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General Research Guides

Annotated Bibliography Guide


Definition

An annotated bibliography is a descriptive and evaluative list of citations for books, articles, or other documents. Each citation is followed by a brief paragraph - the annotation - alerting the reader to the accuracy, quality, and relevance of that source.

Composing an annotated bibliography helps a writer to gather one's thoughts on how to use the information contained in the cited sources, and helps the reader to decide whether to pursue the full context of the information you provide.

Format of the Bibliography

All of the citations in an annotated bibliography should be formatted according to one chosen style. Some commonly used style manuals are:

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
Ready Reference BF76.7 .P83 2001

MLA handbook for writers of research papers
Ready Reference LB2369 .G53 1999

The Chicago Manual of Style
Ready Reference Z253 .U69 1993

Elements of the Annotation

A typical annotation follows this outline:
  1. Author information
    Who is the author? What is her/his background? Is the author qualified to write this document?
  2. Author's purpose
    What is the author's purpose in writing this article or doing this research? Is the purpose stated or implied? Does the author have a particular message?
  3. Audience information
    To what audience is the author writing (scholars, teachers, the general public, etc.)? Is this reflected in the author's style of writing or presentation?
  4. Author bias
    Does the author show any biases or make assumptions upon which the rationale of the article rests? If so, what are they?
  5. Information source
    What methods did the author use to obtain the data? Is the article based on personal opinion, experience, interviews, library research, questionnaires, laboratory experiments, empirical observation, or standardized personality tests?
  6. Author conclusion
    What conclusions does the author draw? Are these conclusions specifically stated or implied?
  7. Conclusion justification
    Are the conclusions justified from the research or experience? Are the conclusions in sync with the original purpose of the research and supported by the data? Are the conclusions skewed by bias?
  8. Relationship to other works
    How does this work compare with others cited? Does it conflict with conventional wisdom, established scholarship, government policy, etc.? Are there specific studies or writings cited with which this one agrees or disagrees? Are there any opinions not cited of which readers should be aware? Is the evidence balanced or weighted in favor of a particular perspective?
  9. Time frame
    Is the work current? Is this important? How does the time in which it was written reflect on the information contained in this work?
  10. Significant attachments
    Are there significant attachments such as appendices, bibliographies, illustrations, etc.? Are they valuable or not? If there are none, should there be?

Example

The following example is taken from Cornell University Library's "How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography" ( http://www.library.cornell.edu/olinuris/ref/research/skill28.htm ).

This example uses the APA (American Psychological Association) citation style:

Goldschneider, F.K., Waite, L.J., & 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.

Here we see the same example formatted in the Chicago citation style. The numbers in brackets refer to the annotation outline listed above:

Goldschneider, F.K., Waite, L.J., & Witsberger, C. "Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults." American Sociological Review 51, no. 4 (1986): 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University [1] , use data from the national Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men [5] 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 [2] . They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males [6] . Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families [7] . In contrast, an earlier study by Williams [9] , cited below, shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living [8] .

The above annotation is missing only three elements from the outline:

3. Audience information
4. Author bias
10. Significant attachments

Two of these three might be implied rather than stated in the annotation. #3 could be understood through the journal title. #4 could be read through the authors' affiliations with Rand Corporation and Brown University, and through the data set they used. #10 is not implied. You do not have to include every item from the outline in your annotation, but try to provide as much information as you can in a succinct manner.