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* English Research: Annotated Bibliography?

Use this guide as a starting point for researching literary topics.

Example of an Annotated Bibliography

Examples of an Annotated Bibliography (MLA style documention):


Graybosch, Anthony, Gregory M. Scott and Stephen Garrison. The Philosophy Student Writer's Manual. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998.

Designed to serve as either as a writing guide or as a primary textbook for teaching philosophy through writing, the Manual is an excellent resource for students new to philosophy. Like other books in this area, the Manual contains sections on grammar, writing strategies, introductory informal logic and the different types of writing encountered in various areas of philosophy. Of particular note, however, is the section on conductng research in philosophy. The research strategies and sources of information described there are very much up-to-date, including not only directories and periodical indexes, but also research institutes, interest groups and Internet resources.

Martinich, A. P. Philosophical Writing: An Introduction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1989.

An excellent introduction to the peculiarities of philosophical writing, ranging in difficulty from elementary to moderately advanced. Martinich maintains that half of good philosophy is good grammar and the other half is good thinking and his book is geared toward helping students to write clear, precise and concise philsophical prose. The book includes a crash course on basic concepts in logic, a catalogue of the types of arguments typically found in philosophical writing, and an examination of the structure of a philosophcial essay. Of particular interest is Martinich's discussion of the concepts of author and audience as they apply to academic writing.

Rosenberg, Jay F. The Practice of Philosophy: A Handbook for Beginners, 2nd Edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1984.

Intended as a general-purpose introduction to the practice of philosophy in the "analytic" style, Rosenberg's book includes quite a lot on philosophical writing. In effect, Rosenberg divides the class of philosophical essays into four main types: critical, adjudicatory, problem-solving and essays expositing an original thesis. A variety of critical and argumentative strategies are provided in connection with the first three types.


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About Annotated Bibliographies


Annotated Bibliography
An annotated bibliography includes a list of citations to books, articles, and documents (primary and secondary). Each citation is followed by a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph (the annotation), which provides a review of the literature on a particular subject. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited
 An "abstract" is just descriptive; an "annotation" is descriptive and critical. Many periodical indexes include a summary with most citations. This summary is labeled "annotation", but it is not critical.
A bibliography is a full reference list to all the sources which an author has used or referred to in preparing a particular piece of work. Under the Harvard system the bibliography should be arranged alphabetically by author. A bibliography is judged by its content and form: it is also the basis upon which a work is substantiated. Bibliographies used to be lists of written resources, but today they may also include interviews, video and audio tapes, computer resources, speeches and more.

A bibliographic work usually includes information such as the following:

  • Author
  • Title
  • Place of publication or interview
  • Name of publisher, resource, repository
  • Date
Abstracts (as contrasted with Annotated Bibliographies)
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.


The purpose of an annotation is to describe, critically, the cited material.  It is a brief descriptive note that should provide sufficient information about the book or article so that  the reader can readily determine if the sources is credible, accurate, and relevant (with reference to the specific subject), and weather it warrants consideration.  Annotations help to clarify the book or article, and they will often provide evaluative information as well.

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

It begins with a citation of the work. It is important to use a consistent, standard format (MLA, Turabian, etc.) as you would for a "Reference" page.

An Annotated Bibliography will have a similar format to a Bibliography page, but with three differences:

  1. it includes works (references) useful to the reader, but that might not have used (cited) in the writing of a particular paper or article;
  2. the references may be organized into categories, which are arranged to guide the user;
  3. it includes a commentary (critical annotation) to the references, telling the reader of particular virtues (or, as necessary, the shortcomings) of the resource, at times in the context of other references.

Annotations are concise, economical summaries, written in sentence fragments (if necessary); if related, fragments are connected with semicolons. The commentary begins on a new line, indented slightly from the preceding line.

Annotations can be any length, but they are typically about 100 to 150 words.

There are at least three types of annotations:

  1. Informative: Written in the tone of the book or article, an informative annotation presents the original material in a shorter form.
  2. Descriptive: Provides a description of the text, avoiding the addition of any evaluative commentary on its quality. 
  3. Evaluative: In addition to the information included in the previous annotation types, includes an evaluate judgment of the material as well. 

For some works, it may be important to indicate a location (library, archive, Internet site), or means of obtaining the citation; some documents - especially primary sources in archives - may be difficult to find.


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