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MHST 290/AAST 171/Jazz 290: Introduction to African American Music

Introduction to Music Research

Secondary research involves the summary, collation and/or synthesis of existing research. Common examples of secondary research sources in music include books, encyclopedias, news articles, review articles, CD liner notes, and scholarly webpages. This research guide will introduce you to the skills you need to successfully navigate these tools.

Creating an Annotated Bibliography

Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography Defined: A bibliography is a list of sources (journals, books, websites, etc.) related to a particular topic. An annotation is an explanatory note. An annotated bibliography, then, is a list of sources used to research a particular topic, and each source has an accompanying explanation that summarizes what the source says and analyzes its reliability and relevance to the topic.

Annotated bibliographies are valuable tools that help you learn more about your research topic, keep track of relevant sources, and organize how each source fits into your research thesis. Your instructor will specify what they want to be included in your annotations. Please see your assignment prompt for more details.

A basic annotated bibliography will frequently consist of these components:

  • Citation: This is the identifying information for a source. It will most likely be formatted in Chicago style; your instructor will specify which citation style they want you to use.
  • Annotation: The length of the annotation varies, but annotations can range anywhere from a few sentences to several paragraphs. Annotations frequently contain one or more of the following:
    • Does it support, complicate, or contradict your argument? 
    • Summary of source content
    • Critical evaluation of source material and authority
    • And/or analysis of how the source fits into your research

Annotated Bibliography Entries Examples

 Gilroy, Paul. “Sounds Authentic: Black Music, Ethnicity, and the Challenge of a ‘Changing’ Same.” Black Music Research Journal 11, no. 2 (1991): 111–136.

                 Proposes that the possible commonality of postslave, African American cultural forms be approached via related problems that converge in the analysis of the music and its social relations. Examines patterns of language usage that characterize the contrasting populations of the modern African diaspora. Currently, critical dialogue on the question of identity and culture is locked in a debate between nationalist essentialism and saturnalian pluralism. Although neither position has placed great importance on the study of music, the domination of music within these communities is itself an important element in examining their connectedness.

McGregory, Jerrilyn. Downhome Gospel: African American Spiritual Activism in Wiregrass Country. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2010.

                 Explores sacred music and spiritual activism in the Wiregrass Country of Georgia, Alabama, and northern Florida. Examines African American sacred music outside of Sunday church-related activities, showing that singing conventions and anniversary programs fortify spiritual as well as social needs. In this region, African Americans maintain a social world of their own creation. Their cultural performances embrace some of the most pervasive forms of African American sacred music: spirituals, common meter, Sacred Harp, shape-note, and traditional and contemporary gospel. Moreover, the contexts in which they sing include present-day observations such as the Twentieth of May (Emancipation Day), Burial League Turnouts, and Fifth Sunday. Rather than tracing the evolution of African American sacred music, this ethnographic study focuses on contemporary cultural performances, almost all by women, which embrace all forms. 


For another example, see the document created by Olin Library Reference Research & Learning Services (Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY – for instructions on how to write and examples of an annotated bibliography.