Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The annotated bibliography: giving detail to your sources

You may be required by a professor to produce an annotated bibliography. This is NOT a works-cited page, but it does have that format included at the end of each source. Just for reference sake, there should be a double-spaced line between sentences in the MLA format. 

Also, there should be a 5-space indentation (or one tab stroke from the keyboard) on the second and following sentences of the source; same thing.) 

Also, do not split up dates as indicated. (You can go into “Paragraphs” in MS-Word and use the “special” box and the response for a “hanging” indentation.)


An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

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.

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

First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic. Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, see How to Critically Analyze Information Sources. For information on the author's background and views, ask at the reference desk for help finding appropriate biographical reference materials and book review sources.

Check with your instructor to find out which style is preferred for your class. Online citation guides for both the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) styles are linked from the Library's Citation Management page.

Here's an annotated bibliography that I did for an online English class; the subject was African-American studies:

Jefferson and Hemings

     Murray, Barbara, et. al. “Jefferson’s Secret Life.” 9 Nov. 1998. 3 June 2005

By pinpointing the results of dedicated forensic genetic sleuthing, the authors buttress the legacy of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: he fathered at least one son and likely two daughters. The British journal Nature presents the results of scientific tests that show a conclusive DNA match between them that was directed by Dr. Eugene A. Foster, technically retired after a distinguished career as a pathology professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine and the University of Virginia. 

Confirmation of the Jefferson-Hemings affair could provoke a fresh examination of the American experience of slavery, and of relations between the races. Additionally, it may help heal the disparate perceptions of blacks and whites of their common heritage. Orlando Patterson, a professor of sociology at Harvard University and author of the forthcoming book on slavery, Rituals of Blood, states that this will establish concretely that mixed families were part of the Colonial Fathers’ legacy.

This well-designed article also discusses the resistance and cooperation met by ancestors of both families, as well as technical obstacles that needed resolution, including family roots that had no heirs. It will highlight the meaning of Sojourner Truth’s “Address” and the ties to black nurses who raised young southern children. 

Middle Passage

Lemrich, Greg. “The Middle Passage – Slaves at Sea.” Home Page. 4 June 2005.

As an assignment for a spring 2005 Early American Maritime Culture seminar at Barnard College, Lembrich’s site offers a specifically detailed research of the Middle Passage, the wretched conditions experienced by the captured Africans who were shipped as human cargo, representing one of the great evils of the slave trade. Referring specifically to the journey across the Atlantic, the Middle Passage was the longest, hardest, most dangerous, and also most horrific part of the journey of the slave ships because of deaths due to infectious disease, drowning, and the packed below ships quarters where the slaves were shackled.

This was the best site I found, even within a college database, for the variety of sources and specific links that target key areas of the Middle Passage conditions experienced by slaves. My reference for this in assignments will be the readings on Phyllis Wheatley as well as Frederick Douglass.

Nat Turner

Asante, Molefi Kete. “The Real Nat Turner.” Molefi Kete Asante Web Site. 4 June 2005.

The author’s credentials as the premier authority theorist of Afrocentricity are the platform for his challenge of white southern novelist William Styron (The Confessions of Nat Turner) and crucial in understanding Nat Turner. Asante asserts Styron’s novel demeans the meaning of Turner’s life and legacy and condemns Styron’s version of a mentally disturbed and violent man bent on revenge. Assante reverses the polarity of guilt by poignantly specifying the atrocities of whites against blacks, including the physical, mental, emotional, and psychic traumas, and regards Turner as an organic man who was justified by conscience and purpose.

I’ve used Asante before; I hold him and Henry Louis Gates in the highest esteem as historians. This web page is worth the assignment, but I’ll look again at Douglass’s life. 

Underground Railroad

“Retracing the Route to Freedom.” National Parks Conservation Association. 4 June 2005. 

A diary of events chronicled on this website supplements the efforts of a great-grandson of a slave who wanted to bring public awareness to the Park Service’s efforts to honor the Underground Railroad. Desiring to keep his journey authentic, Anthony Cohen undertook a 60-day trip by foot, boat, and rail to reach Amherstburg, Ontario, from Sandy Spring, MD—a trek of 1500 miles. As part of his reenactment, he follows the method of Henry “Box” Brown and has himself nailed into a crate to be shipped.

I chose this site for the remarkable narrative that Cohen kept: it brings a powerful level of realism. 

(Alice) Walker’s “Am I Blue?” banned or censored

“Ain’t I a Woman.” Home Page of Dr. Kathleen L. Nichols. Pittsburg State University Web site. Pittsburg State U. 4 Jun 2005.

Finding this site is only a doorway to a link with a small online paragraph on Banned, a book that exposes the ridiculous circumstances regarding this issue. The endorsement of the American Library Association bolsters authoress Patricia Holt of the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review’s synthesis of news articles. However, the site’s major value is its comprehensive atlas of African American writers and topics. This site offers an enterprising array of links and sites dedicated to the written art of black writers and thinkers, and heavily weighted scholarly articles. This site should be a staple in future classes—it will be strongly supported by me in my future classes as an outstanding opportunity. This was also the last—and hardest—one I did. Well worth it as a reminder to keep with the task.

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