Skip to Main Content

Communication, Media, and Screen Studies

How to find books, journal articles, and other material for the field of Communication., Media, and Screen Studies

What is an annotated bibliography?

Think of the end of a research paper, where you put your works cited or reference list. That's a bibliography. An annotated bibliography is that list with summaries, synopses, abtracts--annotations--about the content and value of each item. Annotations can be one sentence or several paragraphs, and the exact nature of the contents can also vary. So check with your instructor!

How do you format an annotated bibliography in APA style?

We have a guide to using APA style.

There are no explicit directions for the format of an annotated bibliography in the APA Publication Manual, however the manual contains an annotated bibliography beginning on page 368 of the 5th edition.

Based on the annotated bibliography in the manual:

The citation for the source being annotated follows the same format as it would in the reference list (cite a book you're annotating the same way you would cite that book in your reference list)
The second and subsequent lines of the citation should be indented 4 spaces from the left margin (that is, leave 4 blank spaces before typing).
The entire abstract should be indented 6 spaces from the left margin (leave 6 blank spaces).
The right margin is your normal right margin.

If you've searched Google, you've done keyword searching. However, there are some important differences between Google and academic databases provided through libraries. Below are a few tips for keyword searching in databases like ComAbstracts and Communication & Mass Media Complete.

Have a look at this research guide on Developing a Search Strategy. It will help you create an efficient search.

I. When you type in your search, the database is searching these parts of the articles, books, and other materials it holds:
Article title
Journal title or book title
Abstract (that's the summary of the item)
Subject headings or descriptors. S
ome academic databases have controlled vocabularies unique to a discipline. You can use a thesaurus like the one in Communication & Mass Media Complete, to see whether the discipline has a fixed subject heading or descriptor for the concept you're researching. ComAbstracts has keyword assisted searches that work in a similar way.


II. You only need the major search terms, not prepositions or interrogatives or articles. If your research question is: 
      "What are the effects of violence on television on children?", your keywords would be:

                                    television violence children



III. Boolean operators: AND OR NOT: Most, but not all, databases require you to type the word and between search terms. If you leave out and, the database reads your terms as an exact phrase.

Searching for television violence children will not retrieve as many items as television and violence and children because without and the database will search for the words as a phrase rather than as separate words.

This diagram illustrates the use of and in a keyword search:

The search violence and television and children will retrieve the items in the blue space, where all three circles overlap:

You can use or to broaden a search or to search for synonyms:

The search violence or television or children will retrieve the items in all circles, including those with more than one of the keywords:

You can use and not, or sometimes just not, to eliminate a concept:

The search violence and television not children will retrieve items about televison and violence that do not include the term children:

 IV. Other ways to narrow your search include:

Limiting the search to full-text. This means all of the articles are available within the database and can be opened and printed.

Limiting the search by date. If the initial search retrieves items dating from 1990 to 2009, you could change the search to retrieve articles from 2005-2009.

Adding more keywords will also reduce the number of items retrieved--the more terms you put in the fewer hits you'll get (because the database will be searching for records that contain ALL ther keywords). Some useful keywords include those that describe a population--age, gender, race, ethnicity, etc.


V. Keyword searching is always a matter of trial and error, even for experienced researchers. With practice, you'll develop techniques that make the process more accurate and productive. The tips on this page will, I hope, help you as you hone your skills. Please feel free to email me for assistance: