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Lang&Lit: EH501 -- Introduction to Graduate Study in English: Part I: Annotated Bibliographies, Book Reviews, and Literature Reviews

This LibGuide is the companion guide to the EH501 course offered by the English Department at Jacksonville State University. It is intended for graduate students and rising professionals in the field, and its content may be used to complement LibGuides f

Annotated Bibliographies, Book Reviews, and Literature Reviews

Annotated Bibliographies

In the heyday of print bibliographies and indexes, the gold standard was the annotated bibliography.  This type of reference tool contains not only the location information for the item record (the citation), but also a brief summary of the item (the annotation).  Annotations can vary in length from just a few lines to multiple paragraphs.  An annotation that merely summarizes the source is a descriptive annotation.  One that also evaluates the source is a critical annotation.  Like the abstract attached to many records in electronic databases, the annotation promotes both efficiency and effectiveness by helping the researcher more precisely compare the content of the item with the type of information sought.  It can save both time and effort.  

Why use Annotated Bibliographies?

With the proliferation in all academic disciplines of electronic databases, with their type and click navigation, the continued usefulness of print bibliographies and periodical indexes upon which the databases are built might be questioned.  After all, databases are quicker and easier to use and require less patience, and it is true that in the social sciences and the METS disciplines their role is much diminished. However, in the humanities annotated bibliographies (and print periodical indexes) still have value for the researcher, and this has to do with the research and publish foundation upon which careers in academia are buiilt. 

As a rule, to be publishable apiece of writing must either say something new (new topic) or say something new about something old (new perspective).  In literature this often leads to canon expansion, as scholars seek to discover "new" writers to research -- a task which can take the researcher back decades.  This is where old print bibliographies (and to a lesser extent periodical indexes) come into play.   

1)  Electronic databases generally to not have deep backfiles (retrospective coverage of a topic); a retrospective of about forty years is the most one can expect.  Bibliographies may have backfiles extending into the 19th century.

2)  Bibliographies may have internal cross references; most databases do not.

3)  Databases as a rule index only the initial publication of an item: where it first appeared.  Annotated bibliographies often list reprints of an item in addition to its initial publication.  While the library may not have the book or journal in which the item initially appeared, it often has one of the reprints. 




Examples of Annotated Bibliographies

Writing Annotated Bibliographies

Textual Annotation

In addition to amplifying citations for information sources, annotations also may accompany information texts.  Textual annotation is a process through which the reader interacts with the thing being read.  Because individual readers may react differently to the same text, textual annotation is both diverse and dynamic.  While authors or editors may include a variety of information in textual annotations, readers generally use these annotations to explain through comments, glosses, or paraphrases. Explanatory annotations describe; critical annotations evaluate.    

Book Reviews

Book reviews are useful for keeping up with developments in the literature in the field.  They also are a good way to evaluate sources for consideration in one's research.  Book reviews can be located in several places in Houston Cole Library.  For reviews of really old books one might look at the following sources.

 Book Review Digest     Ref  Z1219.Z95

 Book Review Index     Ref  Z1035.A1B6

 Combined Retrospective Index to Book Reviews in Humanities Journals, 1802-1974     Ref  Z1035.A1C62x

 Combined Retrospective Index to Book Reviews in Scholarly Journals, 1886-1974     Ref  Z1035.A1C64

More recent reviews may be found in these.   

Choice     Per  Z1035.C5 (and electronic)

New York Times Book Review     2nd floor newspaper collection  (and electronic)

Times Literary Supplement     Per  AP4.T45

The best book reviews often are found in the professional journals in the field, some of which have no online presence and therefore will have to be perused in analog (print) format.  Some times books of similar scope will be discussed in a single review.  A good way to locate book reviews is through a Discovery Service search as in the following link.  (Discovery Search is the Library's best tool available for locating book reviews.)

Things to note about the search query:

1)  Putting quotation marks around multi-word search terms will have those terms searched as a phrase, a unit.  This makes the search more precise as well as reduces the number of results returned.

2) The Boolean operators AND OR NOT also affect the center pane results.  AND produces the smaller number of results, while OR can increase the number dramatically (even horrifyingly, as well as severely damaging results relevancy).  NOT will exclude its search term from the results list; for example NOT "paradise lost" will produce results of book reviews on everything Miltonic *except* Paradise Lost.

3)  For clarity's sake, book reviews is taken from the Subjects line of individual results.  There also could be reviews of films or plays of Paradise Lost.

4)  After using quotation marks around search terms, the next best way to both refine and reduce search results is to use the SU field label for a particular term.  In the example, this would be "paradise lost"  SU.  (One also could use the limiters in the left pane.)

5)  To look for reviews in a particular journal, use the + inside a circle to add a line with the AND Boolean and type in the title of the journal (using quotes), along with the SO field label.

Writing Book Reviews

Although not having the cachet of a book, book chapter, or peer-reviewed article, academic book reviews are a way to gain experience in academic writing and to gradually immerse yourself in the field and get yor name known.  They also are Vita builders and may carry some weight in promotion and tenure (or even initial hiring) decisions.  The following links provide tips on writing book reviews.


Book Reviews 

Literature Reviews

Paraphrasing the Dictionary for Library and Information Science (Joan M. Reitz), a literature review surveys works published in a particular field of study or line of research and often takes the form of an in-depth critical bibliographic essay.  For literature, annual reviews are Year's Work in English Studies and American Literary Scholarship.  A good example of a "one-off" literature review can be found in the Introduction of The Great Tower of Elfland ( call number PR478.I54R48  2017), and the chapters in the G. K.Hall series books A Reader's Guide to the Short Stories of   .  .  .  and Greenwood Press's bio-bibliographical sourcebooks on Southern writers.

While literature reviews are not as integral to the humanities disciplines as they are to the physical and social sciences, where the first section of each published article usually is devoted to a review of the literature, the demands of original contribution for publishable research still makes literature review part of the research process, especially for theses and dissertations,  in the humanities.  It is embedded in the literature search, which the DLIS defines as "An exhaustive search for published information on a subject conducted systematically using all available bibliographic finding tools, aimed at locating as much existing material on the topic as possible, an important initial step in any serious research project."

Writing Literature Reviews