Creating an Annotated Bibliography

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To understand how to create an annotated bibliography, let’s start with defining a working bibliography. As you begin to locate and compile source material for your project, you’ll want to record the information for the sources you think you might use. It’s important to remember that in the early stages of constructing a research paper, you are discovering source material that may or may not go in the finished project, but to be efficient and not lose valuable materials (and time!) we compile a working bibliography to keep track of our research. It’s referred to as a “working” bibliography, as we are still working on the project, so all of the sources we find may or may not go in the final project.

An annotated bibliography is taking the working bibliography one step further. By annotating, or taking notes, on the source material you find, you will have an overview of the source, such as the type of source it is, a brief summary of the source, and how you might use it in your paper. Often, annotated bibliographies are a separate assignment of a research project, as your instructor wants you to demonstrate your understanding of the source and consider exactly how you intend to use it in your paper. Seasoned researchers often keep an annotated bibliography of their project, recording their thoughts on each source as they build their paper.

If your instructor has assigned an annotated bibliography, he or she most likely wants you to briefly summarize the source material, describe the purpose it will serve in your paper, for instance, if it will support or oppose your arguments, and may even ask you to explain why you chose the source. It’s not enough simply to collect random sources; as you compile your source list, it’s important to be able to synthesize the material and critically consider how you will incorporate it into your project. An annotated bibliography shows your instructor you have evaluated your source material carefully.

Below are examples of both MLA and APA annotated bibliography entries.

Example of Annotated Bibliography Entry

MLA

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1995. Print.

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.

(Example from Purdue Owl Online).

This example shows a typical annotated bibliography assignment, with one brief paragraph of summary, one paragraph of evaluation, and a final paragraph explain how the writer will utilize it.

The example below shows a shorter, one paragraph entry:

Example 2

Waite, Linda J., Frances Kobrin Goldscheider, and Christina Witsberger. “Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults.” American Sociological Review 51.4 (1986): 541-554. Print.

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.

(Example from Cornell U Library)

APA

Example 1

Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

In this book of nonfiction based on the journalist’s experiential research, Ehrenreich attempts to ascertain whether it is currently possible for an individual to live on a minimum-wage in America. Taking jobs as a waitress, a maid in a cleaning service, and a Walmart sales employee, the author summarizes and reflects on her work, her relationships with fellow workers, and her financial struggles in each situation.

An experienced journalist, Ehrenreich is aware of the limitations of her experiment and the ethical implications of her experiential research tactics and reflects on these issues in the text. The author is forthcoming about her methods and supplements her experiences with scholarly research on her places of employment, the economy, and the rising cost of living in America. Ehrenreich’s project is timely, descriptive, and well-researched.

(Example from Purdue Owl Online).

In the example above, the entry summarizes the book in the first paragraph, and analyzes and evaluates in the second paragraph.

The entry should be double spaced. Some style books show to break paragraphs, and others show to keep the entire entry in one paragraph with no breaks. Always follow your instructor guidelines.

Example 2

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.

(Example from Cornell U Library)

NOTE: Standard MLA practice requires double spacing within citations. Both MLA and APA require hanging indent on the first line of each entry, which our blog format does not show.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, annotated bibliographies can be descriptive and critical; they can interpret the author’s point of view, and evaluate the author’s authority and even their style. If you have been assigned an annotated bibliography, take care to follow your instructor guidelines and include the required elements. For your own purposes, briefly summarize the source and note how you will utilize it in your paper. Even though it may seem like a time-consuming step, annotating your sources as you go will save you time in the end, as you’ll not only know exactly where to integrate the source, but you will also have your works cited or reference list complete.

** Note that the first line of all entries should be flush with the left margin, which the screen does not show.

 

Examples from: http://guides.library.cornell.edu/annotatedbibliography

Olin Library Reference
Research & Learning Services
Cornell University Library
Ithaca, NY, USA

Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/01/

 

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