How to Write an Annotated Bibliography
What are Annotated Bibliographies?
Usually, annotated bibliographies provide a short explanation of any existing research sources on a particular topic. Essentially, they are lists of sources with a brief evaluation and description of each one.
An annotation is actually a brief description that summarises a source’s content and provides a short evaluation or analysis of that source. A writer can be asked to analyse, summarise, evaluate, or reflect on a particular source.
Often, annotated bibliographies are part of a bigger project although they can be stand-alone lists. While annotations may be as brief as a single sentence, it is usual for these to be made up of a particular citation or reference along with a concise descriptive paragraph.
NB: The guidance provided in this article is quite general. It is highly recommended you adhere to the instructions provided with each individual assignment and, if required, ask your tutor or lecturer for clarification.
What Purpose Does an Annotated Bibliography Serve?
While much depends on a particular assignment, the following are some of the purposes that annotated bibliographies serve. Essentially, they:
- Review any available literature on a specific subject;
- Show how much a writer has read and the quality of that material;
- Demonstrate the extent and/or amount of available sources, e.g., articles, books, journals, websites, etc.
- Draw attention to any sources that might be interesting or useful to other students and/or researchers;
- Examine, organise and highlight various areas for further or future research.
When given as assignments, annotated bibliographies enable the writer to get to know what material is available on a given topic.
It is important to carefully consider any texts you choose for a bibliography. The questions outlined below are designed to help you with this process.
- What problem or topic are you investigating and writing about?
- What are the question(s) being explored? Work out your objectives when looking for literary sources for your research.
- What type of materials are you looking for, e.g., are you looking for textbooks, journal or magazine articles, historical information, policy documents, reports, etc.? Moreover, why are you looking for these?
- Are you judging your choice of texts wisely? Do your choices relate to your topic and to the requirements of your assignment?
- What key data, texts or information are important to your topic? Are you able to find these? How valuable are these sources and how often are they referred to in relation to your topic?
In What Formatting Style Should Your Annotations be Written?
- It is important that every annotation is concise and not too wordy. Keep in mind that you are summarising sources and not writing an essay. Stick to one paragraph at most unless you have been instructed otherwise. Confine yourself to those details that are relevant and important.
- You do not need to include any information that is already mentioned or obvious in a source’s title.
- There is no need to include any background information or any references to other work by a particular author. Cross-referencing and/or in-text citations explaining an annotation are not necessary since one text is being addressed at a time.
- Use full sentences and scholarly vocabulary unless you have been instructed to do otherwise.
What is an Annotated Bibliography Like in Appearance?
An entry in an annotated bibliography begins with information about a citation or source. After this, you should write a short annotation.
As is the case with any bibliography or list of references, annotated bibliographies should be presented in alphabetic order under author surname. Each entry should be around 100 words to 200 words in length, but double-check with your tutor since length can vary from one assignment and/or institution to another. Your tutor will also clarify what should be included in your annotations.
What Should an Annotated Bibliography Contain?
Annotations can be made up of all or just some of the following detail. However, much depends on the type of source and word count restriction.
- Complete bibliographic information;
- Author’s background;
- The text’s scope and/or content;
- Key argument(s);
- Research methodologies where applicable;
- Author’s conclusion(s);
- A description of who the intended readers are;
- A list of any special, useful or unique characteristics of a text e.g. graphs, charts, and so on;
- Mention the usefulness or relevance of a source;
- List the strengths, weaknesses, and reliability of sources.
- The writer’s reaction to or opinion of the source.
Say how a source relates to any concepts or themes of the course the assignment is being written for.