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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:

  1. Complete bibliographic information
  2. A clear statement of the scope and purpose of a work
  3. A summary of the contents
  4. A statement of the conclusion or results

SAMPLE ABSTRACT

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 distinctive features.

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 University..."
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 person."
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 title.
 
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 opinion.

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 special value.

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 University.