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Citation and Writing: How to write an Annotated Bibliography

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (like a reference list). It differs from a straightforward bibliography in that each reference is followed by a paragraph length annotation, usually 100–200 words in length.

Creating an Annotated Bibliography

What it is: Chicago-formatted source citations, accompanied by a summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources.

What it does (adapted from Purdue’s OWL site): An annotated bibliography helps you learn about your topic during the research stage, because when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information.

An annotated bibliography helps you see what research has already been done, so you have context for your own research, and it helps you develop or refine your thesis. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.

An annotated bibliography is also invaluable to other historians and historical researchers doing work in your field.

Details on each of the steps, as detailed on the Purdue OWL site:

  • Summarize: What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say?
  • Assess: After summarizing a source, to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
  • Reflect: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?

Suggestions from the History Department

The History Department at Kent suggest that you include the following information in your annotated bibliography:
1. An explanation of the main purpose of the source
2. A short summary of key findings or arguments of the source
3. The academic/intellectual credentials of the source: Does it appear in a peer-reviewed journal? Is
the author someone who has expertise in the area?
4. Any shortcomings or biases you notice
5. The value of this work as a contribution to the topic you’re exploring