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Literary Criticism

a guide for finding and writing about literary criticism

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for books, articles, and other resources that you have consulted for your paper.  Each citation is followed by short paragraph that summarizes and evaluates the source.  

The purpose of writing an annotated bibliography is to collect and summarize articles that relate to your topic, to learn about the existing research in your area of interest, and to help you formulate a thesis by reading the perspectives of other scholars.

How to create an annotated bibliography

To write an annotated bibliography, 

  • Keeping your research question(s) in mind, choose a few keywords that will serve as search terms.
  • Browse the library's catalog or Search Discovery using your keywords. 
  • After you find sources related to your project, briefly read through the texts to determine which are the most relevant and helpful for answering your research question(s). 
  • Once you decide which sources you will include in your annotated bibliography, cite them using MLA format. 
  • Below each citation, write an annotation of the source.  

Each annotation should achieve the following:

  • Summarize of the source: What are the main arguments or ideas presented in the article or book?
  • Evaluate of the text: What is the goal of the source? Is the information reliable? 
  • Reflect on its relevance to your paper: How can this source fit into your research? Was this source helpful to you?  How can it help shape your argument? Has the source changed your perspective on your topic? 

Sample Annotation

Willen, Gerald, editor. A Casebook on Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. Crowell, 1960.

Gerald Willen’s compilation consists of sixteen critical articles about Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, including Henry James’s preface to The Aspern Papers.  The book provides articles that present different viewpoints about The Turn of the Screw.  The book also includes major articles by Edmund Wilson and Edna Kenton, which were two of the first critical studies produced about the novella.  The articles address The Turn of the Screw from a psychological approach, the roles of certain characters, Henry’s James’s craft, and themes in the novella.  The critics in this book present various arguments, which will be valuable to someone deciding on an augment for his or her paper or someone who is looking for counterarguments.  This source will be useful to someone who is interested in reading multiple critical articles and getting an overview of the controversy around The Turn of the Screw

How to write a research summary

A research summary typically includes the following: 

  • a list of the most helpful sources you have consulted
  • a brief background on the articles and authors
  • a description of similarities and differences between the selected sources
  • a reflection on most significant themes you came across through your research and how they connect to or advance your argument
  • an explanation of how your research has affected your perspective on your topic

Example Annotated Bibliography

Attached is an example of a properly formatted annotated bibliography.  Consult your professor's assignment instructions for specific details.