Resources for Writers:  Annotated Bibliographies. 
  Academic uses of Annotated Bibliographies
   Style and Format of Annotated Bibliographies
   Methods of Citation
   Drew Academic Honesty Policy

Academic Uses of Annotated Bibliographies:
Some people use annotated bibliographies instead of notecards, but most researchers first make notecards and then later annotate the sources. Writing an annotated bibliography serves three important functions: it is a way for you to review what you know, to organize it, and to store it by topic. It can also show a teacher how well a student has done research. Many scholars maintain computer files on which they store annotated bibliographies of sources they have read. One of the authors of this webresources page maintains such files. After ten years of keeping them, her bibliographies, summaries, and reading notes amount to 1237 entries, totaling 8.8 MB of computer memory--which is quite a lot of data that she can readily retrieve when she is writing and researching.

As an undergraduate college student, you probably haven't compiled a database of such dimensions. But you might want to start. As you read more and more in a given area, you will find that maintaining your own annotated bibliographies is an excellent way to remind you at a glance of the thesis and main arguments of a piece. And you can also benefit from the work of other scholars who have published their annotated bibliographies. Annotated bibliographies are published annually in every scholarly field, and you may be able to find one or more for the topic that you are researching.

The Style and Format of Annotated Bibliographies
While your notecard summaries might be very informal and not very short, an annotation is by definition brief and more formal. (The style is what used to be known as précis--a concise, focused, and formal summary.) Each annotation is typically three to five sentences long, and it includes the thesis of the text, the methodology, the findings or theories, and the evidence. Some also include additional information, such as the relation of this theory to another, the kinds of topic this source might be useful for, or whether the source seems biased, inconclusive, or otherwise less than useful. But the key is conciseness.

Each annotation is preceded by a full citation, as in the sample annotated bibliography entry for Vashti Crutcher Lewis' essay included below.

Figure 12:7--sample annotated bibliography entry 
Lewis, Vashti Crutcher. "African Tradition in Toni  

Morrison's Sula" (Phylon, vol. 48: 1, 1987): 34-40.  

To understand Sula we must be aware of the African  

aesthetic Morrison employs. In West Africa, Sula &  

Shadrack would not be "pariahs": they would be  

recognized as Water Priest and Priestess. Their names, 

Sula's scar, Shad.'s shell shock, Sula's effect on  

others, and the bond between Shad. & Sula all reveal  

this if seen from an Afrocentric perspective. 

--Full citation, following MLA format. 
--Double line space, and no new line for the annotation. 

--This is the thesis of the essay, so it is stated first. 

--Here is her evidence/ argument briefly summarized.

Your annotated bibliography should be arranged alphabetically by author, and citations should use the style sheet for the discipline within which you are working.

Sometimes teachers assign students to write annotated bibliographies, because it is such a good way to become acquainted with a field of study and because it pushes you to a full understanding of the sources you are reading. Sometimes they just recommend that you write an annotated bibliography for your own use as you work on a research paper and try to create a mental synthesis of your sources.

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 C.  Sandra Jamieson, Drew University. 1999
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