Skip to Main Content

History 301 -- Adamiak

How to find primary and secondary sources in the CSUSM Library collections and beyond.

Creating an annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a reference list of potential resources with a summary you write for each item in the list. See the boxes below for bullet points on what to include in your summary paragraph and an example. 

As you do your research be sure to record the citation information on each resource you find that is relevant to your topic. This is where Zotero comes in handy to collect all your sources in one place. 

Format your sources in Chicago style (from scratch or use a citation generator such as Zotero, KnightCite or one you are familiar with.) 

Group your citations by Primary or Secondary categories with a centered header, then within the categories, arrange the citations in alphabetical order

Each item uses hanging indent for the citation and paragraph format for the annotation text as seen in the example below. 

Read and summarize each source and add the summary just below the citation for that item. See the next section below for tips on your summary. 

What to include in an annotated bibliography

Think of this as a checklist (with explanations)!

Primary Sources (Keep in mind these are different from secondary source materials so are analyzed differently.) 

  • A description of the object or document including its age, condition, etc. 
  • If a document, who wrote it (remember this should be first hand testimony or description, not 'someone writing about what they were told.)
  • if you are working with a translation of a document, who is the translator? Are there other translations available and do they agree? 
  • Where is it held (what archive, museum, collection)?
  • Is it authentic? Is there any doubt as to its authenticity? 
  • How does this relate to your topic? 

Secondary Sources (do NOT use the abstract found at the beginning of many scholarly articles as that is the author's summary of the article and will not answer many of the questions below.) 

  • Who wrote the book, article or website? What are their qualifications to write on this subject? 
  • When was this published? For historians, it is good to acknowledge older publications and writings as earlier work may have been superceded by more recent works or evidence. 
  • Who is this written for? (National Geographic writes for a general audience, where The Journal of Economic History is for scholars--you need to use the scholarly.) 
  • What is the argument or thesis of this book/book chapter/article? 
  • is there any bias or point of view that might affect the analysis? 
  • How does this fit into the scholarly conversation on the topic (is it controversial, are there other scholars who argue against this or is it widely cited as being the best research on the topic?) 
  • How does this relate to your research topic (scholarspeak: How is it relevant/?)

Chicago Style Annotations

An annotation analyzes a book or article for both its place in the field and its value to your research.

An annotated bibliography is a list of possible resources (always subject to change as you progress in your research) in alphabetical order. each cited source gets a paragraph including the elements given here: 

  • What are the author's qualifications in discussing this topic? Hobbyist, recognized scholar, high school student? 
  • What is the purpose of the article or chapter? To explain, provide historical data, make an argument for a particular interpretation?
  • What are the sources used to inform this resource? How old are they, how reputable? 
  • How does this relate to other work on the same topic?
  • Does the author have any bias or standpoint they need to support? 
  • Is this text current? If you are reading something published in 1950, how does compare to scholarly discussion on the topic now?
  • Who is the audience for this particular writing? Experts and scholars knowledgeable in the field will make assumptions and use jargon that would make the text harder to comprehend for someone new to the topic.
  • How the work answers your expectations and questions for this project.
  • How do the findings affect your thoughts about the topic?
  • What is your opinion of the article? Helpful, obscure, will you be able to use this?

Example: 

Downie, Judith A. "The early brewing industry in San Diego, California: The San Diego Brewing Company." Brewery History no. 177 (winter 2019): 14-26. 

Downie, Curator of the California State University San Marcos Brewchive®, relates the history of San Diego Brewing Company. The article follows the brewing company from its 1896 beginnings, growth to San Diego's largest and at some points, only brewery, through its current status as a craft brewery as defined by the Brewers' Association. Drawing from both archival business records, newspaper reports, and advertising, the early path of the brewery is seen as a model of success which did not protect it from succumbing to the pressure of war, Prohibition, and Big Beer. This business history serves as an example of the growth, ownership, and economic and social pressures on breweries from the late 19th through the mid-20th Centuries as exemplified by one brewery in a city come late to beer brewing. This article is part of a limited body of scholarly work to record the growth and impact of San Diego on craft beer brewing in the United States. I will be able to use this article as an example of the impact Prohibition had on local trade in San Diego in my research project.