An annotated bibliography is a list of citations – books, articles, and other documents used in preparation for a paper or a presentation for a class.
In preparation for writing a paper or putting together a presentation, the main purpose of the annotated bibliography is to provide a review of scholarly/relevant literature on a particular subject.
Unlike a regular Bibliography (that is simply a list of sources used), in an annotated bibliography each citation is followed by several descriptive and evaluative paragraph, that is, the annotation.
It does not have to be a paragraph – the annotation could consist of short bullet points as well.
Overall, a concise annotation summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article and highlights the points relevant to your research topic.
You might also wish to briefly describe and evaluate the source's images--their quantity and quality in illustrating the text for your research.
The length of the annotation could vary from a short paragraph (ca. 150 words) to several paragraphs/bullet points.
What is the purpose of an annotated bibliography?
The purpose of the annotation is to remind you of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited (for example, a general versus specific treatment of the subject).
It also encourages an analytical/critical approach to the sources.
Moreover, looking further into the background of an author would allow you to question his/her scholarly position and/or evaluate author’s authority on the subject.
Although it might seem like additional work, keeping track of the sources you read and of the ideas/bits of information pertinent to your project, will actually prove to be a time-saver when you begin putting together a presentation or a paper.
Sample 1 of an annotated bibliography
(please note: this is a rather extensive annotation)
Ardener, Shirley. “The Partition of Gender.” Gender Space Architecture. Ed. Jane Rendell, Barbara Penner, and Iain Borden, New York: Routledge, 2000.
An excerpt from Ardener’s book Women and Space: Ground Rules and Social Maps, “The Partition of Space,” defines the basic sociological meaning of gender and space that is present in all societies. Overall, the article reads clearly and Ardener successfully buildS upon her argument point by point to illustrate how ubiquitous spatial meaning is.
Ardener’s subject is abstract and easily confusing. She, however, avoids confusion at the beginning of her essay by defining numerous concrete examples of how classifications affect everyday things. For example, Ardener notes that restrictions are implicit in the idea of a movie theater. Only those who pay are granted admission.
This introductory approach simultaneously draws in the reader and demonstrates her main point. The reader is forced to confront the restrictions and classifications that are so ingrained in society that s/he takes them for granted. Ardener invites the reader to take a step further and to examine how societal restrictions are present in everyday happenings.
The first half of Ardener’s argument continues to flow as her discussion becomes more abstract. She clearly defines a series of paradoxes that define the relationship of classification and space.
The most intriguing conclusion she draws is that space and people simultaneously define one another. A presence or absence of people delineates space while space provides context for people.
Unfortunately, Ardener’s article begins to lose clarity as she begins to discuss gender in relation to space. As she attempts to explain her ‘social maps,’ her argument becomes confusing.
Her example of how different ways of ordering rank among Buddhist monks, nuns, laymen, and lay women conveys how seemingly slight changes in order communicate a completely different rank. However, when she tries to apply this example to explain her term ‘social map,’ her argument becomes confusing and it is easy to become lost in her definition of the term.
Her argument regains some of its clarity when she discusses concrete examples once again.
As she explores how gestures and symbols have different meanings in different cultures and places, she successfully asserts that despite these differences, these symbols and gestures are all modes of social delineation.
Her examples are geographically diverse and range from Ireland to Tanzania. In this regard, she avoids writing an article that is too preoccupied with concepts and demonstrates how her argument can be applied to many different cultures that are diverse geographically and chronologically.
However, actual examples of spatial architecture (which she seemed to reference at the beginning of her essay) would have made her argument stronger and clearer.
Sample 2 of an annotated bibliography
Foltz, Richard. Mughal India and Central Asia. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1998.
This work presents a very comprehensive and integrated approach to the study of the Mughals – that is he treats them within their Central Asian context and as an interlinked unit, rather than viewing the Mughals solely from an Indian perspective as foreign rulers, or by simply focusing on their origins.
Regarding my research paper, this work is a useful and easily accessible resource for understanding the Mughals within a wider geographical and historical context, notably the unifying element of Islam and the Persian language in all of Central Asia.
The work is quite strong in terms of research quality and its scope – in that he uses not only Western or Soviet secondary sources, but also numerous Persian sources as well.
With regards to this paper, the work is especially useful in discussing the effect that the Timurids had on the Mughals and their shared Turkic origins.
This is especially true with regards to the Mughals viewing the lost Timurid Empire as their ancestral seat or home, with Samarkand as the center of their world.
Foltz views them within the context of longing to return to this ancestral home, yet also provides details of how the Mughals maintained connections with their Central Asian compatriots through trade and diplomacy.
One weakness of the work, which Foltz himself admits as a necessary evil, is that there is a general lack of attention paid to the Safavids and Persian influences on the Mughals.
Instead, Foltz presents a new geographical region for academic study while notably excluding Persia in the process of creating this new identity. However, the focus on peoples and ethnic groups rather than artificially-placed conceptions related to modern nation-states is unique and useful in itself.