disagree about or do not include.
- Any other practical advice or warnings the reader should
know (The book weighs 200 pounds; it can't be removed from
the library; is written only in Italian; has great photos
or charts; it is written by a world-renowned expert; every
other author thinks this particular writer is insane, etc.)
You need not always read the entire book to include
it in your annotated bibliography. Sometimes by skimming the
introduction, conclusion, and table of contents, you can quickly
get the gist of what it contains or what the author argues.
If you come across a source that looks useful, but you don't
get a chance to examine it firsthand, go ahead and include it
in your annotated bibliography and insert one of these phrases
[Not Yet Examined]
That bracketed phrase falls in the section where
the annotation normally appears. It is a standard warning to
let the reader know this particular book hasn't been examined,
but it might be pertinent as further research.
Click here for examples of annotated