Annotated Bibliographies

Annotated: “furnished with notes.”

Bibliography: “list of the books of a particular author, printer, or country, or of those dealing with any particular theme; the literature of a subject.”

(The Oxford English Dictionary.)

An annotated bibliography is one in which the writer provides a summary and/or evaluation of the sources that are used in developing an academic paper. This summary or evaluation is usually only a few sentences in length but can be longer depending on the assignment.

Types of Annotated Bibliographies

There are two primary types of annotated bibliographies: “informative” and“evaluative.”

An informative annotated bibliography is just that--informative. It paraphrases the main argument(s) or finding(s) in one or more specific sources.

An evaluative annotated bibliography is more subjective--it includes an opinion or evaluation of the source. In addition, some professors require that you discuss how you used the sources in developing your paper. Unlike regular bibliographies, an annotated bibliography allows the writer an opportunity to evaluate the usefulness of a source. When doing this, it is important to provide concise yet thoughtful comments that give the reader a quick but useful insight into the sources that were used in the paper. In an evaluative annotated bibliography, AVOID giving harsh personal opinions that are unsupported by examples or additional comments. It is fine to make a personal evaluation or opinion, but be sure to state it in a constructive manner and provide support for your opinion.

Inappropriate Evaluative Annotated Bibliography Entry (APA Format)

Gurko, L. (1968). Ernest Hemingway and the pursuit of heroism. New York: Crowell.

This book was stupid and uninteresting. I don't like books that just go on and on about a particular subject but shed no new light on it. This book was boring and a complete waste of time.

Appropriate Evaluative Entry (APA Format)

Gurko, L. (1968). Ernest Hemingway and the pursuit of heroism. New York: Crowell.

This book is part of a series called “Twentieth Century American Writers.” After fifty pages of straight biography, Gurko discussed Hemingway's writing, novel by novel. There was an index and a short bibliography, but no notes. The biographical part was clear and easy to read, but it sounded too much like a summary.


The above sample was reprinted from Annotated Bibliographies: Content. Retrieved October 26, 2005, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Web Site:http://www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/AnnBib_style.html

Formatting Annotated Bibliographies

Because there are many different formats for annotated bibliographies, it is always best to verify with the professor what he/she requires for a particular assignment, and to follow the format that he/she provides.

However, almost all annotated bibliographies are alphabetized by the author's last name. Most are single-spaced and provide the bibliographic details first, followed by the summary or evaluation of the source. The summary section may be indented, or you may include two spaces between each individual entry, just as in a regular bibliography.

Note also that there are slight formatting differences between APA, MLA and CMS bibliographic entries. For example, MLA usually uses present tense; APA, past tense. MLA includes an author's entire first name; APA includes only the first initial of the author's first name. For more information on using different styles, see our handouts on MLA, APA, and Chicago styles.

Sample Annotated Bibliography Entries

Evaluative Entry (MLA Format)

Arnold, Thomas. “Possessed U.S. Fans Are Obsessed With Asian Horror Films.”USA Today. 18 May 2005.

This article provides a concise but useful look at the soaring popularity of Asian horror films released in the United States within the past few years. The focus of the article is upon American re-makes of Asian horror films rather than the original versions. The implication is that the re-makes do best when they retain as much of the vision of the original film as possible.

Short Informative Entry (MLA Format)

Christensen, K.M. (1995). Thinking about thinking: A discussion of the development of cognition and language. The American School Board Journal, 85, 22-25.

Teachers are challenged to maximize cognitive and language growth in students. The article reviewed current research in language acquisition and cognitive development and suggested that the research be applied to the education of young children in these two important areas.

Longer Informative Entry (MLA Format)

Tolkien, J.R. R. “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.” The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays. Ed. Christopher Tolkien. London: George Allen and Unwin. 1983. 24-59.

In this seminal essay, Tolkien criticizes scholars for treating Beowulf solely as an artifact that provides historic evidence about the Anglo-Saxon period, rather than reading it as a great work of literature. Although he agrees that it has historical value, he argues that Beowulf's literary qualities are more important. He complains that even those few scholars who do read Beowulf as a poem are wrong when they criticize it for being unstructured and for emphasizing mythic elements like dragons. Tolkien proves that the poem is thematically and structurally unified and that, in reading it, “we are in the presence of a mind lofty and thoughtful.” Tolkien wrote this essay for an audience of literary scholars of his own day. Thus, it can be difficult for modern readers who may not be familiar with the critical tradition. In addition, Tolkien's diction is formal and at times quite dense. Nevertheless, the essay is a masterful defense of one of England's most beloved works. Tolkien persuasively convinces the reader to take myths and folk-tales seriously, showing that these potent expressions of man's imagination are full of rich meaning. Indeed, his analysis of Beowulf sheds a great deal of light on Tolkien's own imagination, which is expressed most fully in his tales about Middle-earth.


Below is a sample of an annotated bibliography using the sources on the previous pages. The word “bibliography” should be centered at the top of the page and the entries alphabetized by author's last name. Note that this sample is in MLA format.

Bibliography

Arnold, Thomas. “Possessed U.S. Fans Are Obsessed with Asian Horror Films.” USA Today. 18 May 2005.

This article provides a concise but useful look at the soaring popularity of Asian horror films released in the United States within the past few years. The focus of the article is upon American re-makes of Asian horror films rather than the original versions. The implication is that the re-makes do best when they retain as much of the vision of the original film.

Christensen, K.M. “Thinking About Thinking: A Discussion of the Development of Cognition and Language.” The American School Board Journal 85 (1995): 22-25.

Teachers are challenged to maximize cognitive and language growth in students. The article reviews current research in language acquisition and cognitive development and suggests that the research be applied to the education of young children in these two important areas. The author makes a strong and convincing case.

Gurko, Leo. Ernest Hemingway and the Pursuit of Heroism. New York: Crowell, 1968.

This book is part of a series called “Twentieth Century American Writers.” After fifty pages of straight biography, Gurko discusses Hemingway's writing, novel by novel. There is an index and a short bibliography, but no notes. The biographical part is clear and easy to read, but it sounds too much like a summary.

Tolkien, J.R. R. “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.” The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays. Ed. Christopher Tolkien. London: George Allen and Unwin. 1983. 24-59.

In this seminal essay, Tolkien criticizes scholars for treating Beowulf solely as an artifact that provides historic evidence about the Anglo-Saxon period, rather than reading it as a great work of literature. Although he agrees that it has historical value, he argues that Beowulf's literary qualities are more important. He complains that even those few scholars who do read Beowulfas a poem are wrong when they criticize it for being unstructured and for emphasizing mythic elements like dragons. Tolkien proves that the poem is thematically and structurally unified and that, in reading it, “we are in the presence of a mind lofty and thoughtful.” Tolkien wrote this essay for an audience of literary scholars of his own day. Thus, it can be difficult for modern readers who may not be familiar with the critical tradition. In addition, Tolkien's diction is formal and at times quite dense. Nevertheless, the essay is a masterful defense of one of England's most beloved works. Tolkien persuasively convinces the reader to take myths and folk-tales seriously, showing that these potent expressions of man's imagination are full of rich meaning. Indeed, his analysis of Beowulf sheds a great deal of light on Tolkien's own imagination, which is expressed most fully in his tales about Middle-earth.

By Don Miller and Fran Hooker, February, 2006