How To Write An Annotated Bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?

When pursuing your academic goals, you will be required to write an annotated bibliography. This article aims at expounding on the specifics of annotated bibliographies, why are they required, and the steps involved in writing one.

1. Definition

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to documents, articles, and books. All the citations are followed by the annotation, which is approximately 150 words and can either be evaluative or descriptive.

2. Purpose

The reason  why an annotation is written is to inform the audience above the quality, validity, accuracy, and relevance of the cited sources.

It helps the reader to comprehend the used sources and their relevance to the research field. People usually confuse abstracts with annotations.

The difference is that an annotation assesses the source extensively, to enable readers assess its value. On the other hand, an abstract is meant to give a descriptive summary.

Annotated bibliographies are also used as a;

  • literature review
  • research summary
  • formulation of theses
  • defining items of interest.

3. There are two main types of annotated Bibliographies: 

a. Informative or descriptive  

b. Critical or analytical

Descriptive annotated bibliographies only require a summary of the source, thereby enabling the audience to know the source’s most important or interesting aspects. The steps are;

  • Write the citation by adhering to the most suitable formatting style (Chicago, MLA, APA, Harvard, etc);
  • Write a summary of the source.
  1. Analytical/Critical Annotations

The steps below should be followed as shown below;

  • Write the citation by adhering to the most suitable formatting style (Chicago, MLA, APA, Harvard, etc);
  • Summarize the article (in 1 or 2 sentences).
  • Provide information that assesses the sources’ quality or usefulness, or positions it within the scholarly context.

Before embarking on this, there exist some questions that you should ask yourself, and which your annotation should answer. You should choose the most applicable ones to the source you are evaluating, and for each annotation, you only need to answer 1 to 2 questions. They include;

  • Who is the author? Explain his/her qualifications?
  • How does the source answer similar questions in different sources?
  • What was the author’s intended audience?
  • How do you plan to use the source in your essay?
  • What are the weaknesses and strengths of the source?
  • What are the missing elements in the research or arguments presented by the author?
  • Are the author’s conclusions supported by the evidence?
  1. The Process

Considering that now you understand what annotated bibliographies are and what their uses are, take the following steps to create an annotated bibliography;

  • Step 1; Identification of the sources.

You can use numerous online databases and online sites such as; Science.Gov, ResearchGate, Educational Resources Information Center, CORE, Google Scholar, JSTOR, Digital History, etc.

  • Step 2; Scope Determination.

The annotation may not be relevant to people if it is not bound by some logical limitations.

To make sure that the purpose of the annotation is achieved, then the sources’ scope should be determined.  The most common techniques of focusing on the scope include;

  • source material
  • geography
  • methodology
  • time.

This is because the specific essays may require the use of sources which were published within a specific period; those which use specific research methodologies; sources concerning specific municipalities, states, countries and other geographically defined areas; and certain kinds of sources such as academic papers, books, articles and so on.

  • Step 3; Selection of the Sources.

After deciding the scope, you should decide the sources you will use by asking yourself questions such as;

  • What conclusion does the book, article, or paper make concerning the bibliography’s overall topic?
  • How does the source impact the understanding of the topic?
  • What contributions does the specific source make to the subject or field in the scope?

After evaluating all the sources, you should choose the ones you think are most suitable to cite in your paper.

  • Step 4; Write Your Annotations following the steps provided above, sticking to the guidelines on each type of annotated bibliography.

Good luck!!

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