Annotated Bibliography

Course LibGuide

The research required for your annotations will refine your skills performing college-level scholarly investigation, familiarize you with the most common print and online tools available at Wooster, and give you practice evaluating authors’ use of sources and point of view when compiling evidence for your project. I also want you to think about how the information available through different formats compares and what scholars need to take into account when evaluating sources. Your annotations should present a picture of the current scholarly literature. An understanding of how other researchers have approached your question – including those who disagree with your conclusions – is essential to presenting a well-considered and balanced argument.

You may research any topic that exemplifies cultural encounters and identity formation in Latin America for this project. This research should provide the background to orient your research presentation.

Annotated Bibliographies:

Annotations are brief (estimated 150-200 word) entries that contain one or two sentences summarizing content followed by a few sentences presenting your evaluation of the work. Annotations should provide sufficient information so that a reader may decide whether or not to read the work itself. They clarify the relationship between different sources by differentiating their arguments, use of evidence, conclusions, and biases. They also allow your reader to assess your use of sources and evidence in supporting your argument.

The following 7 points provide guidance for writing an annotation:

  1. Proper citation. For our class, you’ll use Chicago style Bibliography format for your entries.
  2. The authority and the qualifications of the author should be clearly stated. Preferably this is to be done early in the annotation: “John Z. Schmidt, a Russian history professor at Princeton University, based his research on recently discovered census records.”
  3. The scope, argument, and evidence used must be explained. This is usually done in two to three short sentences.
  4. The audience should be indicated: “Schmidt addresses himself to the scholar, but the concluding chapters will be clear to any informed layman.” This is not always present in an annotation but is important if the work is targeted to a specific audience.
  5. Discuss the author’s assumptions and approach, along with any cautions the reader should keep in mind in evaluating the text. This might include characteristics that identify the source’s perspective, such as funding source, author’s affiliation, etc. “The article was published in Mother Jones, a magazine known for its left-leaning political perspective.”
  6. Explain how the argument relates to other key sources in the field. Make sure to indicate any shared ideas or disagreements you see between your sources.
  7. Annotation concludes with a summary comment: “Schmidt’s study sheds light on my research question by showing…”

Source Selection:

For this assignment, your bibliography must include annotations for at least five secondary sources and at least three primary sources. Make sure that they are all high quality, pertinent sources.  You’ll be evaluated on variety and quality of your sources as well as your annotations.

Your primary sources must show your commitment to understanding multiple perspectives of a single issue or event.  Choose sources carefully to represent different points of view and lived experiences.

Your secondary sources must include entries that meet the following criteria:

  • an article from a history journal
  • two or more scholarly sources incorporating other disciplinary perspectives (So, not just historians, but experts writing in at least two other fields.  You can fulfill this requirement with articles from academic journals, or with book chapters).
  • a scholarly book (published by a University Press)

Please check with me if you are not certain if your sources fit in these categories.

Remember, you need to read the source carefully to write a successful research annotation.  Just reading the author’s abstract is not sufficient.

Important Dates:

  • Librarian Denise Monbarren will lead our Writing Workshop on library reference resources and evaluating sources on Wednesday, September 6, in the Gault Reference Area.
  • We’ll discuss how to develop a research topic, and how to move from a broad interest to a more focused question, in class on Monday, September 18.
  • Librarian Denise Monbarren will lead a workshop on library databases and research techniques Wednesday, September 27 in the McCoy Lab (L1 floor of Andrews Library). This workshop will help you gain familiarity with some of the most important databases for college-level research.
  • Peer review of a draft annotated bibliography entries in class on Friday, September 29.  Please bring two copies of your draft entry to class.
  • Your final annotated bibliography is due by 4pm on Friday, October 6.  Please upload your assignment as a pdf file to our course Moodle site.

This assignment is worth 10% of your course grade.

You are encouraged to consult reference librarians or the Writing Center at any stage of this project.


  • As a header on the first page, give your name, the class name, the assignment title, and the date.
  • Before you list your annotations, write a research memo that addresses the following questions: 1. Clearly and concisely state your research question. What are you investigating, and why is it important?  2. What search strategies did you use to find your sources?  3. Why are these sources the best sources for your project?  How did you decide which sources to cut?
  • References are separated into Primary and Secondary sources and then listed alphabetically by the author’s last name. Single space the bibliography and the annotations, but leave an extra line between each entry.   Each annotation follows immediately below its bibliographic entry, and is indented for greater readability.
  • Remember to use the Chicago style Bibliography format for your entries.  (See the Purdue OWL for reference: periodicals, books, or film.

Annotated Bibliography Examples:

Primary Sources:

Browne, Martha Griffith.  Autobiography of a Female Slave.  New York: Redfield, 1857.  Documenting the American South.  University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004.

Browne, a white former slaveholder from Kentucky, published poems and articles for several abolitionist journals in addition to her novel Autobiography of a Female Slave.  Browne employs many of the conventions of authentic slave autobiographies to present a powerful case for abolition.  Themes covered include master/slave relationships, the lives of slave children fathered by white men, and slave family life.  Browne’s creation of an enslaved protagonist so fair-skinned as to be mistaken for white was a constant premise within abolitionist literature.  While she did have first-hand experience living on a plantation, for my research this source is more useful as a representation of the self-presentation of and arguments employed by southern abolitionists than a reliable depiction of the experiences and emotions of former slaves.

Followed by the next annotated primary source in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.

Secondary Sources:

Beckles, Hilary McD.  Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados.  New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989.

Social historian Hilary McD. Beckles examines the productive and reproductive labor of enslaved women on Barbadian sugar plantations from 1650 to 1850.  Beckles argues that the overwhelming focus on the agricultural labor done by sugar slaves has led historians to overlook the economic and social importance of slave women as mothers.  His extensive use of plantation records for detailed quantitative analysis is complemented by his use of private correspondence and newspaper accounts to uncover social relationships.  Beckles provides a much-needed corrective to studies of plantation life that overlook the significance of gender.  This work is useful for my study of slave family formation because it allows me to place my observations about Brazilian sugar plantations in comparative context.