Research and Writing Resources
images of writers

Annotated bibliographies

What is an annotated bibliography?

It is a list of sources such as books, articles, web sites, and primary documents that you have read as you research your topic.  It includes bibliographic information and an annotation—that is, a summary and evaluation—for each source.

Why create an annotated bibliography?

It's a useful intermediate step in the process of writing a research paper.  It can help you get a sense of what has been written on a particular subject (historiography).  It also can help you organize and evaluate what you've learned from your sources, and show you where you might need to get more information.  It's a good way of showing a professor that you've gotten a good start on a research project.

What does an annotated bibliography look like?  How should it be organized?

It consists of a list of entries, one for each source you've obtained.  Each entry should include bibliographic information (author, title, publication information) organized according to the Chicago Manual of Style.  After the bibliographic information, each entry should include a paragraph or so (100 to 150 words, perhaps) that describes the following:

Author:  What is his/her background?  Is s/he considered an expert in this field?

Thesis: What is the main point of this article?

Evidence:  What methodology did the author use to prove the thesis?  What kinds of evidence are cited?  Is this evidence strong?

Relation of this source to your topic and to other works:  How does this source relate to your topic?  To other research on your topic?

You may not need to answer every question for every source; remember that some of these questions will be irrelevant for some sources.

Once you have gathered the information above for every source, you can organize the entries in several different ways:

Alphabetically by the author's last name

By theme or subtopic

By type of article (primary vs. secondary sources, for example)

Chronologically

Examples (these are in the Chicago citation style for bibliographies, but NOT in the style required for footnotes or endnotes):

A useful annotation:

Ferrer, Ada. Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Ada Ferrer is a Latin American historian and a professor at New York University. She makes two main arguments - (1) that the historiography has ignored the true nature of Cubans’ struggle for independence from Spain, and (2) that racial tensions existed throughout the long struggle for Cuban independence. Ferrer uses newspapers, census data, letters between military leaders, and speeches as her main sources. Her use of gender is relevant to my topic. She argues that black and white men constructed racial alliances (and an idea of a multiracial Cuba) on the basis of bonds forged through their partnership in fighting a war against a common enemy. This alliance excluded women. Unlike Aline Helg (Our Rightful Share), she downplays the role of sex in racial attitudes.

A less useful annotation:

Ferrer, Ada. Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Ada Ferrer is a Latin American historian and a professor at New York University. Insurgent Cuba is about race in Cuba’s war for independence against Spain. Ferrer uses newspapers, census data, speeches, and letters as sources. She doesn’t really talk very much about women, so her book might not be very helpful to me.