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RSOC 9: Ways of Understanding Religion (Wright)

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

1. Choose a Citation Style 

Begin with a complete bibliographic citation using the citation style of your or your instructor's choice. MLA Style or APA Style would be good choices for this paper. Resources to help you use these citation styles follow below.

2. Format and list your citations in alphabetical order by author's last name

3. Write your annotation

Each citation is followed by the annotation, which is a brief descriptive paragraph about the source. The annotation should answer the questions below. Answers will be found in the item itself and in introductory pages, table of contents, etc. 

Address the Facts     

  • What kind of work is it: book? chapter? scholarly journal article? popular magazine article? webpage?    
  • Who is the intended audience: scholars? general public? industry professionals? political groups? etc.    
  • Who is/are the author(s)? What are their qualifications?    
  • Who is the publisher or sponsor?    
  • Does the work include significant appendices, statistics, data, images, web links, etc.?    
  • Is the research/writing well documented? 

Provide Critical Comments 

Answering the following questions requires critical thinking on your part. While you read through the work, contemplate these questions:      

  • What was the author's purpose in researching or presenting this material?    
  • What conclusions are drawn? Issues raised? Are the conclusions/issues adequately substantiated?    
  • Can you detect any biases or fallacies in the arguments or conclusions?    
  • Is anything lacking? Do you still have questions about the material?    
  • How effectively is the information presented? Well written or not? Well organized or not? Good supporting material, such as graphics?    
  • How does this information source compare with others you have read on the topic?    
  • How useful was this work to you in your research? What role did it play? 

Some material adapted from the UC Santa Cruz Library website,

Sample Annotated Bibliography in APA Style

Craig, R. S. (1992). The effect of day part on gender portrayals in television commercials: a content analysis. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 26(5-6), 197-213. 

Gender portrayals in 2,209 network television commercials from 1990 were content analyzed. To compare differences between three day parts, the sample was chosen from three time periods: daytime, evening prime time, and weekend afternoon sportscasts. The gender of the characters, their roles, the product advertised, setting and gender of primary narrator was noted. The results indicate large and consistent differences in the way men and women are portrayed in these three day parts, with almost all comparisons reaching significance at the .05 level. Although ads in all day parts tended to portray men in stereotypical roles of authority and dominance, those on weekends tended to emphasize escape from home and family. The findings of earlier studies which did not consider day part differences may now have to be reevaluated for they may have either overestimated or underestimated certain types of gender differences. 

Esherick, J. W. & Wasserstron, J. N. (1990) Acting out democracy: political theater in modern China. Journal of Asian Studies, 49(4), 835-865.  

This scholarly journal article provides an uncommon interpretation of the events of April-June, 1989 in Beijing. The authors are history professors at American universities with recent firsthand experience in China. They base their article on research, personal observation and the written and pictorial records of events. Their stated goal is to create a framework in which to interpret the events that will place them within the context of Chinese political history and permit comparison with recent similar events in Eastern Europe. The conclusion drawn is that the events of April-June, 1989, in Beijing were not related to Western participatory democracy but rather to traditional Chinese forms and ideas and are characterized as political theater. As such, they are full of symbols and scripts with unique Chinese historical bases. 

ABC News. (2019, June 3). What to know about Tiananmen Square on the 30th anniversary of the crackdown. Yahoo! News.

The Yahoo! News website re-runs a story originally published by ABC News that reviews the facts of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on the 30th anniversary of the event. The piece includes quotes from China's Defense Minister, Wei Fenghe, defending the actions of the Chinese government, covers the protest and events leading up to the massacre, and includes pictures from the late 1980s to support the claims. It closes by discussing the legacy of the event in current Chinese culture. Because an author is not clearly credited, this piece needs to be fact checked against other journalism pieces summarizing the events and its 30th anniversary.

Citation Tools

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Citation Style Guides

Some style guides are only available as books in the library, and others are available as interactive online databases. Below are three common citation styles.