# What is the most convenient way to create annotated bibliographies, e.g. in a literature review?

I am interested in creating annotated bibliographies either on a problem sheet for students or in general by writing a summary of a background literature research.

I am aware of special bib-style files (annotation.bst, annotate.bst, chicagoa.bst, plain-annote.bst, ...) which don't ignore the annotation field in the bib files (either annote, or annotate). However, as customizing bst files is far too complicated and the useful natbib and custom-bib packages don't support this, as far as I know, I am not happy with them.

The new biblatex package offers such a feature which is more convenient. Also, the annotation can be written into a separate file instead to the bib-file itself as the annotation is part of my document and not of the bibliographic information. However, creating many small files for each entry makes it difficult to read and handle the document in source code.

From my point of view this problem should occurred to many people even before this biblatex package has existed.

Though my question, how do you handle these cases when creating a LaTeX document?

-
I do not really understand the difficulties you are facing with biblatex? –  pluton Oct 29 '11 at 0:12
It may be relatively cumbersome to use independent files for annotations, but with a good bibliography manager such as JabRef or BibDesk you can easily add annotations to the bib file and use biblatex to produce them. Here's an example: How can I access specific elements of a Bibtex entry in my Latex document? –  Alan Munn Oct 29 '11 at 0:20
As far as I understand either I create for each bib-entry a separate file with the annotation or add them to the bibfile. I'd prefer the first way as the annotations are specific for the document and are not part of the bibliographic information in the bib-file. I actually wanted to write the annotations in some way into my main tex file instead of creating many separate files with only a few lines in it. –  Hotschke Oct 29 '11 at 0:23
@Hotschke An alternative is to use the \fullcite command of biblatex or the bibentry package with natbib to make the annotated bibliography. –  Alan Munn Oct 29 '11 at 1:25
@Alan Munn: Both comments of you are very helpful because they pointed me into the right direction. I think I stick to your second comment and use \fullcite of biblatex or the bibentry package with natbib and write the annotation in my main document with my own arrangement of literature. But also your first link shows a convenient way to have an automatically created bibliography with the annotation fields shown. Thank you very much. –  Hotschke Oct 30 '11 at 22:58

There are two main methods for producing annotated bibliographies.

# Global annotations

One method accesses special annotation fields in the .bib file, and outputs them as part of the bibliography. This method is probably most useful for creating fairly static annotated reading lists. For an example of how to do this, see How can I access specific elements of a Bibtex entry in my Latex document?.

# Local annotations

In most contexts, however, the annotation of the bibliography is not a global property of the .bib entry itself, but a specific annotation related to a particular research project, and so would be better done by making the annotations part of the main text. For this use, it is best to use a method which uses citation commands that print out the entire bibliography entry. Both of the major bibliography systems (natbib and biblatex) can achieve this facility.

Using natbib

The natbib package comes with the bibentry package, which allows full bibliography entries to be inserted into the main text using the \bibentry command. Here's a small example:

\documentclass{article}

% This is the sample bib file
\begin{filecontents}{\jobname.bib}
@book{Saussure1995,
Author = {Ferdinand de Saussure},
Origyear = {1916},
Publisher = {Payot},
Title = {Cours de Linguistique G{\'e}n{\'e}rale},
Year = {1995}}

\end{filecontents}

\usepackage{natbib,bibentry}
\bibliographystyle{apalike}
\begin{document}
\nobibliography{\jobname}
This is a complete citation in the middle of the text:

\bibentry{Saussure1995}
\end{document}


Using biblatex

The biblatex package provides a similar functionality, but with the command \fullcite.

\documentclass{article}

\begin{filecontents}{\jobname.bib}
@book{Saussure1995,
Author = {Ferdinand de Saussure},
Origyear = {1916},
Publisher = {Payot},
Title = {Cours de Linguistique G{\'e}n{\'e}rale},
Year = {1995}}

\end{filecontents}

\usepackage[style=authoryear]{biblatex}