Annotated-Bibliography

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

If you have just been assigned to write an annotated bibliography, then it would be most prudent to read information about what kind of writing it is and what you need to know before you start. It is a specific kind of writing that should be written according to the specific requirements. Please read on and find out information that will help you write an annotated bibliography.

What is an annotated bibliography?

In its turn, an annotated bibliography is a properly organized list of sources used in writing a book, article, essay, research paper or dissertation. You actually organize it as an ordinary reference list (by author's last names) but you also provide entries for each source. After you have indicated the name of the source with its authors, you have to give a paragraph (or more) of information that relates to the source description, its critical analysis and evaluation. As a rule, the annotation after each source on the reference comprises 100-200 words.

Before writing an annotated bibliography, you should know that it can have different purposes, and thus, it can be structured in different ways. For example:

  • It may serve as a literature review on a given topic;
  • It may be used as a help to formulate a strong and argumentative thesis for a term paper or a dissertation;
  • It might be written to provide a discussion of sources that you have used in your research;
  • It might serve as an overview of sources that are available on a specific topic;
  • It may just provide a description and evaluation of sources that other researchers might find suitable to research a specific topic.

What is an annotation?

The very first definition of an annotation that you can find is that it is a succinct summary of an article, paper, book, article, website or any other type of publication. However, a proper annotated bibliography requires far more than a short summary - it should provide sufficient information to the reader on whether the source is worth reading or consulting. As such, it should also contain a critical review and evaluation.

What is the difference between an annotation and an abstract?

You must probably know that an abstract also summarizes a book, article, etc. Here you might come up with a question what makes an annotation different from an abstract. The answers is simple: an abstract is merely descriptive, while an annotation includes not just a description of a source but also reviews the source critically and analytically.

Types of annotated bibliographies

Annotated bibliographies are classified into two core types:

  1. Informative, or descriptive;
  2. Critical, or analytical.

Informative (descriptive)

The main purpose of an informative (descriptive) annotated bibliography is to summarize and describe a source. In this regard, the bibliography highly resembles the abstract as it merely describes the reasons why the source is used and why it deserves attention for the research. Besides, when you provide a descriptive bibliography, you do not evaluate the source or pinpoint why it is useful (or not). What you have to do is to only focus on the author's main idea, message, topic, arguments, etc. and the conclusion made. Make sure not to analyze the conclusion or the author's argument. Just specify it.

Critical (analytical)

When it comes to a critical (or analytical) annotated bibliography, you have to keep in mind that it not only briefly summarizes the main ideas of the source but also provides a short analysis of the source, as well as of its credibility and usefulness for the conducted research. Instead of just describing the main ideas from the source, you need to pay more attention to the strengths and weaknesses of the source, and its relevance of the author's arguments or opinions.

In most annotated bibliography assignments, professors require from students to provide not only a source description but also a critical analysis and evaluation.

When analyzing the source, you might indicate why the source is beneficial (and in what way); what issues are raised and how the author addresses them; whether the source is a good one for the research or not, and so on.

When providing annotated bibliographies, make sure you follow the format (whether it's APA, MLA or some other). Be sure to check it properly because much of your grade actually depends on how well you format the sources.

Where to Begin

As you are writing your annotated bibliography, make sure you do the following:

  • Select the sources you are going to use in your paper (or future paper). Before writing the bibliography, make sure you create a list of all sources, which you will need for the research (if the research has not been conducted yet). As you are writing a research paper apart from the annotated bibliography, also make sure that you research the sources properly and ensure that they can be used (in terms of their relevance).
  • Provide a review of the chosen literature. After you have chosen the sources, review them carefully and identify their relevance to the topic. What perspectives of the topic do they highlight? If you do not have sufficient time to study each resource (especially if the resources are long), then abstracts provided at the beginning of the scholarly articles will shed some light on the main idea of the source.
  • Properly format the citation and start writing the very annotation. As you write an annotation for each source, you should put citation first. When it comes to the content of the annotation, it depends on the type of the annotation (whether it's informative or critical):
  1. The aim of the source;
  2. Brief summary of the content;
  3. Target audience;
  4. Relevance to your research topic;
  5. Strengths and weaknesses that you have noticed about the source (author's arguments, etc.);
  6. Other specific characteristics or features.

Check with your instructor whether you should arrange the bibliography in the chronological or alphabetical order.

How to format citations

Each source should be properly formatted and cited. As a rule, annotated bibliographies are often written in MLA, APA, and Chicago styles. Make sure you clarify with your professor which style is preferred.

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