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Writing an annotated Bibliography

How to write an annotated Bibliography

You have just been asked by your professor to write an annotated bibliography. To begin with, you need to know how to get started and what exactly an annotated bibliography is. Now, an annotation is more than just a brief summary of an article, book, website or any other form of publication. Annotations should give enough information to make a reader decide to read the complete work. It should include a list of resources with citations related to a particular topic with an evaluative summary, or a brief description.

Importance of a good Annotated Bibliography

Just before writing a formal research paper, your professor is likely to ask you to develop an annotated bibliography for some reasons. Mostly it’s to show that you understand the literature underpinning a research problem, to demonstrate your ability to conduct a thorough review of pertinent literature or to discuss sources among your classmates so that, collectively, everyone in the class obtains an all-inclusive understanding of key research about a particular topic. Think of an annotated bibliography as a more deliberate, in depth review of the literature as what is normally conducted for a research paper.

 On a broader level, writing an annotated bibliography can be exceptional preparation for carrying out a larger research project by allowing you to evaluate what research has already been conducted and where your proposed study may fit within it. By reading and critically analyzing a variety of sources associated with a research problem, you can begin to evaluate what the issues are and to gain a better perspective on what scholars are saying about your topic. As a result, you are better prepared to develop your own point of view and contributions to the literature.

In summary, a good annotated bibliography should…

Encourages you to think critically about the content of the works you are using, their place within the broader field of study, and their relation to your own research, assumptions, and ideas;

Provides evidence that you have read and understood your sources;

Establishes validity for the research you have done and of you as a researcher;

Gives you an opportunity to consider and include key digital, multimedia, or archival materials among your review of the literature;

Situates your study and underlying research problem in a continuing professional conversation;

Provides an opportunity for others to determine whether a source will be helpful for their research; and,

Could help researchers determine whether they are interested in a topic by providing background information and an idea of the kind of scholarly investigations that have been conducted in a particular area of study.

In addition, writing an annotated bibliography helps you develop skills related to critically reading and identifying the key points of a research study and to effectively synthesize the content in a way that helps the reader determine its validity and usefulness in relation to the research problem or topic of investigation.

er level, writing an annotated bibliography can be excellent preparation for conducting a larger research project by allowing you to evaluate what research has already been conducted and where your proposed study may fit within it. By reading and critically analyzing a variety of sources associated with a research problem, you can begin to evaluate what the issues are and to gain a better perspective on what scholars are saying about your topic. As a result, you are better prepared to develop your own point of view and contributions to the literature.

Type of Annotated Bibliographies

  1. Descriptive: This annotation describes the source without summarizing the actual argument, hypothesis, or message in the content. Like an abstract, it describes what the source addresses, what issues are being investigated, and any special features, such as appendices or bibliographies, that are used to supplement the main text. What it does not include is any evaluation or criticism of the content. This type of annotation seeks to answer the question: Does this source cover or address the topic I am researching? Collectively, this type of annotated bibliography characterizes prior research about a topic.
  2. Summative/Informative: This type of annotation summarizes what the content, message, or argument of the source is. It generally contains the hypothesis, methodology, and conclusion or findings, but like the descriptive type, you are not offering your own evaluative comments about such content. This type of annotation seeks to answer these types of questions: What are the author’s main arguments? What conclusions did the author draw?Collectively, this type of annotated bibliography summarizes the way in which scholars have studied and documented outcomes about a topic.
  3. Evaluative/Analytical /Critical: This annotation includes your evaluative statements about the content of a source. It is the most common type of annotation your professor will ask you to write. Your critique may focus on describing a study’s strengths and weaknesses or it may describe the applicability of the conclusions to the research problem you are studying. This type of annotation seeks to answer these types of questions: Is the reasoning sound? Is the methodology sound? Does this source address all the relevant issues? How does this source compare to other sources on this topic? Collectively, this type of annotated bibliography offers a detailed analysis and assessment of the research literature about a topic.

Choosing Sources for Your Bibliography

There are two good strategies you should use to begin identifying possible sources for your bibliography–one that looks back into the literature and one that looks forward.

  1. The first strategy is to identify several recent scholarly books using the US Libraries catalog or journal articles using a comprehensive database like ProQuest Multiple about the topic of your annotated bibliography and review the sources cited by the author(s). The references to sources used by the author will effectively lead you to related sources about the topic.
  2. The second strategy is to identify one or more important books, book chapters, journal articles, or other documents on your topic and paste the title of the item into Google Scholar[e.g., from Negotiation Journal, entering the article, “Civic Fusion: Moving from Certainty through Not Knowing to Curiosity”], placing quotation marks around the title so Google Scholar searches as a phrase rather than a combination of individual words. Below the citation may be a “Cited by” reference followed by a linked number. This link will direct you to a list of study’s that have cited that particular item after it was published.

Your method for selecting which sources to annotate depends on the purpose of the assignment and the research problem you are investigating. For example, if the research problem is to compare the social factors that led to protests in Egypt with the social factors that led to protests against the government of the Philippines in  the 1980’s, you will have to consider including non-U.S., historical, and, if possible, foreign language sources in your bibliography.

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