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Writing and Reviews: Annotations & Annotated Bibliographies


How to Write Annotations & Annotated Bibliographies

An annotation is a brief summary of a book, article, or other publication. An abstract is also a summary, but there is a difference between the two. An abstract is simply a summary of a work, whereas the purpose of an annotation is to describe the work in such a way that the reader can decide whether or not to read the work itself. An annotated bibliography helps the reader understand the particular usefulness of each item. The ideal annotated bibliography shows the relationships among individual items and may compare their strengths or shortcomings.

The following points provide guidance for writing annotations. As appropriate each of these issues might be assessed and commented on in the annotation.

  1. Qualifications of the author, unless very well known.
  2. The scope and main purpose of the publication (e.g., book, article, web site).
  3. The intended audience and level of reading difficulty.
  4. The author's bias or assumptions, upon which the work's rationale rests.
  5. The method of obtaining data or doing research.
  6. The author's conclusions.
  7. Comparison with other works on the same subject.
  8. Materials appended to the work — e.g., maps, charts, photos, etc.
  9. The work's importance or usefulness for the study of a subject.

Not all of these points are necessary for every annotation, and they certainly do not have to be noted in the order listed here, but they at least ought to be kept in mind when writing an annotation.

The following are three annotations from published works:

88. Davis, Faith. "Sula." HarAdv 107, #4 (Special Issue, 1974): 61-61.

Sula is an "engaging and illuminating book about pain and estangement" (p.61) as those devastating emotions shape the lives of the black community in the Bottom. There the citizens may seem at a glance to be entirely ordinary, but the fiction shows us their complexity and their ability to endure under staggering burdens. The quality of engagement which readers experience through the book is a result of TM's lyrical yet spare and visionary language.

(From: David Middleton, Toni Morrison, 1987.)

461. FORD, Ira W. Traditional Music of America. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1940; reprint ed., Hatboro, PA.: Folklore Associates, 1965; New York: Da Capo, 1978. 480 pp.

Poorly documented but important collection with a heavy concentration of fiddle tunes from Missouri. Includes also square dance calls and movements, round dances, play parties, children's play songs, and some ballads (tunes and texts). The collector is vague as to who, when and where, for he was a local enthusiast. The reprint edition includes a useful introduction by Judith McCulloh.

(From: Terry E. Miller, Folk Music America, 1986.)

Fehrenbach, Heide. Cinema in democratizing Germany: reconstructing National identity after Hitler. North Carolina, 1995. 364 p bibl index afp ISBN 0-8078-2204-3, $49.95; ISBN 0-8078- 4512-4 pbk, $18.95.
This book provides an extensive analysis of the political context and roles of film in Germany during the decade following WWII. It focuses primarily on the role of film culture in reconstructing a normalized German national identity and normalized gender roles. To her credit, Fehrenbach (Colgate Univ.) conceptualizes film culture not simply as a collection of film texts to be read, but also as a form that encompasses the institutions of criticism, festivals, censorship, and film economics. Fehrenbach also provides readings of films seldom discussed in English, e.g., Willi Forst's De Sunderin (The Sinner, 1950), and accounts of the German film club movement and the rise of the Berlin Film Festival as a Western ideological weapon in the Cold War. She attempts to combine historical exegesis with film theoretical inquiry, but at times the two strains are not well integrated and the reader has the feeling of bouncing back and forth between two modes. Nonetheless, the book is important as the only lengthy account in English of the period and will become a standard work to refer to in future discussions of the topic. Recommend for all academic libraries with a basic collection in German or American film history. – C. Pavsek, Swarthmore College

CHOICE, Nov '95 – Vol 33, No 3 @1995 American Library Association
(From: CHOICE, November 1995.)


FYI: An annotated bibliography is NOT a copy of the ABSTRACT.

For more details on Annotated Bibliographies check out the resources below.


University of Wisconsin:





Adapted from a web page originally prepared by Tom Kirk. 


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