Holman and Harmon define an annotated bibliography as one which, “in addition to the standard bibliographic data, includes comments on the works listed” (26). The purpose for such a bibliography is to concisely and accurately give readers an understanding of the content and usefulness of the listed texts. Depending on the compiler’s purpose, an annotated bibliography may or may not include subjective words or opinions.
Use the steps to compile an annotated bibliography.
Holman, C. Hugh, and William Harmon. Fifth Edition. A Handbook to Literature. New York: Macmillan, 1986. Print.
Look at Examples
Consulting a professional journal that includes an annotated bibliography is especially helpful. (Ask a reference librarian in Hunter Library for help in finding one.) Pay attention to the compiler’s comments. How does the compiler … Describe a text? Comment on its purpose and suitability for an intended audience? Summarize its significant features? React to its argument or thesis? Directly quote its author?
Consider these three examples. The first was taken from a paper for an English course, the second is from a paper on New Historicism, and the third is a fabricated example of what not to do. Note: these entries follow MLA format, and the annotation begins immediately after the publication information.
For examples of annotations in other documentation styles, please read our formatting information.
Use Note Cards
Analyze the Content
Summarize and analyze the content of the sources, one by one, defining the purpose, main topics, scope, and significant features. List this information on the corresponding note card. Significant features might include the use of illustrations, footnotes, examples, and bibliographies, as well as the suitability of the material to the intended audience. To determine the purpose, main points and scope, scan the table of contents, the introduction and conclusion, headings, and bullet points, etc.
Alphabetize the Cards
Arrange the note cards in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Organize the material for annotation into clear simple sentences or phrases. Make every word count. (Some instructors require complete sentences in annotations; others do not. Check with your instructor.) Begin with a capital letter and end with a period. Revise for clarity, accuracy, and conciseness. Remember, readers want to understand your annotations quickly and easily.
Format the Entry
Format your entry, using these examples as guides. Note the differences in each documentation style: MLA, APA, and Turabian.
ProofreadAs writers, we all make accidental mistakes as we compose our drafts. Don’t forget to proofread after you’ve finished writing to catch any errors you may have made during the writing process. Your bibliography will look more professional, and you will appear stronger as a writer.