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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

How To: Write an Annotated Bibliography: What Is An Annotated Bibliography?

A guide to writing an Annotated Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography

(Link)

A bibliography is a list of sources that you have put together in the course of doing research and writing your paper. Sources in a bibliography can vary but usually include materials such as books, journal articles, newspapers (i.e. periodicals) and web sites among other resources. Information included in bibliographies are usually material such as the author, title, and publisher of the work being included, set in a proper citation format such as APA or MLA style. An annotation is simply a note or comment attached to any sort of data such as text or an image.

An annotated bibliography is a collection of sources you put together, listed in a proper citation format with a summary or comment on the mentioned source included.

Nuts and Bolts of an Annotated Bibliography

A man and woman riveting team working on the "nuts and bolts" of the cockpit shell of a C-47 aircraft

A man and woman riveting team working on the "nuts and bolts" of the cockpit shell of a C-47 aircraft (1942) Link

Remember when putting together your annotated bibliography to include the following:

  1. What was the central theme of the source?
  2. Who was the audience that the source was written for (i.e. students, scientists, etc.)
  3. Was the scope of the source comprehensive? (i.e. Did it cover everything you thought it should have? Did it focus on everything about that topic or just one or two small issues?)
  4. Was this source and its conclusions convincing to you or not?
  5. What are the strengths of this source? What are its weaknesses?
  6. Is the author of the source an authority in the subject or not?
  7. Is there anything highly helpful or useful included in this paper? (ex: a good bibliography, a detailed glossary, etc.)
  8. Was this source helpful or not in your overall research?
  9. What did you think about this source?

Key Concepts to Remember

Remember!
 
Keep these key concepts in mind when constructing an annotated bibliography
 
  1. The purpose of an annotated bibliography is to give the reader of your paper an idea about the source you have used. The annotation is there to let the reader know what the source is about and whether you found it to be useful and accurate or not.
  2. An annotated bibliography is not an abstract. An abstract is a short summary included in the beginnings of papers to describe what the paper is about to a potential reader. An annotated bibliography does not just summarize or mention what the source is about; it includes your opinion on whether or not the source in question is convincing, accurate, and worthwhile or not.
  3. Your annotation should include mention of what the central theme of your source was.
  4. Your annotated bibliography is something original that you create to help anyone who will read your paper in the future. It is your judgment about the work that you have decided to use in your research

Annotations versus Abstracts

Annotations in the Margins made to the work of Saint Augustine

Annotations in the Margins made to the work of Saint Augustine (Link)

An abstract is a short summary included in the beginnings of papers to describe what the paper is about to a potential reader. It is descriptive only. Annotations are descriptive as well but they are also more than that; they include discussion and sometimes criticism of the source on a variety of issues such as whether the source is well written or if you found the argument made in the source to be convincing or not.

Critical Annotation

A critical annotation will judge the source in question; it can include positive and negative comments. For instance a critical annotation could talk about the tone or bias of the author in the source and whether it was helpful or not in proving its thesis. Or for example a critical annotation could question the accuracy of the source or talk about omissions made by the author that helped or hurt the source in question.

Descriptive Annotation

Descriptive Annotation

A descriptive annotation is usually just a summary. For instance a descriptive annotation could summarize what the source in question is trying to prove or it could simply state what the conclusions of the author were at the end of the work. It could simply focus on the research methods used in the source or just what the source is supposed to be about overall.