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HIST 352: Africa and the Atlantic Slave Trade: Annotations


An annotation is a brief description of a book, article, or other publication. Its purpose is to describe the work in such a way that the reader can decide whether or not to read the work itself. Unlike an abstract or summary, the annotation must include specific aspects of the work as explained below.

A bibliography, of course, is a list of writings and is a standard appendage to a scholarly book or article.  An annotated bibliography, in which each item is summarized, is valuable because it helps the reader understand the particular uses of each item.  The ideal bibliography discusses the relationships of one item to another.

Guidance for writing an annotation

The following six points can help you write an annotation. Remember that each point should be no more than 1-2 sentences.

1.  The authority and the qualifications of the author, unless extremely well known, should be clearly stated. Preferably this is to be done early in the annotation: " John Z. Schmidt, a Russian history professor at Interstate University, based his research on recently discovered documents."

2. The scope and main purpose of the text must be explained. This is usually done in one to three short sentences.  For example,  "He reveals that a few Germans played a key role in the events leading up to the revolution. They provided money, arms, and leadership that helped the revolution get started. " Unlike an abstract, which is an abridgement or synopsis, the writer cannot hope to summarize the total content of the work.

3. The relation of other works, if any, in the field is usually worth noting:

" Schmidt's conclusions are dramatically different from those in Mark Johnson's  Why the Red Revolution?

4.  The major bias or standpoint of the author in relation to the theme should be clarified : "However, Schmidt's case is somewhat weakened by an anti-German bias, which was mentioned by two reviewers."

5.  The audience and the level of reading difficulty should be indicated: "Schmidt addresses himself to the scholar, but the concluding chapters will be clear to any informed layman."  This is not always present in an annotation but is important if the work is targeted to a specific audience.

6. At this point the annotation might conclude with a summary comment: " This detailed account provides new information that will be of interest to scholars as well as educated adults."