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How To Write An Evaluative Bibliography

Creating an Annotated Bibliography



Definition of an Annotated Bibliography

An entry in an annotated bibliography includes the citation information (written in an accepted citation style, such as MLA or APA) and a brief description and analysis of a text.  An annotated bibliography is a collection of such entries, often focused on a specific topic.

The requirements for an annotated bibliography may differ based on the situation for which it is required.  Some writers use an annotated bibliography to keep track of their reading as they conduct research.  An instructor might assign an annotated bibliography to get a sense of the literature on a particular topic.  Annotated bibliographies are often created by one researcher for other researchers, in an attempt to offer a single resource that aggregates many sources on the same topic.

The most common forms of annotated bibliography are analytical, evaluative, or summative in purpose.  Be certain that you understand the requirements of an assignment or situation in which an annotated bibliography is required before selecting one of these forms.  See your instructor or course assignments if you have questions.  


Constructing an Analytical Annotated Bibliography

An analytical annotation may include the following components, although the selection and order of these components will depend on the assignment or other course requirements: 

  • a citation for the text (in a citation style such as MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.)

  • a brief description or summary of the text

  • a brief analysis of the text's primary thesis, argument, or focus

  • a determination on the accuracy or timeliness of the text

  • a review of the author's credentials

  • a prediction or description of the text's intended audience


In addition, see Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals and Evaluating Websites for strategies for thinking critically about a source.

The following is an example of an entry for an analytical annotated bibliography. The citation is in APA format:

Helfand, J. (2001). Screen: Essays on graphic design, new media, and visual           culture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Helfand's collection of essays (previously published in Eye magazine) focuses on how technological sophistication and the power of online communications have changed the manner in which computer users perceive, critique, and embrace visual and auditory design on the World Wide Web. Her subtle thesis suggests that most web "denizens" ignore the impact of design during online expeditions---unless the design imposes itself between the users and their goal. The author's experience as a visual/virtual designer leads her to offer a critical review of how the ease of electronic design (due to prefabricated software templates) may not necessarily result in the most efficient design for web audiences, and that while contemporary web designers may possess a functional design literacy, they are not equipped with the kind of critical literacy that will lead to aesthetic and performative innovations. Helfand argues that web designers should pay greater attention to the development and influence of aural design as well as the visual if they are to remain in step with their online audiences.  

Constructing an Evaluative Annotated Bibliography

An evaluative annotation achieves the same goals as an analytical annotation, but goes one step further.  In an evaluative annotation, the writer may either advocate, disavow, or refuse to do either in relation to the source.   The following example extends the analytical annotation included above by adding evaluative commentary.

Helfand, J. (2001). Screen: Essays on graphic design, new media, and visual           culture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Helfand's collection of essays (previously published in Eye magazine) focuses on how technological sophistication and the power of online communications have changed the manner in which computer users perceive, critique, and embrace visual and auditory design on the World Wide Web. Her subtle thesis suggests, however, that most web "denizens" ignore the impact of design during online expeditions---unless the design imposes itself between the users and their goal. The author's experience as a visual/virtual designer leads her to offer a critical review of how the ease of electronic design (due to prefabricated software templates) may not necessarily result in the most efficient design for web audiences, and that while contemporary web designers may possess a functional design literacy, they are not equipped with the kind of critical literacy that will lead to aesthetic and performative innovations. Helfand argues that web designers should pay greater attention to the development and influence of aural design as well as the visual if they are to remain in step with their online audiences, although the years following the publication of the text suggest that the influence of aural design may still remain ahead.  Helfand's arguments have merit and her concepts inspire the reader to continue thinking on the topic. However, the lack of a bibliography or research beyond her own analysis make the text only  moderately appropriate in relation to a scholarly project.  

Be certain to follow assignment directions and instructor comments in the creation of annotated bibliographies.  The following examples should also be of assistance:

Sample Analytical Annotated Bibliography(APA citation style)

Sample Evaluative Annotated Bibliography(MLA citation style)

Constructing a Summative Annotated Bibliography

A summative annotation would do exactly what it says it will do:  offer a brief summary of the text.  This is very similar to the goals of an abstract, however, and is not often necessary aside from documenting a writer or researcher's process. Consider the value or usefulness of such an annotation before constructing annotations that seek solely to summarize.

Helfand, J. (2001). Screen: Essays on graphic design, new media, and visual           culture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Helfand's collection of essays (previously published in Eye magazine) focuses on how technological sophistication and the power of online communications have changed the manner in which computer users perceive, critique, and embrace visual and auditory design on the World Wide. The author offers a critical review on how the ease of electronic design (due to prefabricated software templates) may not necessarily result in the most efficient design for web audiences, and that while contemporary web designers may possess a functional design literacy, they are not equipped with the kind of critical literacy that will lead to aesthetic and performative innovations. Helfand argues that web designers should pay greater attention to the development and influence of aural design as well as the visual if they are to remain a step ahead of their online audiences.

While changes in the text may seem minor, the difference between a summative annotation and other forms lies in the erasure of personal opinion, analysis, and discussion of the text outside of the text itself.  

Exploring Other Resources

How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography  (Cornell University)

Annotated Bibliography Samples

Summary:

This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.

Contributors: Geoff Stacks, Erin Karper, Dana Bisignani, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-20 13:19:26

Overview

For a sample of an entry from an annotated bibliography entry in PDF, click on the downloadable file in the media box above.

Below you will find sample annotations from annotated bibliographies, each with a different research project. Remember that the annotations you include in your own bibliography should reflect your research project and/or the guidelines of your assignment.

As mentioned elsewhere in this resource, depending on the purpose of your bibliography, some annotations may summarize, some may assess or evaluate a source, and some may reflect on the source’s possible uses for the project at hand. Some annotations may address all three of these steps. Consider the purpose of your annotated bibliography and/or your instructor’s directions when deciding how much information to include in your annotations.

Please keep in mind that all your text, including the write-up beneath the citation, must be indented so that the author's last name is the only text that is flush left.

Sample MLA Annotation

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor Books, 1995.

Lamott's book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecuritiesand failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters inLamott's book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one's own internal critic.

In the process, Lamottincludes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun. Lamott offers sane advice for those struggling with the anxieties of writing, but her main project seems to be offering the reader a reality check regarding writing, publishing, and struggling with one's own imperfect humanity in the process. Rather than a practical handbook to producing and/or publishing, this text is indispensable because of its honest perspective, its down-to-earth humor, and its encouraging approach.

Chapters in this text could easily be included in the curriculum for a writing class. Several of the chapters in Part 1 address the writing process and would serve to generate discussion on students' own drafting and revising processes. Some of the writing exercises would also be appropriate for generating classroom writing exercises. Students should find Lamott's style both engaging and enjoyable.

In the sample annotation above, the writer includes three paragraphs: a summary, an evaluation of the text, and a reflection on its applicability to his/her own research, respectively.

For information on formatting MLA citations, see our MLA 2016 Formatting and Style Guide.

Sample APA Annotation

Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

In this book of nonfiction based on the journalist's experiential research, Ehrenreich attempts to ascertain whether it is currently possible for an individual to live on a minimum-wage in America. Taking jobs as a waitress, a maid in a cleaning service, and a Walmart sales employee, the author summarizes and reflects on her work, her relationships with fellow workers, and her financial struggles in each situation.

An experienced journalist, Ehrenreich is aware of the limitations of her experiment and the ethical implications of her experiential research tactics and reflects on these issues in the text. The author is forthcoming about her methods and supplements her experiences with scholarly research on her places of employment, the economy, and the rising cost of living in America. Ehrenreich’s project is timely, descriptive, and well-researched.

The annotation above both summarizes and assesses the book in the citation. The first paragraph provides a brief summary of the author's project in the book, covering the main points of the work. The second paragraph points out the project’s strengths and evaluates its methods and presentation. This particular annotation does not reflect on the source’s potential importance or usefulness for this person’s own research.

For information on formatting APA citations, see our APA Formatting and Style Guide.

Sample Chicago Manual of Style Annotation

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess. London: Routledge, 1998.

Davidson's book provides a thorough examination of the major roles filled by the numerous pagan goddesses of Northern Europe in everyday life, including their roles in hunting, agriculture, domestic arts like weaving, the household, and death. The author discusses relevant archaeological evidence, patterns of symbol and ritual, and previous research. The book includes a number of black and white photographs of relevant artifacts.

This annotation includes only one paragraph, a summary of the book. It provides a concise description of the project and the book's project and its major features.

For information on formatting Chicago Style citations, see our Chicago Manual of Style resources. 

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