F&M College Library

Citing Sources

Creating an annotated bibliography

First, locate and record citations to books and journals that may contain useful information on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items, then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic. Cite the book or article using the appropriate style.

Following the citation, write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article, which may include the following:

(a) evaluate the authority or background of the author
(b) comment on the intended audience
(c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or
(d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

Example (using MLA style):

Goldschneider, F. K., Waite, L. J., & Witsberger, C. "Nonfamily living and the
     erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults." American
     Sociological Review
51 (1986): 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families.

When do you cite?

According to the F&M Writing Center's guide to Using Outside Sources:

"Whenever you incorporate into your paper an idea from an outside source—any idea that is not obviously common knowledge and was not originally your own—you must acknowledge the source of the idea. Acknowledge a source whether you summarize, paraphrase, or quote. Acknowledge a source whether it is an authoritative scholarly work or a peer you’ve consulted for advice. Take care never to leave unclear which words express your original thoughts and which words—no matter how significant or insignificant they seem—are derived from another source" (Writing Center, 19). 

Paraphrasing v. Summarizing

Paraphrasing is the practice of taking someone else's ideas and placing them in your own words with a citation at the end. 

Summarizing also places someone else's ideas in your own words, however it focuses on the main points so that it shorter than the original idea. Again there is a citation at the end. 

For more information about praphrasing and summarization check out Purdue's Online Writing Lab (OWL) or the Writing Center's guide to Using Outside Sources.  

Annotations vs. Abstracts

The purpose of the annotation, a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph, is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited. Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly articles or journal indexes.

For more information about evaluation check out the library's guide to Evaluating Sources