Annotated Bibliographies

According to the official NHD rules, an annotated bibliography is required for all categories. It should contain all sources that provided usable information or new perspectives in preparing your entry. You should list only those sources that contributed to the development of your entry. Sources of visual materials and oral interviews must be included.  Oral history transcripts, correspondence between you and experts, questionnaires, and other primary or secondary materials used as sources for your entry should be cited in your bibliography but not included as attachments to your bibliography.


How Many Sources Should I Have?
National History Day does not emphasize a minimum number of sources. You will not be disqualified if you have less than 15, nor does a project with 50 sources in its bibliography have an advantage. The key thing to remember is that your research must be balanced and as complete as possible. You must also keep in mind that some topics that have been extensively researched by experts will have more sources available than topics that are more original.

Do Not “Pad” Your Bibliography

“Padding” your bibliography refers to putting sources in your bibliography that you did not read to make it appear more impressive. Most judges (and Taft)  will see right through this. Your bibliography is the best way for judges to evaluate your research. A bibliography with 15 well-annotated entries is better than a bibliography that has 50 sources and loose annotations for each entry. Also, you may encounter a judge who has done research on your topic and read many of the books that are in your bibliography. If you are not prepared to discuss the source with an expert, don’t put it in your bibliography.
What are Annotations?

Your annotations are a description of how that particular source helped you in your project. Although brief, annotations are a major component of your judging score. Your goal is to write annotations that quickly tell others what the source was about and what important information you gained from it. You will not want them to be too vague, or too long.

Annotations should always answer the following questions:
1. Who is the author of the source? What is their background?
2. What information did I get out of the source?
3. How did it help me understand the topic better?

Vague Annotation (Poor)

This is a book about D-Day. Before I found it, I didn’t know a lot about the beaches.

Specific Annotation (Good)

This book really captured D-Day from a soldier’s point-of-view. Before consulting this book, I did not have much in my documentary about how the soldiers felt about the upcoming invasion. I assumed that they would be scared, but I see how they could also be excited about finally seeing combat after months of waiting in England. This really helped with the “Soldiers” section in my documentary.

How Long Should My Annotations Be?

If your annotation is more than 4-5 sentences, it is probably too long. The trick is trying to find the most specific way that a source helped you. If a judge has questions about a source, they will most likely come up during your interview.


Excerpted from “2012 National History Day Handbook for Students and Teachers”, The National WWII Museum.

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