Annotated Bibliographies

  • Annotated bibliographies describe, give publication information for, and sometimes evaluate each work on a list of sources. You may be assigned to create annotated bibliographies to weigh the potential usefulness of sources and to document your search efforts. This chapter describes the key elements of an annotated bibliography and provides tips for writing two kinds of annotations: descriptive and evaluative.

    Descriptive annotations simply SUMMARIZE the contents of each work, without comment or evaluation. They may be very short, just long enough to capture the flavor of the work, like this excerpt from a bibliography of books and articles on teen films, documented MLA style and published in the Journal of Popular Film and Television.

    Doherty, Thomas. Teenagers and Teenpics: The Juvenilization of American Movies in the 1950s. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1988. Print. A historical discussion of the identification of teenagers as a targeted film market.

    Foster, Harold M. "Film in the Classroom: Coping with Teen Pics." English Journal 76.3 (1987): 86–88. Print. An evaluation of the potential of using teen films such as Sixteen Candles and The Karate Kid to instruct adolescents on the difference between film as communication and film as exploitation.—Michael Benton, Mark Dolan, and Rebecca Zisch

    Evaluative annotations offer opinions on a source as well as describe it. They are often helpful in assessing how useful a source will be for your own writing. The following evaluative annotation is from an APA-style bibliography written by a student.

    Gore, A. (2006). An inconvenient truth: The planetary emergency of global warming and what we can do about it. New York: Rodale.

    This publication, which is based on Gore's slide show on global warming, stresses the urgency of the global warming crisis. It centers on how the atmosphere is very thin and how greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are making it thicker. The thicker atmosphere traps more infrared radiation, causing warming of Earth. Gore argues that carbon dioxide, which is created by burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests, and producing cement, accounts for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. He includes several examples of problems caused by global warming. Penguins and polar bears are at risk because the glaciers they call home are quickly melting. Coral reefs are being bleached and destroyed when their inhabitants overheat and leave. Global warming is now affecting people's lives as well. For example, many highways in Alaska are only frozen enough to be driven on fewer than eighty days of the year. In China and elsewhere, record-setting floods and droughts are taking place. Hurricanes are on the rise.

    This source's goal is to inform its audience about the global warming crisis and to inspire change. It is useful because it relies on scientific data that can be referred to easily and it provides a solid foundation for me to build on. For example, it explains how carbon dioxide is produced and how it is currently affecting plants and animals. This evidence could potentially help my research on how humans are biologically affected by global warming. It will also help me structure my essay, using its general information to lead into the specifics of my topic. For example, I could introduce the issue by explaining the thinness of the atmosphere and the effect of greenhouse gases, then focus on carbon dioxide and its effects on organisms.—Jessica Ann Olson