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Course Resources: How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (check with your professor to see approximately how many words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.


Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they expose the author's point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority.


Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.

Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.


For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, see How to Critically Analyze Information Sources. For information on the author's background and views, ask at the reference desk for help finding appropriate biographical reference materials and book review sources.


MLA Citation Style, APA Citation Style and other style manuals are available in the reference collection. Check with your instructor to find out which style is preferred for your class. Other online sources include:

Citing Online Articles from Library Databases


NOTE: Standard MLA practice requires double spacing within citations.

See the article

Lanier, Jaron. “Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism.” Edge 30 May 2006. Web. 21 January 2008.

        Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist , composer, visual artist, and author who is currently the interdisciplinary scholar-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. Lanier’s essay appeared on the website of the Edge Foundation, a non-profit organization . According to the website , the Foundation’s mission “is to promote inquiry into and discussion of intellectual, philosophical, artistic, and literary issues, as well as to work for the intellectual and social achievement of society.”
        In the essay, Lanier critiques the “new online collectivism,” saying that the collective is not a meritocracy or representative democracy but something more akin to communism—the “digital Maoism” of his title. Lanier believes it is fallacious to assume that the more people you have working on something, the better the end-product. He admits that the collective can be useful—the collective, he says, “is connected to the reasons Google’s page rank algorithms work. ” However, he believes that we still need individuals to govern the collective. He uses his own Wikipedia entry as an example of the problems with the site and collectivism in general and concludes that the anonymity of Wikipedia authors makes it difficult for readers to detect authority and context. Although Lanier’s article addresses more than just Wikipedia, he raises several important issues about the site that connect to other authors I have read , such as Marshall Poe. I plan to examine Lanier’s Wikipedia entry to see how it has changed since his article was published. Does the entry about him still seem inaccurate and biased, or does it now support Poe’s theory that “given enough eyes, all errors are shallow”?

Waite, Linda J., Frances Kobrin Goldscheider, and Christina Witsberger. "Nonfamily Living and
the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review 51 (1986): 541-554.

        The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

Credit where credit is due

Based on a guide to annotated bibliographies created by
Reference Department
Collections, Reference, Instruction & Outreach (CRIO)
Cornell University Library
Ithaca, NY, USA