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Bibliographies are alphabetized lists of sources on a given topic, providing readers with key information about each. Annotated bibliographies add explanations to each citation and there are several types of annotation styles, the most common being summative and evaluative. We will be using the latter.

In each evaluative annotation, you’ll add your critique or assessment of the work, including comments about the source’s rhetorical context, its particular strengths/weaknesses/hot spots, and its usefulness or value for your project.

The four components of each three-sentence evaluative entry look like this:

  1. The bibliographic citation in MLA format (see the Purdue OWL for help)
  2. One sentence containing the rhetorical information (genre, purpose, audience, angle of vision, etc.)
  3. One sentence briefly summarizing the Big Idea of the source’s content
  4. One sentence containing your evaluation of the source (strengths/weaknesses/hot spots/usefulness/value for your project)


Rosenman, Mark. “A Call for National Service.” Chronicle of Philanthropy2007: 38. Proquest.

Web. 8 Feb. 2013.

This persuasive argument aims to help nonprofit leaders make an effective public policy case for compulsory national service. Rosenman argues that by connecting Americans with real-world problems and the people negatively affected by them, compulsory service would create active, responsive citizens who hold government accountable for results. This source provides some good general suggestions for how to make compulsory national service work and asserts many of the common arguments in support of it, although its claims are mostly assumptions unsupported by evidence.

Practice 1: Number the four different components in the sample annotated bibliography entry above. Check your answers with a partner.

Practice 2: Select one of your sources for your final project and create an annotated bibliography entry for it that includes all four components. You can write it below. When you are finished, review your results with a partner.

The Critical Preface

Annotated bibliographies are typically preceded by a critical preface (think: introduction) that explains the scope and purpose of the bibliography. The critical preface gives you a chance to highlight your critical thinking and show the purposeful way that you conducted your research. Typically the critical preface includes the following information in 1-2 paragraphs:

  1. A contextual overview that shows the purpose of the annotated bibliography and suggests its value/significance for the reader
  2. The research question posed by the author
  3. The dates during which the bibliography was compiled
  4. An overview of the number and type of items included

EXAMPLE(adapted from The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing, 7thed.):

Should the United States Establish Mandatory Public Service for Young Adults?

An Annotated Bibliography

Critical Preface

Today, national service programs like AmeriCorps seem to be gaining the attention of young adults who are facing a hostile job market and are unsure about their futures. I have also noticed some proposals to create a kind of draft that would extend beyond military service to require terms of civil service from young adults, putting them to work on projects that meet basic needs like hunger and poverty. These plans are always controversial, especially in the U.S. where we value the freedom of choice. With this research project, I set out to explore the following questions: Should the U.S. require year of national service from all its young adults? How would a plan of this scale be feasible? These questions are particularly important during a time of scarce resources, Congressional budget battles, growing social and economic divisions among our citizens, and general public mistrust of government. The country seems to be reevaluating the optimal level of citizen involvement in public life and where we should invest public resources.

I conducted this research over several days in early February 2017. My research included a variety of sources: a scholarly research study, two articles from a popular newsmagazine, an article from an online non-profit-sector journal, two webpages that provided program overviews and background information, a fact-checking website, and a nonprofit webpage of testimonials from national service participants. This research helped me better understand our current system of national service opportunities and see how this system could be expanded. The testimonials and the scholarly research study by Jastrzab et al. Also highlighted the impacts national service has on individual participants. Several of these sources (particularly Rosenman and Kinsley) illuminated the different values, beliefs, and assumptions that drive disagreements about mandatory national service. Ultimately, these sources convinced me that our nation and young adults could greatly benefit from expanding national service, although I remain concerned about the feasibility of implementing a mandatory plan.

Practice 1: Number the four different components in the sample critical preface above. Check your answers with a partner.

Practice 2: Brainstorm some tentative information for the four criteria using your research project

  1. What is the purpose of your annotated bibliography and what is its value for the reader?

  2. What is the research question you are posing?

  3. During what date range did you compile your annotated bibliography?
  4. How many sources did you use? What different types of sources did you use and why?

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