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Writing Program

Annotating Resources

Dominique Battles, English

What is an "annotated bibliography"?: An alphabetical listing of sources in which each source is described briefly.

Who uses annotated bibliographies?: You and me. An annotated bibliography allows you to get short, quick descriptions of various sources, so you can consult only those sources that look relevant and ignore those that are not. It's a wonderful time-saver when doing research.

Where do you get the information to write an annotation?: Go to the beginning and the end of a book or article. For a book, consult the Introduction, Conclusion, Table of Contents, front and back flap and/or back cover. For an article, consult the Introduction and Conclusion first. Then read the first and last lines of each paragraph for the basic argument and types of evidence.

What Makes a Good Annotation? A good annotation will include the following:

  • Type of publication: article, book, book chapter, monograph, documentary etc.
  • Date of publication: a specific year or a general time period, or both. In the case of a recent newspaper clipping, give exact date (month/day/year).
  • Thesis: the main argument of the piece.
  • Framework or Opposition: wider context of the issue at hand. Against whom does the author argue?
  • Evidence used to support that thesis.
  • Larger Implications that the author him/herself sees for this argument.

Example: Here is a recipe for writing a perfectly serviceable annotation:

This essay [type of publication], argues that scientists have an obligation to ensure that their work it used for, not against, humanity. [Thesis]. Writing in the context of the Cold War [date] and the threat of global nuclear destruction, Russell argues against those scientists who take no responsibility for the damaging uses to which their work is put [framework/opposition] and insists that scientists take an active role in how their work is used once it goes into the public domain. Giving several vivid historical examples of scientists who were commandeered into war efforts, the author explores the many obstacles to the concerned scientist as a major public voice, including political interest groups, businesses and governments who fund war-related science, poorly informed governments, and a complacent public. [Evidence]. Russell urges scientists to warn the public if their work is likely to be used for violent purposes, and propose less destructive alternatives [Implications].