When doing a research paper, you’ll sometimes be required to provide an annotated bibliography.
You may have heard of a bibliography before—but what is an annotated bibliography?
Don’t worry! It’s really no big deal—and quite easy to write.
This article will discuss the process of writing an annotated bibliography by giving you a template to see how it is constructed.
It will also provide you with some examples in a variety of citation styles (MLA, APA and Chicago).
We’ll also give you some topics that usually make for great annotated bib subjects.
Let’s get started!
An annotated bibliography is a list of references (in alphabetical order)—each reference followed by its own brief summary of the material it represents.
A typical summary will be around 150 words, though it can certainly be more or less.
The summary explains the reference by describing it, evaluating it, and communicating its relevance and/or quality.
The purpose of the annotated bib is to provide the reader with a sense of what the reference material says and why it is important or helpful.
There is no single template for writing an annotated bib, so the best way to go through this section is to discuss the writing process and then provide a general format that can be used.
The writing process should begin with the reference or source itself.
Ask yourself a few questions:
1. What is it about?
2. Why did you choose the source and what did you learn from it?
3. Is it a quality source and what is your overall evaluation of it?
4. How is it relevant to your paper?
To create an effective annotated bib, you should be able to apply critical thinking skills.
You should also be able to provide a succinct summary of the work as well as an apt analysis and assessment of its utility.
First, organize your materials: bring together all the books, magazines, websites and periodicals that you used to collect information.
Second, cite the source according to style of your paper.
Third, begin by identifying the theme of the source, summarizing its contents, and evaluating its overall delivery.
You can discuss it in terms of other works that you have used.
You can discuss it based on its own merits.
You can discuss it as contrarian piece that offers a different take on a subject.
It’s up to you.
The basic template will look like this:
Last name, First name. “Article Title.” Website, Day Month (abbreviated) Year published, URL. Accessed Day Month Year.
Summarize the contents. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the source material. Tell whether it is a worthwhile source or if it challenges other information that you found in the course of your study. Discuss how it helped shape your paper (if it did) or whether it should be considered a good source of information at all.
That is essentially all there is to it!
So now let’s see some examples.
Berrington, Eileen, Paivi Honkatukia. “An Evil Monster and a Poor Thing: Female Violence in Media.” Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, vol. 3, no. 1, 2002, pp. 50-72.
This article compares two different representations of female violence in the news: reporting in England versus reporting in Finland. The study finds that the English press sensationalizes violence and reports on it with condemnatory tones, while the Finnish press reports objectively, without bias or judgment and even conveys a tone of empathy.
The study is worthwhile because it shows how two different cultures create news to influence social thinking. The problem it uncovers is that culture plays a substantial role in how news reflects scenes of violence. It is a quality report and well-researched.
For this paper, the study was helpful in showing how violence in the media can alter perceptions of guilt or innocence, and how media impact society in general.
Jarvis, Brian. “Monsters Inc.: Serial killers and consumer culture.” Crime, Media, Culture, vol. 3, no. 3, 2007, pp. 326-344.
This study focuses on the serial killing as a pop culture industry. It examines how a number of films, books and TV series exploit the subject of serial killing and murder to consumers. The celebration of this grisly phenomenon is good for business. The claim that the study makes, however, is that serial killing as represented in the marketplace is a reflection of Western serial consumerism: it is the other side of the coin of empty materialism—the soul of humanity screaming and lashing out at the stark emptiness underlying consumerism.
The study makes very good use of the material presented to draw the link between cultural obsessions with serial killing and cultural consumerism. It identifies the subject of murder as a gothic subject that appeals to the consumer, who is at root uneasy with and/or disappointed in his or her own consumerism.
The study is helpful to this work because it highlights the manner in which the public will pursue subject matter that resonates with the soul, subject matter that reflects the state of mind and spirit of the times.
Ciftci, S. (2012). Islamophobia and threat perceptions: Explaining anti-Muslim sentiment in the West. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 32(3): 292-309.
This study focuses on the anti-Muslim expressions within Western communities particularly in the wake of 9/11. Experiences are described in five countries: Spain, Germany, France, Britain, and the United States. The main finding is that Islamophobia is felt most strongly among uneducated non-Muslims. One general attitude expressed among non-Muslims surveyed is that Muslims support terrorism. The main reason cited for this finding is that ignorance prevails among society with regard to how terror cells are developed and who in fact supports and fosters them.
The study is helpful for showing how Western society as a collective unit generally expresses suspicion of Islam and Muslims. The study could easily be combined with other studies on the subject that focus on media representations of terrorism and Muslims. For this work it is particularly helpful because it supports the argument that Western Islamophobia is both unfounded and at critical levels.
Kaplan, J. (2006). Islamophobia in America?: September 11 and Islamophobic Hate Crime. Terrorism and Political Violence, 18: 1-33.
This study examines the problems of Islamophobia in the United States and its linkage to 9/11. It chronicles the rise of hate crimes perpetrated against the Islamic community in the U.S. and describes the rise of hate crime perpetration in the years following the NYC terror attacks.
The study clearly shows how Islamophobic attacks increased and grew out of a feeling of vengeance by Americans who felt they were under assault from an ethnic and ideological community. It works well with other studies, such as the one by Ciftci (2012) in explaining an Islamophobic Western attitude towards Islam in the 21st century.
Clinton, Hillary Rodham. What Happened. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2017.
Clinton provides a first-hand perspective and explanation of her doomed campaign for the presidency in 2016. The book is filled with personal anecdotes and colorful stories from the front lines of the election. It is a must read for any student of politics and provides a good glimpse into the mind of one of the most important candidates in modern politics. This work is very helpful for understanding what was going on in the Clinton camp and why Hillary believes she lost the election.
Green, Joshua. Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. New York, NY: Penguin, 2017.
This book provides an eye-witness account of the relationship between Steven Bannon and Donald Trump. It takes the reader on a tour-de-force exploration of how they achieved their unlikely quest the White House and what it meant for their followers. The book’s greatest quality is its intimacy of detail, as Green was given backstage access to a lot of what went on during the campaign. For any reader interested in how Trump won the presidency, this book is a must read.
There are a lot of topics you could choose to write about—and that means there are a lot of topics that could be used to fill out your annotated bibliography.
Below is by no means a comprehensive list—but it is a good start!
Peruse it to find a topic that you think you would like to investigate in more detail. Find some of the books related to that topic—and get going!
The annotated bibliography is a great way to communicate to your reader what sources you used and what information you obtained from them.
You can describe the books and articles you utilized over the course of your research.
You can analyze them and evaluate their quality.
You can show how they were useful to your own study.
And you can determine whether they would be of use to a casual reader or how they compare to other sources that touch upon the same topics.
When you go to write your annotated bibliography, there won’t be a lot of difference in how it looks from one citation style to the next.
However, you should be aware of the purpose of the annotated bib and what you’re meant to do with it.
It is not just a means of summarizing the material you used in your research.
It is an evaluative tool and should give the reader some idea of whether the source material is any good.
Don’t be afraid to give an opinion on the work and whether or not you would recommend it to others.
But don’t get too carried away either—150 words should do the trick!
Helpful Hints and Reminders
1. Summarize, describe, evaluate and rate.
2. 150 words on average for each source you use
3. Compare one work with another as you go to show how they differ
4. Note which sources you found the most helpful or useful and why