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Abstracts and Annotated Bibliographies


Student researching Abstracts and Annotated Bibliographies

Sometimes students are assigned to write an annotated bibliography as a standalone assignment. This is a good exercise to learn about researching and evaluating sources. Some students may wonder if an abstract is the same as an annotated bibliography entry. Others may wonder if they need to include an abstract with the annotated bibliography.

Although on the surface, the two appear similar, each serves a different purpose.

Purpose of Abstract

An abstract is included as part of a research paper. Its purpose is to inform an interested researcher about the topic, problem, methodology, findings and conclusion of the research. This abstract helps students gain an understanding of whether this source is a good one for their own school paper.

An abstract is written as a summary rather than evaluative. No added material, such as explanations, further reading and so forth is included in the abstract. Usually an abstract runs between 150 to 250 words.

If you’re using APA style to format your research paper, you will need to include an abstract on the page following the title page.

Sample abstract

Literature illuminating the relationship between contemporary art and historical archives around the turn of the twenty-first century and how these interactions inform the evolution of archives in a digital multicultural age is the topic of this review. The literature reveals the extent to which art has been a means for members of marginalized groups to address their representation in historical archives, and also a means for archives to connect with a broader audience. Collaborations between artists and historical archives add new dimension to the debate about the nature of the archive as a creation in and of itself, and in turn the question of whether participatory culture may be a necessary component in achieving more complete representation of all segments of the community. Types of relationships explored in this review include: the questioning of and reimagining of the archive by artists, particularly those from marginalized groups; the blending of art and digital archives; and how such collaborations have informed the mission and practical concerns of archives. As digitization leads to increasing convergence of previously distinct cultural heritage collections and enthusiasm for participatory platforms accelerates, interactions between individual artists, people from marginalized communities, and GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) will continue to evolve and expand. From this literature review emerge observations about prior collaborations from around the world as they inform future developments.

LaPierre, S. S. (2019). Contemporary art and historical archives: Collaborations and convergences in a digital multicultural age. School of Information Student Research Journal, 9(1). Retrieved from http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/slissrj/vol9/iss1/4

Purpose of an Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is similar to an abstract in that the annotation provides information about a source. The annotations can be written as a summary or evaluative in nature. Usually, evaluation annotations are more useful to the reader. Your teacher will let you know how you should prepare your annotations.

An annotated bibliography lists several sources within a subject or topic. An abstract is intended as part of an individual research paper.

Sample Annotated Bibliography Entry

(Formatted in Chicago author-date style)

Reed, Maureen E. 2015. A Woman’s Place: Women Writing New Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

This book is a biography of the lives of six New Mexican women, including Anglo, Navajo, Pueblo and Hispana women. The biographies contain extensive interviews and notes about how these women attempt to preserve tradition in an expanding multicultural state. The author is an assistant professor at Minnesota State University. Although the author is not New Mexican, she met with New Mexican historians and searched local archives as well as interviewed family members. Reed manages to understand the internal struggles of New Mexican women from an outsider’s point of view.

Difference between Abstract and Annotation

The author or editor’s non-evaluative summary of an individual work


Summary and/evaluation of another’s work.


Using an Abstract as Your Annotation

When you’re preparing your annotated bibliography, you will find journal articles with abstracts. Although an abstract and annotation entry are similar, you cannot simply copy and paste the article’s abstract to use for your own bibliography. That is plagiarizing someone’s work. You need to write your own critical evaluation or summary of the article.

Depending on how extensive an annotated bibliography is, the author may include an abstract first. However, in your school work, it is unlikely your teacher will expect that. As always, follow the assignment rubrics.

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About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico.

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