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Humanities LibreTexts

6.9: Creating an Annotated Bibliography

  • Page ID
    122936
  • Overview

    Instructors often assign an annotated bibliography, a useful tool to beginning a research paper which allows you to evaluate and cite your sources. Most often, an annotated bibliography is a list of sources on a particular topic that includes a brief summary of what each source is about, an assessment of the source’s reliability, and an overview of how you will use the source in your essay. Here is an example:

    Sample annotated bibliography entry

    Morey, Darcy F. “Burying Key Evidence: the Social Bond between Dogs and People.” Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 33, no. 2, Feb. 2006, pp. 158–175., doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2005.07.009.

    In this article, Morey documents the widespread human practice of burying domesticated dogs and questions what this practice can reveal about relationships between the two. He argues that dog burials have been more frequent and more consistent than burials of other types of animals, suggesting that humans have invested dogs with spiritual and personal identities. Morey also demonstrates that the study of dog burials can help scholars to more accurately date the domestication of dogs; thus, he challenges scholars who rely solely on genetic data in their dating of domestication to consider more fully the importance of archaeological finds. To support his arguments, Morey provides detailed data on the frequency, geographic and historical distribution, as well as modes of dog burials and compares the conclusions he draws from this data to those found by scholarship based on genetic data. He is also a well-known anthropology scholar and Ph.D candidate at the University of Wyoming. This article is useful to a literature review on the domestication of dogs because it persuasively shows the importance of using burial data in dating dog domestication and explains how use of this data could change assessments of when domestication occurred. I will likely use it to develop my first body paragraph.

    Sections of each annotated bibliography entry

    Annotated bibliography entries have two parts. The top of the entry is the citation. It is the part that lists information like the name of the writer, where the evidence appeared, the date of publication, and other publishing information. Composition classes typically use MLA format, but other formats like APA and Chicago are popular in other disciplines. To learn more about MLA format and how to make a perfect citation, check out the section on MLA format and works cited pages (add link).

    The second part of the entry is the summary and evaluation of the evidence being cited. A good annotation provides enough information to help you and others understand what the research is about, why it is (or isn’t) reliable, and how you may use it in your essay.

    Summary

    Summaries can be challenging when we are trying to write them about longer and more complicated sources of research. Review Chapter 3: Writing a Summary of Another Writer’s Argument to review best practices for summary writing. Chapter 3 mostly focuses on extended summaries of shorter texts, but in an annotated bibliography, we will often find yourself needing to put a large text into a few sentences. How can we do so?

    Keep these guidelines in mind:

    • Keep your summary short. Good summaries for annotated bibliographies are not “complete” summaries; rather, they provide the highlights of the evidence in as brief and concise a manner as possible.

    • Summarize what you find helpful. You definitely won’t need to quote every part of an academic journal in your essay. For that reason, your summary only needs to include what is most relevant to your research essay topic.

    • No need to quote from what you are summarizing. Summaries will be more useful to you if you write them in your own words. Instead of quoting directly what you think is the point of the piece of evidence, try to paraphrase it.

    • Use abstracts to help you, but paraphrase them in your own words. Many of the periodical indexes that are available as part of your library’s computer system include abstracts of articles. Of course, copying the exact words from the abstract would be plagiarism.  Paraphrasing in your own words in the annotated bibliography will help you understand and explain in preparation for writing your paper.

    Sample summary 

    In this article, Morey documents the widespread human practice of burying domesticated dogs and questions what this practice can reveal about relationships between the two. He argues that dog burials have been more frequent and more consistent than burials of other types of animals, suggesting that humans have invested dogs with spiritual and personal identities. Morey also demonstrates that the study of dog burials can help scholars to more accurately date the domestication of dogs; thus, he challenges scholars who rely solely on genetic data in their dating of domestication to consider more fully the importance of archaeological finds. 

    Evaluation

    The evaluation aspect of an annotation can help you decide if a text has any fallacies, reasons, or assumptions that impact the reliability. Chapter 4: Assessing the Strength of an Argument  provides many useful templates for beginning your assessment of a source’s reliability. 

    Sample evaluation

    To support his arguments, Morey provides detailed data on the frequency, geographic and historical distribution, as well as modes of dog burials and compares the conclusions he draws from this data to those found by scholarship based on genetic data. He is also a well-known anthropology scholar and Ph.D candidate at the University of Wyoming. 

    Connection to the essay

    Once you summarize and evaluate the source, very briefly show the reader how you intend to use the source. Consider the following:

    • What parts of the source connect to your particular topic and argument?
    • Where might you incorporate this source?
    • Does the source support a particular idea you want to promote or refute?

    Sample connection to the essay

    This article is useful to a literature review on the domestication of dogs because it persuasively shows the importance of using burial data in dating dog domestication and explains how use of this data could change assessments of when domestication occurred. I will likely use it to develop my first body paragraph.

    Annotated bibliography template

    You may want to use this annotated bibliography template, created by Andrew Gurevich, to format your annotated bibliography. Here are the steps to use it:

    1. Make sure you are signed in to Google.
    2. Open the template.
    3. Go to “File” in Google docs and select “Make a copy.”
    4. Enter your own title and change the text in the template to fit your own topic and sources.

    Practice exercise

    In a small group or by yourself, cite and annotate “The Relationship Between Cell Phone Use and Academic Performance in a Sample of U.S. College Students”  by Andrew Lepp, Jacob E. Barkley, and Aryn C. Karpinski. Then, discuss each part of the annotation, including the summary, evaluation, and connection to the larger topic of technology and social issues.

    Attributions

    Adapted by Natalie Peterkin and Anna Mills from the following sources: