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Research Process: Researching and Writing: Annotated Bibliography

This guide has been created to provide quick access to resources that support the research process.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography provides specific information about each source you have used.

Think of your paper as part of a conversation with people interested in the same things as you; the annotated bibliography allows you to tell readers what to check out, what might be worth checking out in some situations, and what might not be worth spending the time on. 

The standard format of an annotated bibliography is a citation followed by its annotation. The arrangement is generally alphabetical order by author's last name. Long annotated bibliographies are often subdivided into sections with subheadings.

Elements of an Annotation

  1. The bibliography is formatted in an appropriate citation style, i.e., MLA or APA.
  2. Explanation of main points and/or purpose of the work—basically, its thesis or argument.
  3. Verification or critique of the authority or qualifications of the author.
  4. Comments on the worth, effectiveness, and usefulness of the work in terms of both the topic being researched and/or your own research project.
  5. The point of view or perspective from which the work was written. For instance, you may note whether the author seemed to have particular biases or was trying to reach a particular audience.
  6. Relevant links to other work done in the area, like related sources, possibly including a comparison with some of those already on your list. You may want to establish connections to other aspects of the same argument or opposing views.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Writing Center. (n.d.). Annotated bibliographies. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/annotated-bibliographies/

McMaster University Libraries. (2020, April 30). How library stuff works: How to write an annotated bibliography [Video]. https://youtu.be/38tAdtTP2MU

There are several types of annotations. Check with your instructor if you are unsure of the assignment requirements.

Summary or Descriptive Annotations 

  • They sum up the content of the source, as a book report might.

  • They give an overview of the arguments and evidence addressed in the work, and note the resulting conclusion.

  • They do not judge the work they are discussing. 

  • When appropriate, they describe the author’s methodology or approach to material. For instance, you might mention if the source is an ethnography or if the author employs a particular kind of theory.

There are two kinds of summarizing annotations, informative and indicative.

Informative Annotation

Informative annotations sometimes read like straight summaries of the source material, but they often spend a little more time summarizing relevant information about the author or the work itself.

Indicative Annotation

Indicative annotation is the second type of summary annotation, but it does not attempt to include actual information from the argument itself. Instead, it gives general information about what kinds of questions or issues are addressed by the work. This sometimes includes the use of chapter titles.

Critical / Evaluative Annotations

  • Evaluate the source or author critically (biases, lack of evidence, objective, etc.).
  • Show how the work may or may not be useful for a particular field of study or audience.
  • Explain how researching this material assisted your own project.

Combination Annotations

An annotated bibliography may combine elements of all the types. In fact, most of them fall into this category: a little summarizing and describing, a little evaluation.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Writing Center. (n.d.). Annotated bibliographies. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/annotated-bibliographies/

Summary or Descriptive Annotation in APA Format

London, H. (1982, Spring). Five myths of the television age. Television Quarterly, 10(1), 1-89.

Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: "seeing is believing"; "a picture is worth a thousand words"; and "satisfaction is its own reward." London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He doesn't refer to any previous works on the topic. London's style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader.

Critical Annotation in APA Format

London, H. (1982, Spring). Five myths of the television age. Television Quarterly, 10(1), 1-89.

Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: "seeing is believing"; "a picture is worth a thousand words"; and "satisfaction is its own reward." London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He doesn't refer to any previous works on the topic; however, for a different point of view, one should refer to Joseph Patterson's, "Television is Truth" (The Journal of Television 45 (6) November/December 1995: 120-135). London's style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly illustrates London's points, but does not explore their implications, leaving the reader with many unanswered questions.

 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Writing Center. (n.d.). Annotated bibliographies. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/annotated-bibliographies/