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ENG 298: Introduction to Literary and Cultural Studies: Annotated Bibliographies

What is an annotated bibliography?

  • An annotated bibliography is a separate paper, journal article, appendix to a journal article, or complete book consisting of a series of entries on a single theme, organized either alphabetically, by date, or by topic. Each entry consists of two parts that together form a single record:
  1. the citation in the proper referencing style
  2. a paragraph or more discussion (or "annotation") of the source listed above
  • An annotation enables readers to see the relationship of a number of written works to each other and in the context of the topic studied
  • Depending on the purpose of your bibliography, some annotations may summarize, some may assess or evaluate a source, and some may reflect on the source’s possible uses for the project at hand. Some annotations may address all three of these steps. Consider the purpose of your annotated bibliography and/or your instructor’s directions when deciding how much information to include in your annotations.

What is the purpose of an annotated bibliography?

  • To present the reader with a fairly comprehensive, yet focused, selection of the scholarly sources on a given topic
  • Provide a bird's-eye view or general review of a specialized field
  • More narrowed prelude to a proposal for future study or to a review of literature

The disciplinary area and purpose of an individual annotated bibliography will determine its character. However, in most cases, it is your chance to:

  • Provide an overview of your topic and illustrate that you know your subject well
  • Show off your abilities to do bibliographical research
  • Identify the theses or arguments of the books and articles you have chosen
  • Place research on a particular topic in an historical context
  • Assess the value of the reference for other scholars in the field and thus participate in the conversation of your academic community
  • Describe the usefulness of the texts for your own research and distinguish areas for further research, thus helping you find your own way toward a working thesis argument

MLA Example

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor Books, 1995.

Lamott's book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecurities and failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters in Lamott's book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one's own internal critic.

In the process, Lamott includes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun. Lamott offers sane advice for those struggling with the anxieties of writing, but her main project seems to be offering the reader a reality check regarding writing, publishing, and struggling with one's own imperfect humanity in the process. Rather than a practical handbook to producing and/or publishing, this text is indispensable because of its honest perspective, its down-to-earth humor, and its encouraging approach.

Chapters in this text could easily be included in the curriculum for a writing class. Several of the chapters in Part 1 address the writing process and would serve to generate discussion on students' own drafting and revising processes. Some of the writing exercises would also be appropriate for generating classroom writing exercises. Students should find Lamott's style both engaging and enjoyable.

  • In the sample annotation above, the writer includes three paragraphs: a summary, an evaluation of the text, and a reflection on its applicability to their own research, respectively.