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Writing the Annotated Bibliography: Elements of the Annotated Bibliography

Tips on creating annotated bibliographies.

Putting It All Together

How does an annotation differ from an abstract/summary?

The primary difference between an ANNOTATION and an ABSTRACT or summary is the added element of EVALUATION. Rather than just provide an objective, non-judgmental synopsis of a source, you will need to provide a brief bit of evaluation concerning each of your sources.

What makes an evaluation?

It can take any number of forms. Feel free to address any apparent biases, questions of credibility, the presence of outrageous, baseless or unsupported claims, the degree of detail, and the originality of the research. Additionally, it is helpful to situate the source in terms of related scholarship. As such, any type of comparison you can make between one source and another is useful because it will help you when it is time to write an essay.

*Based on your annotations, someone unfamiliar with the sources should be able to determine which ones you value the most and consider most important.

What does an annotation look like?

Annotations are usually single spaced, un-indented paragraphs of no more than 10 sentences. Each annotation is accompanied by an MLA citation. Annotations are arranged just like regular Works Cited page-in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Consider these models.

Bodzin, Steven. “Obsolete Malls are Major Development Opportunity, Says New

Urbanist Group.” Congress for the New Urbanism. 20 February 2001.126-32.

The focus of Bodzin’s report is the idea of converting old, obsolete shopping malls into new and improved neighborhood communities. A study by the Congress for the New Urbanism shows that mall sites no longer in use or those sites no longer producing enough revenue to remain in business or that do not show a promising future are excellent sites for the construction of new neighborhoods. This is because the sites are located near transit and already have existing utilities as well as a transportation system. Rather than spending millions on renovation, the money could be put to better use for the development of an entirely new community. Bodzin’s report could be considered useful because it shows the negative effect (opposing point of view) that a mall can have on a specific location. The author is considered reliable and credible because of his membership in the Congress for the New Urbanism, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, CA. The Congress for the New Urbanism works with architects, planners, and others involved in the creation of cities and communities, and teaches them how to implement the principles of New Urbanism.

Elmore, Leigh. “There is Life Downtown.” Kansas City Magazine. 9.10 (2003): 30-34.

Downtown Kansas City is coming alive again as a result of several residential developments in historic, newly renovated buildings. Attracting residents to downtown has been a goal of Mayor Kay Barnes. Only one year was needed to meet a targeted two-year total of new residents. By concentrating to residential growth, the mayor’s office and downtown revitalization advocates hope to attract retail businesses as well. Growth will continue of the Sasaki Plan, which calls for a new performing arts center and the establishment of the Library District continues to gain momentum. Elmore provides detailed information on both commercial and residential real estate prospects downtown including figures on population increases, income of those moving downtown, average condominiums and the cost of other improvements and building projects. A proposed downtown arena is mentioned in passing as a desirable addition to the overall goal of making downtown an attractive destination, but it is not Elmore’s focus. By not devoting any extended discussion to potential construction of sports facilities, Elmore implies that this is not an essential ingredient for a successful re-building of downtown. In fact, residential and retail growth, as well as the performing arts center, and not new sports facilities, seem to be the priority of city planner’s and the mayor’s office.

Tips for Writing Quality Annotations

The most important quality of a well-written annotation is that it demonstrates to the reader a close reading of the source that is being annotated. How do you do that? By referencing specifics of the article, of course, especially when it comes to the argument being made and the conclusion reached. But, because annotations are inherently brief, you cannot include every single detail or supporting point. How, then, can you maximize content without stretching your annotations to half a page in length? One time saver is listing. Look at this sentence from the annotation above, Elmore’s article:

Elmore provides detailed information on both commercial and residential real estate prospects downtown including figures on population increases, income of those moving downtown, average condominiums and the cost of other improvements and building projects.

This one sentence captures roughly a page to a page and a half of the article’s text. Points supporting the main argument can often be strung together in one list and need not be treated individually or elaborated on in the annotation.

Annotations become easy when you have done a close reading of your sources before you sit down to write the annotations themselves. Close reading usually does not happen unless you are taking notes on the text of the article.

Annotations: As Easy as 1-2-3

  1. Write your MLA citations.
  2. Write a 5-6 sentence summary of the article.
  3. Add 4-5 sentences of evaluation (See above).

Library Guru

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Danielle O'Barto
Gangwish Library
Ottawa University
1001 S. Cedar St.
Ottawa, KS 66067