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Writers' Center

Eastern Washington University

Using Sources

Tips for documenting your sources

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography, much like a bibliography (also called a list of works cited or references) lists the sources consulted or cited in a research paper but also includes annotations, which are brief, evaluative paragraphs for each source. The purpose of annotating sources is, according to the Cornell University library website, to “inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.”

Why Write an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography helps identify the relevance and credibility of sources used in your research. It may also identify the scope and breadth of an issue or provide insight to the varied findings on a subject.

Students often find writing an annotated bibliography to be a useful task because it helps them understand the research subject in greater depth.

Which Style? MLA, APA, Chicago, or…?

Whether an annotated bibliography is formatted according to MLA, APA, or Chicago Style, or some other style guide, is up to an instructor or to the requirements of a given discipline. Essays written in literature courses, for example, tend to require MLA Style, while a history course may require Chicago and a social work course APA. Each style sheet follows its own specific conventions and formats, so it’s important to use a handbook or a good online resource to help familiarize yourself with whichever style guide is required. Check out our resources on MLA, APA, and Chicago

How do I Write the Annotation?

Annotations tend to be concise. The style you adopt for the annotation may depend on the requirements of the assignment or the field of study. Some annotations briefly sum up the contents of a source while others also include a brief evaluation of the source or an indication of how the source is to be used in the research paper. The content and length of the annotation may vary according to factors such as assignment requirements or the conventions of a particular discipline.

What Format Should I Use for the Annotation?

The standard annotation is typically written in concise sentences in paragraph form, though some writers prefer a telegraph style which omits words not needed to convey information. This “telegraph” style may read more like bullet points and list information in phrases which omit verbs. This style should only be followed if it is permitted by the assignment and the conventions of the particular discipline.

Sample Annotations

MLA Citation:

Spiegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. Pantheon, 1986.

Influential American cartoonist Spiegelman won a 1992 Pulitzer Prize for the best-selling Maus (1986) and Maus II (1992). A graphic novel retelling of his father Vladek Spiegelman’s experiences as a Polish Jew imprisoned in the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, Maus memorably depicts Jews as mice, Nazis as cats, and Poles as pigs. The graphic novel form allows the artist to retell his father’s story in both word and image, and the depictions of mice, cats, and pigs highlight the roles of the hunted, hunters, and collaborators. Maus (and Maus II), a harrowing tale, is nevertheless an appealing text which can be understood and studied by students of varying ages, from high school through college, in history as well as literature courses.

 

APA Citation:

Spiegelman, A. (1986). Maus: A survivor’s tale. New York, NY: Pantheon.

Influential American cartoonist Spiegelman won a 1992 Pulitzer Prize for the best-selling Maus (1986) and Maus II (1992). A graphic novel retelling of his father Vladek Spiegelman’s experiences as a Polish Jew imprisoned in the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, Maus memorably depicts Jews as mice, Nazis as cats, and Poles as pigs. The graphic novel form allows the artist to retell his father’s story in both word and image, and the depictions of mice, cats, and pigs highlight the roles of the hunted, hunters, and collaborators. Maus (and Maus II), a harrowing tale, is nevertheless an appealing text which can be understood and studied by students of varying ages, from high school through college, in history as well as literature courses.