Annotated Bibliography and Book Review Guide

According to Michael Engle, Librarian at Olin Library, Cornell University:

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

In addition, it can be helpful to read some book reviews of your source.

The following from Williams College Libraries is especially helpful in clarifying the value and purpose of book reviews:

Book reviews can help with your research, placing a book within a scholarly discourse, showing contemporary reaction to a work, and providing a convenient synopsis. The number of reviews published, their authors, and where they appear will tell you a lot about the life of a book, its importance to a subject, and the reactions to its publication.

Book reviews appear in newspapers, scholarly journals and popular magazines... When searching, remember that critical discussions of books are not always classified by databases as "book reviews," so search for the author and title of the book as well.

The Book Review Digest is one good place to start for "scholarly reviews written for scholars by scholars... critical reviews written for an informed readership...[and] general interest reviews written mainly for consumers."

Reference Books/Indexes

  • Book Review Digest. Index/Ref Z1219 .C96 1905 to the present (A digest of book reviews appearing in approximately 80 periodicals, reviewing some 4,000 books annually; includes subject/title index)

Taft Online Subscriptions

Search tip: many databases allow you to limit your search to "book review"

  • Academic OneFile Peer-reviewed, full-text articles from leading journals and reference sources (under document type, limit to book review)
  • Academic Search Complete (Ebsco) Full text access to thousands of journals in all disciplines (under document type, limit to book review)
  • JSTOR Extensive backfiles of scholarly journals in the arts, humanities, and sciences, many dating back to the 19th century (under Item Type, limit to Reviews)
  • New York Times 1851-2008 (ProQuest Historical Newspapers) Graphical interface and full-text coverage back to the first issue in 1851(Choose "review" as article type in Graphical interface. In Traditional Interface, choose Advanced Search and under Document type, limit to Review)
  • New York Times 1980-current (ProQuest) Traditional interface and full-text coverage (FT coverage of NYT Magazine and Book Review begins 1997) (Choose Advanced Search. Under Document type, limit to Review)


Revised 5/ 2016