ENGLISH 111/009

Prepare an Annotated Bibliography 

Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI

Unit 2, Task 2

This is where you will prepare a bibliography on your selected topic. Each entry will include both a useful annotation of the article's contents and a thoughtful evaluation of the quality of the article. Please, do not select junk here! This is one of the most time-consuming tasks of the entire research project, but if you do a good job here, the rest of the research project will be much easier to do. If, after you do your best, you cannot find good material on your topic, you may want to change to another topic that is easier to work with.

Each article must be substantial--not less that two full screens of text. Do NOT select websites, but rather choose specific articles from the websites that you examine.

Note: You may not use more than two items by the same author or from the same website, book or journal.

1. Read Hacker:

  • Section R1 on Conducting research

  • Section R2 on Evaluating Sources

  • Section R3 on Managing information and avoiding plagiarism

  • Section MLA-4, on documenting sources, especially the part on electronic sources.

2. Make a bookmark for this page, so that you can easily return after doing your search. Do this by selecting "Bookmark" from the top menu bar, and then selecting "Add Bookmark." Once you've done that, you will be able to return here by looking for the bookmark that ends in "biblio.html." Print out this page to keep the directions handy while you search.

3. Prepare a list of at least ten different key words to use as you begin to search your topic. A key word is a word or phrase describing your topic that you type into the search box to find material on your topic.

Some key words work very well; others do not. You may need to experiment with different related words until you find some that lead you to the material you are looking for. Problems can occur in two directions:

300,000 hits

There's no way you can look at all of them. Solution: add more descriptive words to your search term;

no hits

You probably need to use different key words in your search instructions, or more general terms.

If you have several key words that belong together, try putting the group of words in quotation marks. This can improve your search results. For example, if I wanted to find out about Elizabeth Taylor in her role of Cleopatra, I might try this entry: "Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra film."

In order to annotate an item, you must first read it, so concentrate on articles, web pages, etc. that you can actually read and print out. Articles need to be substantial as well as reliable, so do not include any article in your bibliography that is briefer than 2 full print pages or 4 screens.

The goal is to gather a range of ideas and opinions, so do not include more than two articles by the same person, or more than two articles from the same web site.

4. You can start your search by clicking on VIVA, which has good Electronic Collections (e-texts). E-texts are useful, since you can read them online before deciding whether or not to print them. Select at least ten substantial items on your topic. Print all of them, so you will have them available now for bibliography and later for writing summaries and preparing your report.

If you cannot find enough material using VIVA, try one of the search engines linked to the 111 Home Page. Currently, my favorite is Google, but there are many good search engines.

At this stage, you should already be considering your evaluations. Don't select any items that look junky or unreliable. How can you tell? Well, if there is no qualified author, no date, no reputable organization, no documentation, etc., then the article is probably not suitable for an academic research project, although it might be fun to read and even to share with friends. If the article is on a site sponsored by a reputable organization such as the American Medical Association, you can almost certainly trust the contents. If the article is written by a journalist from a major newspaper, you can almost certainly trust the contents. If an article uses footnotes or other documentation to show where its information comes from, it is probably ok. And so on. 

In a library, the materials are already checked over by a trained librarian, but on the Internet, there are no filters or kindly librarians. You have to use your own judgment, and be as careful and critical as a detective.  Go to Evaluating Internet Resources to see an excellent brief discussion of five items to think about when evaluating a web site. They are: Authority, Accuracy, Objectivity, Currency and Coverage. Another good place to learn about how to evaluate web pages is: Bedford Research Room: How to Evaluate a Web Site.

There are many other ways to find information on a topic, whether on the Internet or in your local library. Use any that are available. However, if your topic is current, you need to find materials that are current. If you are researching current thinking about using drugs for ADHD children, you need articles from the past couple of years, not something ten years old. 

5. After you have gathered your articles, return to this page, using the bookmark you made for it. Now you are ready to begin organizing your Annotated Bibliography. For models of bibliographic entries read the section on documentation in Hacker, MLA-4.  

Each bibliographical entry for an Internet item must include:


Author (if there is one); alphabetize using the last name first: Smith, Tom; Brown, Jane, etc. If there are two or more authors, only reverse the name of the first author.

Title of the document, in quotation marks

Title of complete work (if applicable) in italics or all capitals (if the article came from a newspaper or magazine or book, that should be included here; if it is part of a web site, the name of the web site should be included here). Pages of the article within the journal or other site, if applicable.

Date of publication or last revision of article (if you can't find that, use the last update of the web site, or if you can't find that, use your access date; however, undated material is not generally acceptable for academic research)

URL in [square brackets], because angle brackets would make the address disappear on the www. The URL is the Internet address of the article; you can copy it from the address line and paste it into your bibliography.

date of your access to the site (in parentheses)

Each entry for your annotated bibliography must include:

An annotation: This should be enough to tell your reader what the article is about and briefly mention the main ideas and major supporting examples. Do not select articles that you do not think will be useful. You will need to read each article before you can annotate it, so stick to material that you can get to read, whether online or in the library.

An evaluation: In a separate paragraph, evaluate each article. Why do you think it is reliable? Does it come from a professional source? Is the author well qualified? Is the information presented supported by facts and studies? 

An explanation of use: In a separate paragraph, explain your reason for selecting the article for your research project bibliography. How will the article be useful for your research report? Does it confirm or contradict your ideas about the topic so far? Does it contain statistics that you will use? And so on. Do not include items in your annotated bibliography that you evaluate as not of value to your report.

Alphabetize the list by the last names of the authors or editors. If an article does not have an author or editor, alphabetize it under the first word of the title (ignore articles "a, "an," or "the" when you alphabetize) . Number your entries, to be sure you get at least ten of them. Your bibliography should look something like this: 

I. A list of key words (at least ten)

II. A paragraph explaining what your topic is and why it interests you.

III. An annotated list of at least ten bibliography items.

1. Algee, B. and Smokey the Bear. "There was a bear." The Zoo Review, Vol. 3, March, 1990: 33-34.

  • Annotation: This is a nostalgic story about a beloved old bear in the San Diego Zoo, that includes three photos of the bear, Algernon, and his descendants. 

  • Evaluation: The Zoo Review is published by the National Zoological Society, so it should be reliable. Some of the information on Algernon's diet is interesting. I also liked the part about how zookeepers tried to get Algernon to exercise--no luck! It also has some useful bibliography of other articles that I want to find and read.

  • Explanation of Use: I will use the photos of Algernon in my report and I also want to write about the San Diego Zoo, so this will be useful for that section of my report.

2. Hubbard, M. "There was a Bear in my Cupboard." Big Bear Information Page. 1994. [http://www.cal.bruin.porridge.org] (22 July 1995).

  • Annotation: A little old lady complains about the cost of feeding a bear who lived in her cupboard and ate all her groceries until her cupboard was bare. Included are photos of the bear, the bare cupboard, and a table on the nutritional requirements of bears versus little old ladies.

  • Evaluation: Another article that is not particularly scholarly. All sorts of weird stuff shows up on this Big Bear Information Page. Nonetheless, the nutritional information is interesting. I need to see if I can find supporting evidence in a more scholarly source.

  • Explanation of Use:  I will probably want to use this one in my study of bears' eating habits, although I will need other sources to confirm the information here.

3. Panda, E. "Are Pandas True Bears?" 1999. [http://www.brown.bear.talk.com] (12 December 2001).

  • Annotation: Mr. Panda argues that even if pandas are not exactly genetic bears, they are spiritual bears and deserve to be treated with all the respect of true bears.

  • Evaluation: This article includes a lot of silly stuff about panda bears being better than teddy bears for children's toys. Rather pandocentric, I think, but what can you expect from a discussion group run by bears? 

  • Explanation of Use: This will be useful because it gives the bears' points of view, while most sources just give human points of view. Refreshing. Since I want to sensitize my readers to how bears feel about the world, I'll use this in that section.

4. -------. "Spring time in the Rockies." Fauna Journal, February 21, 1988: 18-32. [http://www.bear.va.etexts.org] (20 May 2001).

  • Annotation: This presents a bear's view of the pleasures of spring in the mountains, and the irritations of having hikers and campers bothering one just because the weather's turned nice. The author is a strong advocate of keeping people out of the national parks. Included are several useful tables about spring temperatures related to the density of campers and which sorts of cars contain the most delicious foods. Important article for campers.

  • Evaluation: Although I enjoyed the article, I don't really think it is supported by research. However, it's not every day that you can read a bear's essay on campers, so it's worth keeping, if only for a charming example or two. 

  • Explanation of Use: Because my topic is the use of national parks for the sake of happy bears, this will work, even though I still need more academic information. Like the entry above, it will help me to show readers how bears feel about life, parks, and such.

5. Zinnia, Susan B., Ph.D. "Nutritional Requirements of Pandas in the Wild." USDA Review, January 10, 2001: 25-70. [http://www.USDA.gov] (16 June 2001).

  • Annotation: Finally I've found a scholarly article on panda diet in the wild. Bamboo is the mainstay of their diet, and it takes them all day to eat enough to stay healthy and happy. Curiously, their intestines and teeth are more suited to a carnivore's diet. I wonder why these cute bears went veggie?

  • Evaluation: I will need to find some other material on panda diet in zoos. I went to the National Zoo in May, 2001, and the panda keeper told me that they used to feed meat to pandas, but it made them fat, lazy and mean! I would like to find a print source for this, too. However, this article has an impeccable source and is very current.

  • Explanation of Use: I want to use this article to support my argument about how humans treat bears as if they (the humans) knew what was best for the bears. Just because meat makes pandas fat and ornery does NOT mean that humans should have the right to decide what the pandas are allowed to eat. 

And so on until you have at least ten entries on your topic.

If you have selected your topic wisely, and located relevant, reliable sources, you should now have a beginning bibliography for your research project, or you may now know that your original idea won't work easily as a research project and you will need to turn to something else. As you develop your ideas for your essays, you will find that you need more sources on particular issues. Add these to your bibliography as you locate them; some of them will become part of your final list of works cited.

Now you are ready to post your Bibliography, so go to Blackboard, Unit 2, Task 2

(c) Thompson: 11/7/1998; updated: 03/21/2007