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REL R173 American Religion (Wheeler)

Why do we cite?

There are many reasons why it is so important to cite the sources you use in your research.

  • You demonstrate to your reader you've done proper research by listing sources you used to get your information.
  • You avoid plagiarism by quoting the words and ideas of other scholars.
  • You are being a responsible scholar by giving credit to other researchers and acknowledging their ideas.
  • You allow your reader to find the sources you used by citing them accurately in your paper by using in-text citations or footnotes in combination with a bibliography or works cited list.

Citing Your Sources

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers Book Cover APA Style Book Cover Chicago Manual of Style Book Cover

There are many different "styles" you may choose from when citing sources. Your professor will probably tell you which "style" is preferred for your class. MLA (Modern Language Association), Chicago, and APA (American Psychological Association) are three of the most commonly used citation styles, but there are hundreds.

Recent editions of style manuals, which include detailed information and examples, are available at the Services & Information Desk at the University Library. If you need help on your research project, please contact a subject specialist librarian.

We have the Chicago Manual of Style available online as well as in print. For quick reference, there are many online sources. One of the best is the Purdue OWL. But be aware that the manual is always the most authoritative source.

Citation Management Tools

Citation management tools allow you to keep citations, full-text articles, and other research resources organized in one place. These tools can also be used to format your bibliographies and the citations in your papers according to the appropriate style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) To use these tools, you should be familiar with the target citation style in order to input information correctly and notice any errors in your bibliography. Please contact a subject librarian for further assistance.


Zotero is a free Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, cite, and share your research sources. It includes an add-in for Microsoft Word. For questions, please see the Zotero Guide, linked below, contact Ted Polley (the Zotero specialist librarian) or your subject librarian.

Annotated Bibliography 101

NOTE: This is general information about annotated bibliographies. Always defer to your professor and the course syllabus as there may be specific requirements for the class that differ from this information.

What is a bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, etc.) you used for researching your topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited." A bibliography includes the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).

What is an annotation?

An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation.

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography includes a summary and evaluation of each of the sources you used for researching your topic. Your annotations should do the following.

  • Summarize: 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?

             For more help, see the Purdue OWL's page on paraphrasing sources.

  • Evaluate: 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: Once you've summarized and evaluated 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?

How long should the annotations be?

Generally, annotations are one paragraph, with a goal of concise and explicative annotations. Usually one or two sentences summarizing or describing content, one or two sentences providing an evaluation, and a final sentence or two on your reflection.

What is the format?

For the bibliographic information, cite your sources according to the format required. Whichever format you use, be consistent!

The annotations for each source are written in paragraph form. The paragraph should contain a statement of the work's major thesis, from which the rest of the sentences can develop.

How should it be organized?

Usually annotated bibliographies are arranged alphabetically although sometimes they are organized chronologically, by format (books, journals, etc...), or by topic.

Why write an annotated bibliography?

To learn about your topic: Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information.

To help you formulate a thesis: The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.

Adapted from the Purdue OWL's "Annotated Bibliographies" page and the Lucy Scribner Library, "Writing an Annotated Bibliography."