Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography Using a Citation Style

National History Day in Wisconsin

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography | NHD in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society

An annotated bibliography is an important part of your National History Day project. It is the record of your research sources, and it reflects the quality of your research. Judges will look at this information carefully as part of evaluating your project.

So, what is an annotated bibliography? An annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of citations that includes a summary and/or evaluation of each source.

Below are suggested steps to help you make your own National History Day annotated bibliography.

  1. Step 1: Record Each Source as You Go

    It is much easier to create your bibliography if you don't wait until the night before it's due. As you conduct your research and build your project, record citation information for each source you use. Don't forget to also write brief notes about how you plan to use each source. This will give you a head start for writing the annotation for each source.

  2. Step 2: List Your Sources Using a Citation Style

    A citation is composed of all the vital information a researcher would need to know in order to find the same source that you used. It includes details such as the author, publisher, and original date published. The details you include will be different depending on the source. For example, a source citation for a book will include different information than a source citation for a website.

    Be sure to check your style guide to make sure you are including the correct information. In order to check the style guide, you will need to first choose a citation style, either Turabian Style or MLA Style. Talk to your teacher for more information or refer to the following websites for specific guidelines.

  3. Step 3: Add Annotations

    In addition to the citation, you will also need to annotate each source. An annotation is a brief description of how the source contributed to the development of your NHD project.

    • Good annotations describe how the source was useful to you and go beyond a basic summary.
    • Annotations are typically one to three sentences long. Longer annotations detract from your bibliography and may be viewed as an attempt to get around the word limit. If your annotations are overly extensive, judges often note it on your evaluation sheet.
    • For website annotations, include a description of who sponsors the website.

    The following is a good example of the correct length and information in an annotation:

    Source Citation Example
    Bates, Daisy. The Long Shadow of Little Rock. New York; David McKay Co. Inc., 1962.
    Annotation Example
    Daisy Bates was the president of the Arkansas NAACP and the one who met and listened to the students each day. This firsthand account was very important to my paper because it made me more aware of the feelings of people involved.
  4. Step 4: List Your Annotated Bibliography by Primary and Secondary Sources

    As you create your bibliography, think carefully about the correct category for each source. If a source could be classified as either primary or secondary, make sure to use your annotation to explain your reasoning to the judges.

    Primary Sources
    These are documents from the actual participant in the historic event and include artifacts, historic sites, songs, or other written and tangible items created during the historical period you are studying.
    Secondary Sources
    These are documents that were not created first-hand by someone who participated in the historical era. They are usually created by historians and written decades, if not centuries, after the event occurred by people who did not live through or participate in the event or issue. The purpose of a secondary source is to help build the story of your research from multiple perspectives and to give your research historical context.
    A note on tertiary sources:
    Tertiary sources are documents written from a combination of primary and secondary sources. Some of these sources may have helped to give you ideas about what to research, but these oftentimes are not written by experts and should never appear in your bibliography. One example of this is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is not a reliable source and should never appear in your bibliography. You should not cite sources that do not come from actual participants or experts.

Learn More

You can learn more about annotated bibliographies and get information on citation styles on the National NHD Website.

Have Questions?

Get helpful information and advice for National History Day in Wisconsin.

Get answers to commonly asked questions.

Find information on NHD for your region.