Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer
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What is an annotated bibliography and how might one begin doing one for The Odyssey by Homer?

Expert Answers

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I think you will find that while writing annotated bibliographies is a little tedious, it is not a particularly complicated task. Simply put, an annotated bibliography is a list of research materials followed by a short analysis and evaluation of what is contained in each source.

The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources....

Annotated bibliographies are usually written in preparation for some kind of research work. A bibliography is a list of any references used in a research work, in your case the eight sources your teacher wants you to use. These resources can include books, articles, Internet sources, or whatever else your teacher has deemed acceptable for this assignment. An annotation is simply a short summary, analysis. and/or review of those resources. These annotations will probably be used to help you write a later research work; however, some teachers substitute writing annotated bibliographies for writing an actual research paper, since you will have essentially done the research work.

An annotation should do one or more of the following things, according to the excellent Purdue OWL Online Writing Lab source I have attached, below:

  • Summarize: 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? The length of your annotations will determine how detailed your summary is.
  • 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: 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?

An annotated bibliography ensures that you have done more than just locate some acceptable sources. In order to write your annotation, you will have to examine each source carefully and critically. 

What your annotated bibliography will look like rather depends on the instructor's directives; however, the OWL site also gives you some specifics about MLA or APA style requirements (if you do not know which to use, ask). The actual 75-100 words will be written in simple paragraph form.

To begin the process, gather your eight sources which meet your instructor's guidelines and requirements (probably concerning such things as date and type of publication).  Then it is a simple (though rather time-consuming) process of reading through each source for any pertinent information, adding your own reflections and analysis as required. Finally, follow the appropriate required format before submitting them. It should look like a bibliography (list of sources) with the addition of your short paragraphs underneath each one. 

I have included several good sources for writing annotated bibliographies. For good place to start for essays and other helpful resources on Homer's The Odyssey, I have also attached an excellent eNotes "Essays and Criticism" site on this classic novel.

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