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Creating an Annotated Bibliography



Definition of an Annotated Bibliography

An entry in an annotated bibliography includes the citation information (written in an accepted citation style, such as MLA or APA) and a brief description and analysis of a text.  An annotated bibliography is a collection of such entries, often focused on a specific topic.

The requirements for an annotated bibliography may differ based on the situation for which it is required.  Some writers use an annotated bibliography to keep track of their reading as they conduct research.  An instructor might assign an annotated bibliography to get a sense of the literature on a particular topic.  Annotated bibliographies are often created by one researcher for other researchers, in an attempt to offer a single resource that aggregates many sources on the same topic.

The most common forms of annotated bibliography are analytical, evaluative, or summative in purpose.  Be certain that you understand the requirements of an assignment or situation in which an annotated bibliography is required before selecting one of these forms.  See your instructor or course assignments if you have questions.  


Constructing an Analytical Annotated Bibliography

An analytical annotation may include the following components, although the selection and order of these components will depend on the assignment or other course requirements: 


In addition, see Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals and Evaluating Websites for strategies for thinking critically about a source.

The following is an example of an entry for an analytical annotated bibliography. The citation is in APA format:

Helfand, J. (2001). Screen: Essays on graphic design, new media, and visual           culture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Helfand's collection of essays (previously published in Eye magazine) focuses on how technological sophistication and the power of online communications have changed the manner in which computer users perceive, critique, and embrace visual and auditory design on the World Wide Web. Her subtle thesis suggests that most web "denizens" ignore the impact of design during online expeditions---unless the design imposes itself between the users and their goal. The author's experience as a visual/virtual designer leads her to offer a critical review of how the ease of electronic design (due to prefabricated software templates) may not necessarily result in the most efficient design for web audiences, and that while contemporary web designers may possess a functional design literacy, they are not equipped with the kind of critical literacy that will lead to aesthetic and performative innovations. Helfand argues that web designers should pay greater attention to the development and influence of aural design as well as the visual if they are to remain in step with their online audiences.  
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Constructing an Evaluative Annotated Bibliography

An evaluative annotation achieves the same goals as an analytical annotation, but goes one step further.  In an evaluative annotation, the writer may either advocate, disavow, or refuse to do either in relation to the source.   The following example extends the analytical annotation included above by adding evaluative commentary.

Helfand, J. (2001). Screen: Essays on graphic design, new media, and visual           culture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Helfand's collection of essays (previously published in Eye magazine) focuses on how technological sophistication and the power of online communications have changed the manner in which computer users perceive, critique, and embrace visual and auditory design on the World Wide Web. Her subtle thesis suggests, however, that most web "denizens" ignore the impact of design during online expeditions---unless the design imposes itself between the users and their goal. The author's experience as a visual/virtual designer leads her to offer a critical review of how the ease of electronic design (due to prefabricated software templates) may not necessarily result in the most efficient design for web audiences, and that while contemporary web designers may possess a functional design literacy, they are not equipped with the kind of critical literacy that will lead to aesthetic and performative innovations. Helfand argues that web designers should pay greater attention to the development and influence of aural design as well as the visual if they are to remain in step with their online audiences, although the years following the publication of the text suggest that the influence of aural design may still remain ahead.  Helfand's arguments have merit and her concepts inspire the reader to continue thinking on the topic. However, the lack of a bibliography or research beyond her own analysis make the text only  moderately appropriate in relation to a scholarly project.  

Be certain to follow assignment directions and instructor comments in the creation of annotated bibliographies.  The following examples should also be of assistance:

Sample Analytical Annotated Bibliography (APA citation style)

Sample Evaluative Annotated Bibliography (MLA citation style)

Constructing a Summative Annotated Bibliography

A summative annotation would do exactly what it says it will do:  offer a brief summary of the text.  This is very similar to the goals of an abstract, however, and is not often necessary aside from documenting a writer or researcher's process. Consider the value or usefulness of such an annotation before constructing annotations that seek solely to summarize.

Helfand, J. (2001). Screen: Essays on graphic design, new media, and visual           culture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Helfand's collection of essays (previously published in Eye magazine) focuses on how technological sophistication and the power of online communications have changed the manner in which computer users perceive, critique, and embrace visual and auditory design on the World Wide. The author offers a critical review on how the ease of electronic design (due to prefabricated software templates) may not necessarily result in the most efficient design for web audiences, and that while contemporary web designers may possess a functional design literacy, they are not equipped with the kind of critical literacy that will lead to aesthetic and performative innovations. Helfand argues that web designers should pay greater attention to the development and influence of aural design as well as the visual if they are to remain a step ahead of their online audiences.

While changes in the text may seem minor, the difference between a summative annotation and other forms lies in the erasure of personal opinion, analysis, and discussion of the text outside of the text itself.  

Exploring Other Resources

How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography  (Cornell University)

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