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Composition and Writing

Annotated Bibliographies

An annotated bibliography is a alphabetized list of sources consulted for a research paper or project. The citations will be in the in the citation style of the discipline you are writing in (for example, Psychology often uses APA style while History might use Chicago style). Annotations summarize the source's argument and often provide a reason that the author chose to use the source.

Types of Annotations

These examples of annotations were borrowed with permission from The University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center.


This form of annotation defines the scope of the source, lists the significant topics included, and tells what the source is about.

This type is different from the informative entry in that the informative entry gives actual information about its source.

In the indicative entry there is no attempt to give actual data such as hypotheses, proofs, etc. Generally, only topics or chapter titles are included.


Griffin, C. Williams, ed.  (1982).  Teaching writing in
     all disciplines.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Ten essays on writing-across-the-curriculum programs,
teaching writing in disciplines other than English, and
teaching techniques for using writing as learning.  Essays
include Toby Fulwiler, "Writing:  An Act of Cognition";
Barbara King, "Using Writing in the Mathematics Class:
Theory and Pratice"; Dean Drenk, "Teaching Finance Through
Writing"; Elaine P. Maimon, "Writing Across the Curriculum:
Past, Present, and Future."


(Bizzell and Herzberg, 1991, p. 47)


Simply put, this form of annotation is a summary of the source.

To write it, begin by writing the thesis; then develop it with the argument or hypothesis, list the proofs, and state the conclusion.


Voeltz, L.M.  (1980).  Children's attitudes toward
     handicapped peers.  American Journal of Mental
     Deficiency, 84, 455-464.

As services for severely handicapped children become
increasingly available within neighborhood public
schools, children's attitudes toward handicapped
peers in integrated settings warrant attention.
Factor analysis of attitude survey responses of 2,392
children revealed four factors underlying attitudes
toward handicapped peers: social-contact willingness,
deviance consequation, and two actual contact
dimensions. Upper elementary-age children, girls,
and children in schools with most contact with
severely handicapped peers expressed the most
accepting attitudes.  Results of this study suggest
the modifiability of children's attitudes and the
need to develop interventions to facilitate social
acceptance of individual differences in integrated
school settings.

(Sternlicht and Windholz, 1984, p. 79)


In this form of annotation you need to assess the source's strengths and weaknesses.

You get to say why the source is interesting or helpful to you, or why it is not. In doing this you should list what kind of and how much information is given; in short, evaluate the source's usefulness.


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

This book is part of a series called "Twentieth Century 
American Writers":  a brief introduction to the man and his 
work.  After fifty pages of straight biography, Gurko
discussed Hemingway's writing, novel by novel.  There's 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.

(Spatt, 1991, p. 322)


Most annotated bibliographies are of this type.

They contain one or two sentences summarizing or describing content and one or two sentences providing an evaluation.


Morris, Joyce M.  (1959).  Reading in the primary school:
     An investigation into standards of reading and their
     association with primary school characteristics. 
     London: Newnes, for National Foundation for
     Educational Research.

Report of a large-scale investigation into English
children's reading standards, and their relation to
conditions such as size of classes, types of organisation
and methods of teaching.  Based on enquiries in sixty
schools in Kent and covering 8,000 children learning to
read English as their mother tongue.  Notable for
thoroughness of research techniques.

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