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Research Guide: What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Sample Annotated Bibliography

NOTE: The format and content of an annotated bibliography can vary; be sure to ask your instructor for specific guidelines. This example shows the standard Annotated Bibliography format for English 101 and English 102 at Spartanburg Community College.

sample annotated bibliography

English 102 Example Annotated Bibliography

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Definition

A bibliography is a list of citations for your sources (books, journals, websites, periodicals, etc.). It's like a Works Cited page at the end of a paper -- listing your source's author, title, publisher, etc. (usually in MLA format).

An annotation is a paragraph that goes underneath each citation. It usually includes a short summary of the source, an evaluation of the source's credibility, and an assessment of how you're going to use the source (or not) in your research paper. (see below for more information).

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Format for English 101 & English 102

The format of an annotated bibliography can vary, so if you're doing one for a different class, ask your instructor for specific guidelines.

  1. MLA Header: Include a standard MLA header in the top-right corner of every page with your last name and page number
  2. Standard MLA Format: Double space the entire annotated bibliography, and use a standard 12 point font such as Times New Roman.  Use 1 inch margins.
  3. Standard MLA Heading: Begin with a normal MLA heading (your name, instructor's name, course section, and date (in the top-left corner)
  4. Title: On the next line, title your paper Annotated Bibliography and center it in the middle of the page
  5. Working Thesis: Then include your working thesis statement that you're going to use in your research paper (and your annotated bibliography).
  6. Bibliography: List MLA citations for your 5 sources, arrange them in alphabetical order.
  7. Annotations: Under each citation, write a paragraph about each source that includes:
    1. Several sentences summarizing what the source said (yes, you should actually read the source to do this). (Hint: Ask yourself what the main point of this source was and what conclusions the author came to)
    2. Then several sentences evaluating the credibility of the source (see below).
    3. Finally a sentence or two about how you are going to use this source to support your thesis when you write your research paper (Hint: Ask yourself how this work is useful or relevant to your topic? What did you take away from the source that you could use in your argument?)

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Evaluating Your Sources

Look for the following information about your source. You may not always find everything, but these are key points to consider.  If you cannot find this information about your source, then it may not be a good source to use.

  • Author's Qualifications: Who is this author? What do you know about their credentials? Why are they a reliable source of information on this topic? Are they an expert in this subject? Do they have an advanced degree from a university? Do they have lots of experience in this subject?
  • Publisher or Sponsor: Examine the publisher of the book, periodicals or website. What do you know about them? Have you heard of them? Are they reputable? Well-known in this field? Biased on the topic? (Hint: you can ask a librarian or your instructor about the publisher's reputation if you're not sure.)
  • Bias: How biased is this source?  Look at the author and the publisher - are they associated with a company, organization, institution, agency, etc. that would make them biased on this topic? Are they only telling you one side of the argument? Are they giving objective facts or opinion? Where are they getting their information from (what are their sources)?  Are their sources biased?  (Hint: pretty much everything is biased, and it's possible you can still use a biased source as long as it isn't too biased, and you can take the bias into account when using the information in your paper.  Maybe look for other sources that present a different viewpoint to counteract the bias).
  • Sources: Where is the author of this article getting their information? Do they cite sources at the end? Or do they refer to sources they used throughout the text? Do their sources look reliable/official or biased or not authoritative? If the author cites no sources, are they relying on their own expertise or first-hand experience (refer back to author's qualifications)?
  • Date: Look at the date of the source.  How current is it? And how much does currency matter? Some subjects need to be more current than others (i.e. current events and technology go out of date very quickly, health information is only good for five years or so usually, but something historical would be useful much longer).
  • Audience: Who is the audience this source is geared to?  Is it children, students, the general public, experts in a field, scholars and academics?  Obviously, something geared for children is not appropriate for you to use, and something geared towards the general public may be okay depending on your purposes, but a scholarly source might be more detailed. 

For more information about evaluating sources, see our tutorials page for Website Evaluation. Or Contact Us or Ask-A-Librarian.

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Purpose

To evaluate sources: to ask yourself what it is and whether it's a good source? This will help you become a better researcher.

To learn about your topic: Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information.

To help you formulate a thesis: Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.

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English 101 Examples:

Directions: These are just example annotations. You'll need to have a normal MLA header, and your thesis statement at the beginning of your Annotated Bibliography for all English classes.

Jones, Joe. "Texting While Driving Legislation Proving Useless." Transportation Safety, edited by Frank Harvey, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Singleton, 2016. pp. 80-89.

This book chapter discusses a study done in 2014 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, where they looked at the number of car accidents caused by texting while driving in states with legislation banning texting while driving. They compared the number of accidents before and after the law was passed and found that there was no reduction in these accidents, even after the law had been in place for over three years and there had been multiple publicity campaigns to raise awareness. The chapter was written by Joe Jones, who is a law professor at the University of Michigan specializing in transportation legislation. Because of his expertise in the field, he should be a reliable author to write about the subject. The book Transportation Safety was published by Singleton, which is a well-respected publisher of reference material for academic libraries. The book was published in 2016 but the statistics all came from 2014, so in my paper, I'll have to consider that the numbers may have changed. The source of the statistics, though, is very reliable because the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency is the government agency responsible for collecting national statistics on car accidents. The source is not biased because they support texting while driving bans, so the fact that they show no improvement helps support their objectiveness. This book chapter supports the first part of my argument that claims texting while driving bans are ineffective; this will be the first point I address in my paper in order to convince my audience that car safety devices are a better solution. I will also use the chapter for the statistics and background it provides on which states have texting while driving bans and how the bans were passed, so I can show how much effort has been focused on passing legislation.

Smith, Sue. "New Device May Help Prevent Texting While Driving." Car and Driver, 23 Jan. 2015, pp. 12-24. Gale Power Search.

This article discusses a new safety device, currently marketed towards parents of teen drivers, that disables a cell phone's texting, emailing, and phoning ability while the car is on. Car and Driver magazine reviewed and tested the product and gave it good reviews on functionality but pointed out the obvious problem with the product: it's optional for people to buy, and it can be unplugged by a driver at any time, which renders it useless. However, they also report that the maker of the device is working on a system that will alert parents whenever the device is unplugged, which should make it more effective at curbing teen texting while driving. This article was written by Sue Smith, who is a staff journalist with Car and Driver, a well-known car-enthusiast magazine that primarily focuses on reviews of cars and car-products. Because the car industry is the magazine's area of expertise, and they have over fifty years of experience in reviewing car products, they should be a reliable source for a review of a car product. This article provides information on a product that I'm arguing could be part of a better solution to prevent texting while driving. I will use this article as my basis to argue that having car manufacturers install this device would eliminate the weaknesses in the product pointed out by this article: that it can be unplugged and that an individual has to decide to purchase and install the device.

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English 102 Examples:

Directions: These are just example annotations. You'll need to have a normal MLA header, and your thesis statement at the beginning of your Annotated Bibliography for all English classes.

Bergeron, David M. "Sickness in Romeo and Juliet." CLA Journal, vol. 20, no. 3, 1997, pp. 356-64. Literature Resource Center.

In this article, David M. Bergeron analyzes Shakespeare's imagery of sickness versus imagery of health in Romeo and Juliet. He points out numerous references in the play to poison and medicine; poison that sickens the healthy and medicine that makes the sick well. In Bergeron's analysis, poison overcomes medicine in the play, thus its tragic end. David M. Bergeron holds a Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt University and currently is Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, where he was a professor of English for 34 years. The University of Kansas website lists his research emphasis as "Early Modern (Shakespeare)." Because of his expertise in Shakespearean literature, he should be a reliable author to write about the play. Bergeron bases his analysis off the text of the play, as well as many other scholarly articles listed in the References section. This article was published in The CLA Journal, which is a peer-reviewed quarterly publication put out by the College Language Association. This article supports my analysis of Shakespeare's use of earthly imagery to symbolize the tragic end of the play with the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. Bergeron discusses two types of earthly imagery -- the poison and the medicine -- and how poison overcoming medicine foreshadows the end by reflecting the temporary and doomed nature of the human body and human relationships.

Vyvyan, John. "Love in Romeo and Juliet." Shakespeare and the Rose of Love: A Study of the Early Plays in Relation to the Medieval Philosophy of Love, Independent Publishers Group, 2013. eBook Collection.

Vyvyan's chapter on "Love in Romeo and Juliet" talks about how Shakespeare uses religious imagery, such as angels, pilgrims, and saints to represent the love of Romeo and Juliet. Vyvyan claims that this religious imagery shows that Romeo is in more than earthly love with Juliet -- he is "spiritually altered" by her. Therefore, even though they die at the end of the play, their love transcends their earthly bodies. John Vyvyan was a British writer whose degree is in archeology. However, he later wrote three books on Shakespeare. I was uncertain if this is a credible article since he does not have a degree in literature; however, he was offered a visiting lectureship on Shakespeare studies at the University of New York, which would mean he is considered to be knowledgeable on Shakespeare. His three books of criticism on Shakespeare's works are still in print. This book was also chosen to be part of the EBSCO eBook Collection. EBSCO is a well-known company in the academic information industry and has served libraries for over 70 years. I plan to use Vyvyan's insights on the religious imagery of love to support that part of my thesis. This will allow me to draw a contrast with the earthly imagery also present in Romeo and Juliet that represents the mortal, perishable nature of humans and earthly things. The religious imagery demonstrates the everlasting nature of their love despite their deaths.

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Last updated: 08/12/16