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How do I write an annotated bibliography?

Last Updated: Jul 05, 2016  |  385 Views

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An annotation is a brief summary of a book, article, or other publication. Its purpose is to describe the work in order to guide potential readers.  A bibliography is a list of works and is a standard component of a scholarly book or article.

An annotated bibliography, in which each item is summarized, is valuable because it helps the reader understand the particular uses of each item. The ideal bibliography discusses the relationships of one item to another.

The following points provide guidance for writing an annotation:

· The authority and the qualifications of the author, unless extremely well known, should be clearly stated. Preferably this is to be done early in the annotation: "John Z. Schmidt, a Russian history professor at Interstate University, based his research on recently discovered documents."

· The scope and main purpose of the text must be explained. This is usually done in three short sentences. For example, "He reveals that a few Germans played a key role in the events leading up to the revolution. They provided money, arms, and leadership which helped the revolution get started." Unlike an abstract, which is an abridgement or synopsis, the writer cannot hope to summarize the total content of the work.

· The relation of other works, if any, in the field is usually worth noting: "Schmidt's conclusions are radically different from those in Mark Johnson's Why the Red Revolution?"

· The major bias or standpoint of the author in relation to his/her theme should be clarified: "However, Schmidt's case is somewhat weakened by an anti-German bias, which was mentioned by two reviewers."

· The audience and reading level should be indicated, such as…"Schmidt addresses himself to the scholar, but the concluding chapters will be clear to any informed layperson." 

Consider concluding with a summary comment, such as… "This detailed account provides new information that will be of interest to scholars as well as educated adults."


The following is an annotation which illustrates the suggestions above:

Schmidt, John Z. Causes of the Russian Revolution. New York: Herklon, 1973. Schmidt, a Russian professor at Interstate University, based his research on recently discovered documents. He reveals that a few Germans played a key role in the events leading up to the revolution. They provided money, arms, and leadership which helped the revolution get started. Schmidt's conclusions are radically different from those in Mark Johnson's Why the Red Revolution. However, Schmidt's case is somewhat weakened by an anti-German bias, which was mentioned by two reviewers. Schmidt addresses himself to the scholar, but the concluding chapters will be clear to any informed layperson. The style is heavy and argumentative, with many footnotes. This detailed account provides new information that will be of interest to scholars as well as educated adults.

For additional guidelines on preparing an annotated bibliography, see the Purdue OWL: Annotated Bibliographies site, which includes additional sample annotations.

You may also find this annotated bibliography worksheet useful as a guide when writing annotations.

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Answered by Brody SelleckBookmark and Share

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