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Using Sources: Evaluating and Citing Sources: Style Guides & Bibliographies

This guide shows students what to do now that they have found information. The main purposes of this guide is to explain how to determine if an item meets their needs and how to incorporate the information into their assignment.

Introduction to bibliographies

A bibliography is important for you as a writer. As soon as you start looking at and reading research, you need to keep a record of what you find. There is nothing more frustrating than "losing" an article and then not having a way to find it again!

  1. To keep a record of the sources you've already examined and those that you are going to examine.
  2. To record the publishing details of each source you use or cite so that they can be properly referenced in a Works Cited or References List at the end of your document.

Your professor will pay close attention to the sources you use and require that you use one of the style manuals below in order to include the correct information about each source. A bibliography shows your professor that you paid attention to the following: current information, credible authors and publishers, and bias (using more than one source).

Modern Language Association

Chicago Manual Style



ACS Style Guide

Sample Journal Article Citation:
Caruso, R.A.; Susha, A.; Caruso, F. Multilayered Titania, Silica, and Laponite Nanoparticle Coatings on Polystyrene Colloidal Templates and Resulting Inorganic Hollow Spheres. Chem. Mater. 2001, 13, 400-409.

Sample Book Citation:
Le Couteur, P.; Burreson, J. Napolean’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History; Putnam: New York, 2003; pp 32-47. Book With Editor(s) Citation: Almlof, J.; Gropen, O. Relativistic Effects in Chemistry. In Reviews in Computational Chemistry; Lipkowitz, K.B., Boyd, D.B., Eds.; VCH: New York, 1996; Vol. 8, pp 206-210.

Video on Annotated Bibliography

Detailed Description of Annotated Bibliographies

An annotated bibliography is a list of works on a specific topic to which you have added brief descriptions or summaries. An annotated bibliography is not only a record of your research into a particular topic, it is also a tool that will help other researchers and students in the future. The following steps may help you prepare your annotated bibliography.

In lieu of writing a formal research paper, your professor may ask you to develop an annotated bibliography. You may be assigned this for a number of reasons, including to show that you understand the literature underpinning the research problem, to demonstrate that you can conduct an effective review of pertinent literature, or to share sources among your classmates so that, collectively, everyone in the class obtains a comprehensive understanding of key research on the subject. Think of an annotated bibliography as a more deliberate, in-depth review of the literature than what is normally conducted for a research paper.

A good annotated bibliography...

  • Encourages you to think critically about the content of the works you are using
  • Provides evidence that you have read and understood your sources
  • Establishes validity for the research you have done;
  1. Skim each article or the introduction to each book before you decide to use it. You may decide that it wasn't as appropriate for your topic as you had originally thought. If you do decide to use it in your bibliography, take notes as you read to help you when you go back to summarize it. You may want to keep track of the following details:

    Thesis: What is the author's thesis or main point? You may find a one or two sentence thesis near the beginning of the piece, or a section labeled "Conclusions" near the end. Remember to indicate in your notes whether you have quoted the author directly or paraphrased his or her remarks.

    Methodology: How does the author go about supporting his or her work? Is the evidence weak or strong?

    Special features: What makes this piece particularly interesting or useful? Are there charts, pictures, or tables that are especially helpful? Is the list of references comprehensive and up-to-date?

    Audience: For whom was the piece written? Sometimes you will find information about the intended audience on the publisher or journal's Web page. Also consider the tone and language used to decide if the piece was written for a popular or a scholarly audience.

2.  Create a complete citation for each work you have read. Some writers like to use note cards to keep track of their reading, while 
     others prefer to use special computer programs. For information about how to cite your sources and some of the products you can
     use to help you manage your research, see the library's Web Guide to Citing Sources.

3. Write your annotations. An annotation should be relatively short, generally less than 150 words, and should not repeat any information found in the citation itself. Depending on your assignment and the focus of your bibliography, your annotation could be descriptive or evaluative. A descriptive annotation describes the item and sometimes summarizes its main points. An evaluative annotation compares the item to other items on the same topic and tells other researchers whether or not it is useful or important.

4. Assemble your annotated bibliography. Depending on the number of citations you wish to include, you may want to divide your
    bibliography into more specific subtopics to make it easier to read. As you decide which works to include, remember the overall
    focus of your bibliography and try to include only works that will help your readers to understand the subject.

For more information about writing annotated bibliographies, you may wish to look at the following sources:

Engle, Michael, Blumenthal, Amy, & Cosgrave, Tony. How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Olin & Uris Libraries.

Ikeda, A. (2002). Writing Annotated Bibliographies. Claremont, California: Claremont Graduate University Writing Center.

Robert E. Kennedy Library. (2001). Writing an Annotated Bibliography. San Luis Obispo, California: California Polytechnic State University Library.

Stacks, G. and Karper, E. (2001). Annotated Bibliographies. West Lafayette, Indiana: Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.

Danielle Cunniff Plumer, August 2004

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