Annotated Bibliography by liuqingyan



Academic Skills Program
Department of Student Development and Success

What Does “Annotated” Mean?
Annotated Edition of a Book

When a book includes explanatory notes and textual comments, it is said to be annotated. I have an
example of such a book on my shelf right now. It is called The Annotated Anne of Green Gables. As I
open it, I learn on the very first page of the first chapter that “the town of Avonlea is based on the
author’s childhood home: Cavendish. “ I also learn that the “ladies’ eardrops” that Lucy Montgomery
writes about are also called “ jewel weed or touch-me- not” flowers! Three or four other bits of
information are found on the margins of the first page and subsequent pages have equally busy margins.
So, all kinds of annotation— little tidbits of information, and often pictures and drawings as well— make
the text both easier to understand and more interesting to read.

Annotated Bibliography

Although they first appear to be quite different, an annotated bibliography is like the annotation in a
book in that they are both notes which help the reader understand the writing in front of them better.
In the case of an annotated book, the book itself is in front of the reader and the reader wants to get
the most knowledge and enjoyment out of the book.

In the case of an annotated bibliography, the audience is someone who is interested in either reading or
writing a report or research paper about the topic being annotated. In both cases, readers or writers
want to learn not only what work has already been written about the topic, but also whether those
works are worth reading, whether and how they relate to each other, what the issues or areas of
disagreement are, and whether and how they are useful to the writer of the particular paper being
planned. The writer of the proposed research paper gets a much better perspective of his topic when
he/she is forced to look very carefully at the information he/she chooses to use for his own paper.

How is an Annotated Bibliography Different from a Regular Bibliography?
A bibliography can be found at the end of a research paper. It lists the books and articles the
writer has used while researching the topic. A more popular name for bibliography today is
simply “References” or “Sources.” Bibliographies are arranged according to the prescribed style
of the relevant discipline, styles such as M.L.A. (Modern Language Association for Humanities
courses such as English literature), A.P.A.(American Psychological Association for Social Science
courses such as Psychology and Education), A.S.A. (American Sociological Society for Sociology
courses), Chicago (for courses such as history), and CBE (Council of Biology Editors for Biology
courses). Information included will be the name of the article or book and all information
about where that article came from.

So, what else must a bibliography have to be considered “annotated”? It depends a lot on the
particular research or project, but it will include one, two or all of the following: a
description/summary, an evaluation, a reflection. A descriptive annotation does just that – it
describes and summarizes what the book or article is about, what its main arguments and
supports are, if any, and what topics are covered. An evaluative annotation examines how
useful the source is to your research and how objective the source is. This annotation may
consider the purpose of the source and the quality of the source, its logic and its success. Your
instructor might also ask you to consider some other specific point to evaluate. A reflective
annotation may consider how this particular resource fits into your research. You might discuss
how it helped you understand more about your topic and if you learned something new,
perhaps even something which changed your thinking. This annotation is obviously a more
personal response to the writing.

Example of A Description/Summary Annotation
Kurelek, William. A Prairie Boy’s Winter. Tundra Books of Montreal: Montreal, Quebec, 1973.

       Kurelek acts as both storyteller and illustrator of his book. True to the title, Kurelek

       follows the winter of one prairie boy, William, who lives on a farm with his brother John

       and his sister Winnie. Each written page describes the process of winter. The first, titled

       “Crows Leaving Before Winter,” offers the description of the crows leaving for the

       season, and the picture on the opposing page shows the children trudging across the

       fields to the highway to catch the school bus; they are pointing upward to the flock of

       crows scattering over an area of barren poplars and oaks, with the crows’ large nests

       now visible high in the naked branches. The story continues with each pair of pages

       introducing, in text and art, a new activity or experience for the boy as he grows

       throughout the five months of a prairie winter in the countryside.

Example of an Evaluative/Critical Annotation
Kurelek, William. A Prairie Boy’s Winter. Tundra Books of Montreal: Montreal, Quebec, 1973.

       Kurelek’s illustrations, found on every second page of this may be classified as folk art of

       a particular prairie style. Each is a very accurate description of the story’s chapter on

       the opposing page. It is clear that Kurelek went beyond what some deride as “mere”

       illustrations; his paintings are represented in major art museums throughout Canada,

       the United States, and England. Kurelek has detailed the coming winter, mid-winter,

       and the joy of winter’s end in depth. The weather, the chores, the games, the

       animals…all are part of a prairie boy’s winter, William’s winter. In addition, the stories

       both begin and end with stories of the crows, their leaving at the beginning of winter

       and the strident cawing on their spring return.

       It may not be accurate to categorize Kurelek’s book as a children’s book. While the

       descriptions opposite each painting are not created from particularly difficult sentence

       structures, certainly the book is entertaining for adults to read as well as children. One

       could criticize, I suppose, Kurelek’s focus on a period of time which may not exist

       anymore, or rarely so, when he depicts a boy growing up on a farm; however, to do so

       would be like criticizing an apple for not being an orange. Kurelek might be writing

       about a gentler, more natural setting than we are more familiar with now; however, he

       grew up in the 1930s, and this is the time he knew best. The details are accurate to the

       time and the paintings are charming accompaniments. This book is useful for any

       project examining prairie art, folk art, Canadian children’s literature, or mid-twentieth

       century Canadian country life. Kurelek could be accused of being nostalgic, but certainly

       not biased, as his memories of country life are painful as well as pleasant – the

       difficulties hauling firewood and heating the house, struggling against wild blizzards in

       order to feed livestock, and chopping through ice to water them are some of the less

       idyllic tasks that Kurelek describes.

Example of a Reflective Annotation
Kurelek, William. A Prairie Boy’s Winter. Tundra Books of Montreal: Montreal, Quebec, 1973.

       Kurelek’s paintings remind me of many of the illustrations for Astrid Lindgren’s

       children’s books— very soft, emotive, grainy, almost magical. In this soft and magical

       quality, his work could also be likened to Beatrix Potter, who likewise illustrated her

       children’s stories so charmingly. Potter, too, focused on the countryside and frequently

       deposited her illustrated creatures in natural settings. The pigs rushing out of their

       winter hay cave when William’s mother calls them to their trough have the same

       animated and innocent expression as Potter’s Jemima Puddle Duck and Peter Rabbit do!

       This book will fit well into my research of western Canadian literature for children.

Other Considerations
       Note that all of the above types of annotations could be combined into one
        annotation if you wish. This will, of course, affect the length of the annotation. The
        annotations for each source can be one paragraph or can be many paragraphs and
        several pages, depending on your purpose and naturally, how much you have to say.
       Other information which could be included in an annotation might be information to
        explain how the author is qualified and why we should consider him an authority on
        that particular topic. You could also discuss the intended audience and the level of
        reading difficulty (also included above).
       Always check with your instructor to be sure you have included all the areas he/she
        considers important and to be sure you are following the correct formatting style.

How Should an Annotated Bibliography Be Formatted?
The annotated bibliography should follow the same format as the bibliographic style for the particular
discipline involved. In other words, if the bibliography would be in MLA style, so would its annotated
version, and so on.

Example of MLA Annotated Bibliography
Page 130 and 131 (5.3.2) of the 7th and most recent edition of the MLA
handbook lists these rules for the placement of the annotated bibliography:

The list should begin a new page and should be numbered as continuation of the
main paper

     The page number appears in the upper right-hand corner, half and inch
      from the top and flush with the right margin.
     The title should be centered an inch from the top of the page
     Space should be doubled between the title and the first entry
     Each entry should be flush with the left margin
     If an entry runs more than one line indent the subsequent lines one-half
      inch from the left margin (this format is called “hanging indention”
     Double-space the entire list, both between and within entries.

On page 130, the Handbook gives this example of an annotated entry:

Harbord, Janet. The Evolution of Film: Rethinking Film Studies. Cambridge:

    Polity, 2007. Print. A synthesis of classic film theory and an examination of

    the contemporary situation of film studies that draws on recent scholarship

    in philosophy, anthropology, and media studies.

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