Skip to main content
Check Bryn Mawr's, Haverford's, or Swarthmore's library websites for additional resources during COVID-19.

ANTH 103: Introduction to Anthropology (HC)

Anthropology 103: Introduction to Anthropology (Kelly) Spring 2020

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using, and usually just include the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).

An annotation is a summary and/or analysis. Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or analysis of each of the sources, along with an evaluation of how you will use this source for your project. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following:

  • Summary: Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say? 
  • Assess: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
  • Reflect/Analyze: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?

Your annotated bibliography should serve as a type of outline of sources. For this reason, summaries of sources should not be too long; just enough to help you remember the text. The key component of an annotated bibliography is the analysis, meaning how you will use each of your selected sources for your project. You can also consider engaging in synthesis work throughout the annotated bibliography, which is a compilation of several texts that treat the same subject, explore a particular theme, or argue a certain perspective. 

Adapted from:

Purdue Writing Lab. “Annotated Bibliographies // Purdue Writing Lab.” Purdue Writing Lab.

Annotated Bibliography Examples

De Leon, Jason. 2015. The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail. Oakland, UNITED STATES: University of California Press.

De Leon’s book is, broadly, about violence towards migrants as it is manifested at the border, more specifically the desert between Mexico and the U.S. that is now used as a migrant entryway into the U.S. He situates this violence not as one that is “natural” and caused by the desert climate, but rather as a very intentional, strategic plan by the U.S. government and border enforcement— within this, he focuses on the policy model of “Prevention through Deterrence.” De Leon traces “actors” to the U.S. government and border enforcement through detailing the change in responses at the border to undocumented migration, as well as elaborating on the post-mortem experiences of migrants still within this space. Particularly relevant to my project is de Leon’s emphasis and focus on the physical location of the desert as the border— I will frame and open my argument with a conversation around the physical border as a site of violence. Though he is not talking about an area immediately surrounding a physical border, the desert and its hostile environment acts as its own border. At the same time, his decision to look at this site comes through in his methodological approach of writing— that is, to historicize. In this way, I see de Leon’s interpretation of the border as that place within which influencing factors of migration, and aspects that impact migrants during the experience, coalesce. I am building from his exploration of the physical border as a site of violence towards migrating, as well as his methodological approach of historizing and contextualizing migration and different manifestations of violence. In other words I am building from his focus on the border as site of analysis, towards border as a point of departure.

Brown, Wendy. 2014. Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. Cambridge, UNITED STATES: Zone Books.

Wendy Brown’s first chapter from this book continues with de Leon’s conversation around the physical border as site of analysis. Brown centralizes the physical border. She cites— textually and photographically— the barrier around Melilla in Morocco, the U.S.-Mexico border, the Israeli Wall, among others and reads them as physical manifestations of a state’s “waning sovereignty,” that is, a state’s power, control, and legitimacy over its subjects. These walls and fences have been created alongside the rise of transnational flow of all things but in particular people, and in this way they are not targeting “state actors” but rather who the state deems to be a risk for sovereignty. Brown writes within a time that is witnessing a “frenzy” (24) of the construction of walls, but she situates her argument within the notion that more walls represent a just as frenzied attempt at reasserting state sovereignty that is being weakened by globalization, etc. Again we see a focus on the physical border, but, read in combination with de Leon, I will draw from the methodological approach used in both texts that situates the experiences or meaning of the physical border within a larger, broader context. From this last point, I will start to take us away, or out of, the border as our only site to theorize violence against migrants. Using Brown’s piece specifically, I will point to other sites beyond the border where states are exercising or [re]asserting their legitimacy, viewing these as sites of violence in a way that is related to violence at the physical border (unlike how de Leon describes it archaeologically, forensically).


Excerpt from Tania Ortega, class of 2019, for ANTH 311 Violence and the Body