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A Guide to Doing an Annotated Bibliography

Annotations vs. Abstracts

Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they may describe the author's point of view, authority, or clarity and appropriateness of expression.

Other Variations

Annotated bibliographies do come in many variations. Pay close attention to the requirements of your assignment. Here are some possible variations:

  • Some assignments may require you to summarize only and not to evaluate.
  • Some assignments may want you to notice and comment on patterns of similarity and dissimilarity between sources; other assignments may want you to treat each source independently.
  • If the bibliography is long, consider organizing it in sections. Your categories of organization should help clarify your research question.
  • Some assignments may require or allow you to preface the bibliography (or its sections) with a paragraph explaining the scope of your investigation and providing a rationale for your selection of sources.

Helpful Wording Suggestions

It is sometimes challenging to find the vocabulary in which to summarize and discuss a text. Due to the shortened nature of annotations, be aware that every word must be intentional. Avoid using the same descriptors across your annotations, consider how the words you use reflect your thoughts on that specific source.  Phrases like:

"The evidence indicates that . . ."

"The article assesses the effect of . . ."

"The author identifies three reasons for . . ."

"The article questions the view that . . ."

Are good starting descriptors for your annotations but if you find yourself struggling to create individually unique annotations, use a dictionary and a thesaurus to make all words count.

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