Library Research Guide 12:
PREPARING ABSTRACTS AND ANNOTATIONS
How to Write an Abstract
An abstract is a summary in your own words, of an article, chapter, or book. It is not
evaluative and must not include your personal opinions. The purpose of an abstract is to
give a reader sufficient information for him or her to decide whether it would be
worthwhile reading the entire article or book. An abstract should aim at giving as much
information as possible in as few words as possible.
The abstract should include:
- Complete bibliographic information
- A clear statement of the scope and purpose of a work
- A summary of the contents
- A statement of the conclusion or results
- Timsit, M., and N. Bruyere-DeGeyter. "The Function of Anxiety the Structure of
Personality in Sports Participation: Use of the Rorschach Test in Comparing Samples of
Basketball and Football Players." International Journal of Sport Psychology.
8.2 (1977): 128-139.
- Examines the relationship between athletes and the structure of the athletic
personality, and more precisely, the importance of the choice of a sport and athletics in
general in the development of the personality. Forty 17-21 year olds (20 football players
and 20 basketball players) were studied, and the data were compared with those from 17
technical school students of the same age. Data from the sports group were significantly
different from the control group: the sports group showed freer expression, more
aggression, a more evident state of anxiety, and relatively more effective control
mechanisms (kinetic responses). Data for the basketballers were significantly different
from those of the footballers: the basketballers had a higher tendency toward static
kinetics, and the footballers had a higher anxiety index. Results are discussed in
relation to the athletic capacity specifically called for in particular types of sports:
location on the court in basketball, and active and direct struggle in football.
How to Write an Annotation
An annotation is a brief description of a book, article, or other publication,
including audio-visual materials. Its purpose is to characterize the publication in such a
way that the reader can decide whether or not to read the complete work. Annotations vary
according to their intended use and their content.
Descriptive Annotations describe the content of a book or article and indicate
Critical Annotations, in addition to describing the contents, evaluate the usefulness
of a book or article for particular situations.
Elements of an annotation:
- 1. Begin with the complete bibliographic entry.
- 2. Include some or all of the following:
- a. Authority and qualifications of the author, unless extremely well known. e.g.
"Based on twenty years of study, William A. Smith, professor of history at XYZ
- b. Scope and main purpose of text. Do not try to summarize the whole work. e.g.
"Discusses the positive impact of Medicare on the psychiatric profession."
- c. Any bias that you note.
- d. Audience and level of reading difficulty. Such a comment warns readers of writings
that are too elementary or scholarly for their purposes. e.g. "Swift addressed
himself to the scholar, but the concluding chapters will be clear to any informed lay
- e. The relation, if any, of other works in the field. "This corroborates the
findings of George Brown's Revolution."
- f. Summary comment. e.g. "A popular account directed at educated adults."
- 3. Do not repeat the words of the title, give the same information in different
phrasing, or offer information that an intelligent person could readily infer from the
- 4. Be concise.
SAMPLE DESCRIPTIVE ANNOTATION
- London, Herbert. "Five Myths of the Television Age." Television
Quarterly 10(1) Spring 1982:81-89.
- The author explains how television contradicts five ideas commonly believed by most
people, using specific examples seen on television, such as the assassination of John
Kennedy, to demonstrate his points. His examples contradict such truisms as "seeing
is believing", "a picture is worth a thousand words", and
"satisfaction is its own reward." London uses logical arguments to support his
ideas, and doesn't refer to any previous works on the topic: the article is his personal
SAMPLE CRITICAL ANNOTATION
- London, Herbert. "Five Myths of the Television Age." Television Quarterly
10(1) Spring 1982:81-89.
- Herbert London, a Dean at New York University and author of several books and articles,
explains how television contradicts five ideas commonly believed by most people, using
specific examples seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to
demonstrate his points. His examples contradict such truisms as "seeing is
believing", "a picture is worth a thousand words", and "satisfaction
is its own reward." London uses logical arguments to support his ideas, and doesn't
refer to any previous works on the topic: the article is his personal opinion. His style
and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly
illustrates London's points, but does not explore their implications, leaving the reader
with many unanswered questions.
How to Write an Annotated Bibliography
An annotated bibliography adds a brief summary of the contents of each item on the
list. Placed just below the facts of publication, the annotation describes the essential
details of the work and its relevance to the topic. It will help future researchers
determine whether or not to consult the work. Provide enough information in about three
sentences for a reader to have a fairly clear image of the book's purpose, contents, and
SAMPLE ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ENTRY
- Gibson, Walker. Tough, Sweet, and Stuffy. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1966.
- This essay on modern prose styles describes the three extreme styles: tough talk, sweet
talk, and stuffy talk. Samples in the appendix are especially helpful.
*Adapted from materials developed by the libraries at Earlham College and Xavier