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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can learn more about annotated bibliographies and get information on citation styles on the National NHD Website.
Get helpful information and advice for National History Day in Wisconsin.
Get answers to commonly asked questions.
Contact a Regional Coordinator
Find information on NHD for your region.
The Chicago Manual of Style is the style most commonly used by professional historians when they write and publish their work. Currently, the NHD Contest Rule Book allow citations in Chicago or MLA Style, but this resource focuses on Chicago Style.
As you complete your research, you should sort your research into primary and secondary sources. For complete definitions of primary and secondary sources, as well a complete set of the Contest Rules, go to www.nhd.org/rules.
Building Your Annotated Bibliography
You should build your bibliography as you conduct your research. Simply put, if you wait until the end of your project, this task will be messy, confusing, and complicated. It is easy to forget sources, mix up one source with another, and make simple mistakes. Let us start by citing a simple source together.
When you start citing, you have two options available. Option one is to create a bibliography on your own. Option two is to use NoodleTools, a web-based program that will help you create a polished, accurate annotated bibliography and also keep track in note cards of the quotes and paraphrases and where you found them in your sources. Since it is saved on a server, you do not have to worry about a water bottle exploding in your backpack and your notes getting soaked—the materials are always there when you log into the computer or via your tablet.
Let’s say that I am researching the Panama Canal, and I found Edmund Morris’ book about President Theodore Roosevelt called Theodore Rex. While I will skim the book to get a sense of the author's purpose and argument, I want to use the Table of Contents or Index to focus in on the section that relates to my research. Using the index, I can jump to the section of the book where President Roosevelt is approached by Philippe Bunau-Varilla about a plan to get control of the canal that a French company began digging.
To cite a book, I need five key elements:
- The name(s) of the author(s)
- The complete title of the book
- The city where it was published
- The name of the company or university that published the book
- The most recent copyright date of the book.
If I am doing this on my own, I would list it like this:
Morris, Edmund. Theodore Rex. New York: Random House, 2001.
Citing Sources in NHD Historical Papers
When writing an NHD paper, you have two options on how to cite your sources. This section will address creating footnotes. Please note that it is also appropriate to use the parenthetical references described in the website section as well. Either is appropriate, but choose one way and be consistent with that method.
Most historians use footnotes when they write a paper, article, or book. Footnotes allow you to keep track of your sources without interrupting the flow of the paper. If my paper about Theodore Roosevelt and his foreign policy regarding Germany contains the text:
Roosevelt “has seen the crisis coming for eleven months.” He feared that Germany might invade Venezuela if they did not pay off their debts.
Tip: Allow your word processor to insert the footnote for you. It will do it automatically, and if you insert one into the middle of the paper, it will automatically renumber it for you. You can find the “insert footnote” button in the reference section of the menu. If you need step-by-step directions, just go to the help menu and type in “insert footnotes.”
The FIRST time that I use this source (in this case it is a book) in a footnote, my full footnote would look like this (see footnote number one below). The footnote tells us the author, the title of the book, the basic publishing information, as well as the page (or range of pages) where my quote can be found. It is similar to your citation in your bibliography, but not exactly the same.
If you use this source again later in your paper, it is much easier. Assume that later in my paper I write the sentence:
Roosevelt knew that he had to take a strong stand and argued for “crude force” to keep the Germans out of Latin America.
As you can see in footnote 2 below, I just need to include a shortened footnote with the author’s last name, the title of the book, and the page number or page range where I found my information.
See the next page for examples of how to footnote the most common types of sources that you will use in your NHD paper. NoodleTools will provide you with a full and shortened footnote for each source.
 Edmund Morris, Theodore Rex (New York: Modern Library, 2001), 177.
 Morris, Theodore Rex, 178.
But what if I put it in my own words…do I have to cite it then? YES.
Paraphrasing is when you use your own words to convey someone else’s ideas.
Let’s use the Lusitania article as an example. It is perfectly appropriate to write in your paper that:
The Lusitania was hit by a German submarine at 2:33 pm, and the news of the sinking was published around the world. A fishing fleet was called to help rescue as many passengers as possible in the North Atlantic.
If you have a quote that is more than two lines across the page, then it should be converted to a block quote. Please note that this kind of quote should be used very infrequently, but it can be effective. A block quote should look like this:
The Constitution of the United States defined the weakness of the Articles of Confederation in the one-sentence preamble,
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
This sentence, memorized by many…
Block quotes are single-spaced, tabbed on one half inch from the left side of the page, and do not need quotation marks around them. They should always have a footnote at the end attributing the source. After the quote, continue typing using double-spacing.
Do I have to cite every sentence of my paper?
No, please don’t. Often you find that a series of sentences (or even an entire paragraph) is based on content from a single source. When that happens, signal to your reader that the following information came from a certain source and then cite it once at the end of the last sentence. Also note that your thesis statement and your arguments should be your original work, and should not be credited to another author.
What if all of the information, quotes and paraphrases, in one paragraph, comes from one source? How do I cite that?
Just cite once, at the end of the paragraph.
 “Liner Lusitania Sunk by German Submarine Fleet Rushes to Aid,” Washington Times, May 7, 1915.
 Constitution of the United States of America.
Citing Sources in Exhibits and Websites
When you cite in exhibits or websites, you do need to credit your sources, and brief citations do NOT count toward your word count. You just add the minimal amount of information that would allow the viewer to find the source in your annotated bibliography.
Print sources should be cited with the author, the title, and a date (when available.) An example would be:
“There is danger…they have still far to go. It is for the Woman’s Party to decide whether there is any way in which it can serve in the struggle which lies ahead to remove the remaining forms of woman’s subordination” (Alice Paul, The Suffragist, 1921)
If I chose to use this quote, then I would expect to find a citation that would show where this text came from (I might have found it in a book, on a website, or in an article) and where I might go if I wanted the full text of what Alice Paul had to say in 1921.
Visual Sources (photographs, art, maps, charts, graphs, etc.) are cited in a similar manner. You want to mention the content (who/what is in the picture), give a date if available, and where YOU found the image. Please note that Google and other search engines are NOT viable sources. Saying that you got your picture from Google is like saying that you got your quote from a library. Just like you need to tell us which book your quote came from in the library, you also need to tell us which website made this image available to you.
Citing Sources in Performances
When you are creating a performance or a documentary, you do not need to actively cite sources during your presentation, because it would disrupt the flow of your product.
There are times when you would want to make a reference to a source, especially when you are referencing primary source material. It would be relevant to mention in a performance, “I wrote a letter to King George demanding that my grievances be addressed….” A judge would then expect to find a letter or a series of letters that you found in your research and cited in your bibliography. There is no need to stop to verbally cite sources—if the judges have any questions, they can address that in the Q&A segment at the end of your performance.
Citing Sources in Documentaries
You are NOT required to cite images as they appear on the screen. You may add tags to the bottom of the screen to help an image or video clip make sense. For example, you might want to add a name of a speaker, or a relevant historical date during a particular video clip or still image.
At the end of the documentary, you should include a list of relevant audio and visual sources that you included in your documentary. This is not a repeat of your bibliography. Just name the major locations of your images. A typical list might include images from the British Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, NBC News, or the Holocaust Museum. Again, if the judges have a question about a particular visual or audio selection, they can address that in the Q&A segment at the end of your documentary.
*This citation is REQUIRED and does NOT count toward the word limit.
*This citation DOES count toward the word limit because it shows analysis and interpretation.