The annotated bibliography is the first step to writing a successful research paper. It is beneficial for students as well as instructors. Annotated bibliographies help writers organize their thoughts and sources about a topic and help writers determine a direction for their research.
Annotated bibliographies are a common step in the research process. Depending on the academic discipline, purpose, and instructor preference, the style, content, and even the name of annotations can vary. The content of this article is just the basics.
What is an annotation?
Annotation provides a summary of the major ideas in a source, such as a source’s thesis (argument) and major supporting details; an evaluation of the ideas and points in the source; and a sense of how the source connects with your project and other sources in the annotated bibliography.
An annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of appropriate sources (books, journals or websites) on a topic, accompanied by a brief summary, evaluation and sometimes an explanation or reflection on their usefulness or relevance to your topic. Its purpose is to teach you to research carefully, evaluate sources and systematically organise your notes. An annotated bibliography may be one part of a larger assessment item or a stand-alone assessment piece.
Purposes of an Annotated Bibliography
For you: During the research and writing process, the annotated bibliography helps you, the researcher, keep track of the changing relevance of sources as you develop your ideas. It also helps you save time by focusing on each author’s essential ideas (which helps you make connections between sources), and it can help you begin the process of composing your project.
For others: During the research process, annotated bibliographies also help show your instructor that you are consulting idea-generating and relevant sources and, more importantly, that you understand the significance of and relationship between your sources.
When you seek assistance from your librarian, annotated bibliographies also help the librarian guide you toward the best available sources. Finally, annotated bibliographies help your writing consultant/tutor work with you more efficiently on integrating an author’s ideas into your writing.
Questions to consider as you compose your annotated bibliography:
- What is the thesis (main argument of the source), and what is the general purpose of the source?
- Who is the author and what are his/her credentials? Who is the intended audience?
- What theoretical or ideological assumptions does the author advocate, and where or how does that appear in the source?
- What topics does the source cover? What types of evidence does it use?
- What parts of the argument or analysis are particularly persuasive, what parts are not, and why?
- What types of rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, logos) does the author use in the development, deployment,
and support of their ideas?
- How is this source useful, or not useful, to your project? How does it help you advance the argument for
- How well does the source relate to or not relate to the other sources in your annotated bibliography?
What are the parts of an annotated bibliography?
- The first part of every entry in an annotated bibliography is a citation of the source. Follow the citation style preferred by your instructor.
- The second part of every entry is an annotation or description of the source. Annotations can vary in length, depending on the purposes of the annotated bibliography. Generally, the annotation will contain some information about the author’s credentials/authority, followed by a brief summary of the source, taking into consideration the audience, author’s viewpoint, and the thesis statement. Assessments of the source can appear anywhere, but it is commonly featured at the end of the annotation. Consider whether you found the argument or analysis persuasive, whether this source is useful to you, and why. You may also include any relevant links to other sources.