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Annotated Bibliography (APA)

Annotated Bibliography (APA)

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson teaches what is an annotated bibliography and how and why to create one.

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Welcome back to English composition. I'm Gavin McCall, thanks for joining me. What are we going to learn today? We're going to be learning about how writers create and use annotated bibliographies, focusing on the American Psychological Association, or APA style of formatting. We'll examine the first steps writers should take when responding to a source and how to go about making an annotated bibliography. Then we'll look at an example of one.

The first thing we should do is define our terms. A bibliography is a list of sources, including their bibliographic data, the author's name, the source title, publication information, and the numbers of any pages being used. An annotated bibliography, meanwhile, is that same kind of list of sources, including bibliographic data, but also contains brief and relevant notes about each entry.

Annotated bibliographies are useful for organizing key information about sources and they generally make the drafting and revising processes easier, because the data can be easily accessed. Writers can refer to their annotated bibliographies while drafting to find the information they need to create in-text citations or parenthetical citations. Put most simply, the bibliography helps writers tell their readers not only what they found during the research process, but where they found it. Annotated bibliographies also help writers remember why and in what way a source is relevant to their argument and how to use it in the essay.

When responding to a source, there are a few things writers should do in order to begin the process of making and eventually using an annotated bibliography. The first thing to do is take notes that summarizes in your own words the thesis and main ideas of the source, and respond to that source with any thoughts or impressions you have about it or its argument. Ask yourself whether you agree or disagree with its claims, and if you see any problems with the source that would have to be addressed in your essay, or at least thought about some more.

Does something in particular excite you about the source? And if so, should you address it in your text? Also, take note of any sources of information the source itself makes use of, often you can use them too.

Once you've got notes pertaining to these questions, record the bibliographic data. This step is very important, because sometimes sources get lost or need to be returned to libraries or other places, especially during long or convoluted research processes. But if you have these notes and the bibliographic data, chances are you've got everything you need to make effective use of the source.

Bibliographic data, as we mentioned briefly earlier, includes the author or authors' first and last name, the source's title, as well as publication information, which requires the date of publication and publisher, as well as the umbrella source, for example, the literary journal in which the article you're using was printed, the URL if it's an online source, including the date you accessed it, and the page numbers for any flagged quotes or ideas you plan to use. Annotated bibliographies require certain information for each source or entry. Writers should include the bibliographic data, formatted in accordance with whatever style they're using, MLA, for example, or APA, the style we're about to look at.

Second should come a brief paragraph of notes on the source. There's no set requirements for what the notes should or should not include, or even for how much in the way of notes is needed. So writers should find a style and amount that works best for them. However, it's generally a good idea to include a sentence or two that summarizes and rewords the thesis and main ideas of the source, as well as a couple sentences about how the source could be useful in the essay.

Some annotated bibliographies will also include longer notes, or even key quotations and paraphrases, text intended to be used in the essay. But this depends on the individual writer's needs. And once each annotated entry is complete it should be arranged alphabetically with others, again in accordance with the formatting style that's being used.

Now we're going to take a look at an example of an annotated bibliography. I selected three sources from a text that I actually wrote and the annotations that I used before writing it. As you can see, I've arranged them alphabetically in terms of the author's last names. Thus, Church, Stephen, comes before Koestenbaum, Wayne, which comes before Twomey, Tyra. And as for the bibliographic information in the first annotation, after the writer's name and first initial comes publication date, because the APA, or American Psychological Association, prioritizes date over most other information.

Then comes the title of the essay, "On Lyric Essays and Dancing in Sequined Pants." Then in italics, the literary journal in which it was published, Fourth Genre Volume 14, the second issue, and the pages it references. And now for my annotation of it.

"Using the metaphor of the title, Church argues that many aphoristic essays are using the style to distract readers from the fact that they have nothing to say. He acknowledges that some things are best communicated through juxtaposition, but argues for using nonlinear essaying, with more in the way of careful intent. I think I'll mostly use this for a couple quotes, especially that one about John D'Agata, who practically created the genre of the lyric essay, and maybe to back up my exploration into the differences between white and native essayists. It's only tangentially related to my topic, but the thesis is in line with mine if talking about a different subject." As you can see, I have both some basic information about the article and a quick explanation of why I think it's going to be useful.

And as for the second, the bibliographic information is similar. I have the author's last name, first initial, and the date of publication. But since this was a book all I have is the title, Humiliation, and then the publishing information. As for the annotation, I wrote, "This aphoristic text, (book? fiction? essay?) uses just short sections of narrative and exposition as well as juxtaposition and meaning filled gaps to explore the topic of humiliation. His argument, if there is one, it that there's no way to encapsulate such a topic with words, so he's seeking to create for his readers an experience-- one that will tell us more than he could directly. I will use this as one of the primary sources for my argument about the difference in perspective between native and non-native writers, since Koestenbaum makes use of this technique, but doesn't have to. Here I'll use his other text. Quotes and paraphrases will probably be needed, but it depends on what I present for the other side."

Again, I have a quick summary of the source and a short discussion of how I think it could be useful for me. Notice that I'm referring to other texts I intend to use. Obviously, this is not the entirety of my bibliography. There other sources, more than I could possibly list here.

As for the next one, the bibliographic presentation is the same as the first source. I have the author's last name, followed by the publication date, and then the title of the article, "More Than One Way to Tell a Story, Rethinking the Place of Genre in Native American Autobiography and the Personal Essay." And then the journal in which it was published, Studies in American Indian Literatures, Volume 19, issue two, and the pages in which it appears.

As for the annotation, "the experience and worldview of many Native American writers is one that goes against the linear, cause and effect ideology of the dominant Western culture, and this is why so many of them compose texts that use juxtaposition and her term, "meaning filled gaps" to convey feelings and information that don't necessarily correlate to the scientific method and tools like it. I'll use this as the primary support for my analysis and comparison between native and non-native writers. Even though Twomey is more interested in the native perspective and defining it in contrast to the Western world view, I'd like to give equal time to both and let the readers decide. Her meaning filled gaps could be applied to both sides."

Here again, I have a quick summary of the text, primarily its thesis and how I had planned to use it to support my own analysis. So as you can see, annotated bibliographies don't have to be long or particularly complicated to be useful for writers during the drafting process.

What have we learned today? We learned about annotated bibliographies, from the first steps writers take with sources to actually creating an annotated bibliography. Then we looked at an example.

I'm Gavin McCall, thanks for joining me.

Terms to Know
Annotated Bibliography

A list of sources that includes their bibliographic data as well as brief, relevant notes about each one.


A list of sources, including their bibliographic data.