Annotated Bibliography

ASSIGNMENT
Find at least five (5) separate sources on a topic or issue about the ancient world that you
find important or interesting. Of these sources, at least two need to be books and two
need to be scholarly journal articles. Do not annotate book reviews. Your written report
should:
1. State the question(s) you are answering.
2. Write annotations for at least five (5) sources.
3. State a provisional thesis (answer to the question in 1) based on your research.

TOPIC: What was the role of women in the early Arab and Islamic worlds? How and why
did the position of women change as Islam expanded in the post-classical period?

WHAT IS AN ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY?
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each
citation is followed by a brief (usually about 250 words) descriptive and evaluative
paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the
relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

ANNOTATIONS VERSUS ABSTRACTS
Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly
journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they
expose the author’s point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and
authority.
PURPOSES OF AN ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY
a) To learn about your topic: Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation
for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you
have to write annotations for each source, you’re forced to read each source more
carefully and you begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information.
b) To help you formulate a thesis: Every good research paper is an argument. The
purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So a very important part of research is
developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated
bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic.
By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you’ll start to see what the
issues are, what people are arguing about, and you’ll then be able to develop your own
point of view.
THE PROCESS
Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual
skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.
First, locate and record citations to books and scholarly journal articles that may contain
useful information and ideas 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, article, or document using the Chicago Manual of Style format.
Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or
article. Include one or more sentences that (a) state the main arguments and topics
covered, (b) explain the point of this book or article, (c) evaluate the authority, reliability,
or background of the author(s), (d) comment on the intended audience, (e) compare or
contrast this work with another you have cited, and (f) describe how this work illuminates
or changes your thinking about your bibliography topic.
CRITICALLY APPRAISING THE BOOK, ARTICLE, OR DOCUMENT
For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, see
the handout on Critically Analyzing Information Sources. For information on the4
author’s background and views, ask at the reference librarian for help finding appropriate
biographical reference materials and book review sources.
CORRECT FORMAT FOR THE CITATIONS
Only the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) citation style is acceptable for this
assignment. Short CMOS citation guides are available at
http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html and
http://www.press.uchicago.edu/books/turabian/turabian_citationguide.html.
SAMPLE ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ENTRY FOR A JOURNAL ARTICLE
Example of the CMOS format for the journal citation:
Parker, John and Richard Rathbone. African History: A Very Short Introduction.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
The Annotation:
This Very Short Introduction looks at Africa’s past and reflects on the changing ways it
has been imagined and represented, both in Africa and beyond. The authors illustrate
important aspects of Africa’s history with a range of fascinating historical examples,
drawn from over five millennia across this vast continent. The multitude of topics that the
reader will learn about in this succinct work include the unity and diversity of African
cultures, slavery, religion, colonial conquest, the diaspora, and the importance of history
in understanding contemporary Africa. The book examines questions such as: Who
invented the idea of “Africa”? How is African history pieced together, given such a lack
of documentary evidence? How did Africa interact with the world 1,000 years ago?
While Africa has been known as the cradle of humanity and its recoverable history
stretches back to the Pharaohs, the idea of studying African history is itself new and the
authors show why it is still contested and controversial.
The authors are recognized experts who have published widely on the history of Africa.
Both are affiliated with the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of
London. Directed at undergraduate students with little knowledge of Africa and African
history, this is a good first book to read on the history of Africa since it introduces
students to the historiography as well as the history of Africa in an accessible style. I had
no idea that the history of Africa was so rich and diverse. With its overarching
framework, this book will help me assess and position within a larger historiography the
other books and journal articles I will read on African kingdoms in the Sahel.
Sources:
Engle, Michael, Amy Blumenthal, and Tony Cosgrave. How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography. 6 Oct.
2004. <http://www.library.cornell.edu/olinuris/ref/research/skill28.htm>.
Stacks, Geoff and Erin Karper. July 2001. Annotated Bibliographies.
<http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/general/gl_annotatedbib.html>

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