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Annotated Bibliographies - Web 2.0 style

Annotated Bibliographies - Web 2.0 style

Author: Randolph Hollingsworth

This learning packet provides information on an important skill used by historians, annotated bibliographies, and positions it within a Web2.0 culture. Social technologies that allow for online networking and "crowdsourcing" can expand a scholar's decision-making when conducting research and enhance our learning within a global context. Users will be able to
- describe why historians focus on problem-solving skills in ascertaining and respecting the integrity of an historical record
- choose different parts of the social bookmarking tool,, that work best for their needs during research
- write good annotations for bookmarks, sticky notes or highlighted sections of a website

This learning packet explores why and how you would annotate your sources (online resources) during a research project. The advantages of using a Web2.0 environment where users are accustomed to participating in discussions about a topic or adding pertinent comments are posed.

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In the process of working to research, analyze and write the history of of a particular topic, we work to retain the trust and respect of each other and the public at large.  This includes a shared strong belief in the integrity of historical productions and the records on which those creative works are based.  In other words, the ethics of history require us to be open about how and where we found our resources - using scholarly formats of bibliographies and annotations so that the public may discover the process by which the historical interpretation was crafted. Acknowledging the work of other historians is not only an important part of scholarly integrity but also an important way to build an academic community. Historians believe that there should be multiple and conflicting perspectives and that public critical inquiry enriches and deepens the dialogs in the historians scholarly community and improves the larger communities in which we all live.  According to the American Historical Association's "Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct" (, historians should:

  • "practice their craft with integrity"
  • "honor the historical record"
  • "document their sources"
  • "acknowledge their debts to the work of other scholars"
  • "respect and welcome divergent points of view even as they argue and subject those views to critical scrutiny"
  • "remember that our collective enterprise depends on mutual trust," and "never betray that trust."

One of the key tasks for any historian is to keep notes on what is being read and discussed among scholars and the community at large: some people call it a research log and others prefer an annotated bibliography type of format (for more on traditional annotated bibliographies, see the Purdue Online Writing Lab,

If you keep a public record of the sources you acquire (or chose not to use) even in the earliest stages of your research, your personal research log or annotated bibliography will help build the common knowledge base that enriches all of us who study history. Use a public group of bookmarks as your place to store your favorite images, highlights of online resources and bookmark links to websites, articles, data sources, pictures, videos, etc. that are relevant to your shared exploration of a particular topic in  history.

Choosing a social bookmarking site for your annotated bibliography

There are many different ways to share your annotated bibliography with the public and to get input on your findings from an interested community from around the world. 

Social bookmarking Web 2.0 applications that are good for community building endeavors are: BookArmy (; Delicious (; Diigo (; Goodreads (; LibraryThing (; Listography (; Notepub (; Shelfari (; StumbleUpon (; Tumblr (; Wattpad (; WeRead (,

Social bookmarking allows you to bookmark URLs and categorize them for future use from any place, making it easy to find saved websites - and your notes on why you saved them.  Many of these programs have downloadable applications for smart phones and other mobile technologies also.

The software I use regularly is Diigo (  Diigo has downloadable add-ons that allow users to highlight, underline and annotate text on any bookmarked page. If you are using a computer to which you do not have administrator rights (and can't download the Diigo toolbar), you can access your Diigo library directly or download the "Diigolet" which allows you full access to the toolbar without having to download the client software.  Diigo, like many other social bookmarking tools, also allows users to create networks and groups which is great for working together in a group on a project.

Here are some users of who have written about their experiences with this tool and why they used it:

Learn It in 5 - Diigo

A how-to video, produced by Diigo for (see more at

Using Diigo tags and lists to help organize your research online

The information gathered for this presentation resulted from teaching an undergraduate history class focusing on Kentucky women in the civil rights era. More information about the class (and the syllabus) is available at


I use Diigo to share bookmarks of great sites that exemplify educational innovations, and I am a member of the public group "Diigo in Education" (  Join us!  I'd love to see what you contribute.