How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography

How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography

How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography

How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography

What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.


Annotations vs. Abstracts

Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they may describe the author’s point of view, authority, or clarity and appropriateness of expression.


The Process

Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.

Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.


Critically Appraising the Book, Article, or Document

For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, see . For information on the author’s background and views, ask at the reference desk for help finding appropriate  and  sources.


Choosing the Correct Citation Style

Check with your instructor to find out which style is preferred for your class. Online citation guides for both the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) styles are linked from the Library’s .


Sample Annotated Bibliography Entries

The following example uses APA style (Publication Manual of the , 7th edition, 2019) for the journal citation:

Waite, L., Goldschneider, F., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51, 541-554.
The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

This example uses MLA style (MLA Handbook, 8th edition, 2016) for the journal citation:

Waite, Linda J., et al. “Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults.” American Sociological Review, vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 541-554.
The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown , use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

How do I format my annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography entry consists of two components: the Citation and the Annotation.

Citation

The citation should be formatted in the bibliographic style that your professor has requested for the assignment. Some common citation styles include , , and . For more information, see the 

Annotation

Generally, an annotation is approximately 100-300 words in length (one paragraph). However, your professor may have different expectations so it is recommended that you clarify the assignment guidelines.

An annotation may include the following information:

  • A brief summary of the source
  • The source’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Its conclusions
  • Why the source is relevant in your field of study
  • Its relationships to other studies in the field
  • An evaluation of the research methodology (if applicable)
  • Information about the author’s background
  • Your personal conclusions about the

MLA style format (8th ed.)

Hanging Indents are required for citations in the bibliography, as shown below. That is, the first line of the citation starts at the left margin, and subsequent lines are indented 4 spaces.  The bibliography is double-spaced, both within the citation and between them. The annotation appends the entry unless complete sentences are used, then a line space is added and the annotation begins with a paragraph indent, as shown in the example below.

Lozier, Jeffrey D., et al. “Predicting the Distribution of Sasquatch in Western North America: Anything Goes with Ecological Niche Modelling.” Journal of Biogeography, vol. 36, no.9, 2009, pp. 1623-1627. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40305930. Accessed 14 June 2016.    This paper critiques the use of Ecological Niche Models (ENM) and species distribution by performing a tongue-in-cheek examination of the distribution of the fictional Sasquatch, based on reports from an online Bigfoot archive.Lozier’s paper powerfully demonstrates the issues faced by ENM, when reports come from non-specialists, and highlights key problems with sourcing data from unmediated online environments. The author neglects to compare the reliability of the many wildlife databases with the single Bigfoot database, as well as other key issues; however in closing, the paper briefly mentions that many issues lie outside the scope of the short article. Lozier’s paper advises professionals in fields using ENM to carefully assess the source of the data on which the model is based and concludes that the distribution of rare species in particular is often over-reported to misidentification.

APA style format (7th ed.)

Refer to Section 9.51, p. 307 and Figure 9.3, p. 308 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed. [] for detailed information on annotated bibliographies.

The following are general guidelines. Check with your instructor for

References follow the same alphabetical order as entries in a reference list [Section 9.43-9.44, p. 303]. The annotation is a new paragraph below its reference entry and follows block quotation format [Section 8.27, pp. 272-273]. Should the annotation have multiple paragraphs, the first line of the second and subsequent paragraphs are indented an additional 0.5in.

D’Elia, G., Jorgensen, C., Woelfel, J., & Rodger, E. J. (2002). The impact of the Internet on public library use: An of the current consumer market for library and Internet services. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology  53(10), 808-820. doi:10.1002/asi.10102
In this study, the researchers examined if the Internet had affected public library usage in the United States. This study is distinct because its researchers surveyed library nonusers as well as   users. The major finding was that 75.2% of people who used the Internet also used the public library. However, the researchers surveyed only 3000 individuals in a population of millions; therefore, these results may not be statistically significant. However, this study is relevant because it provides future researchers with a methodology for determining the impact of the Internet on public library usage.

Purpose of an annotated bibliography

When set as an assignment, an annotated bibliography allows you to get acquainted with the material available on a particular topic.

Depending on your specific assignment, an annotated bibliography might:

  • review the literature of a particular subject;
  • demonstrate the quality and depth of reading that you have done;
  • exemplify the scope of sources available—such as journals, books, web sites and magazine articles;
  • highlight sources that may be of interest to other readers and researchers;
  • explore and organise sources for further research.

Questions to consider

You need to consider carefully the texts that you select for your annotated bibliography. Keep the following questions in mind to help clarify your choices.

  1. What topic/problem am I investigating?
  2. What question(s) am I exploring? Identify the aim of your literature research.
  3. What kind of material am I looking at and why? Am I looking for journal articles, reports, policies or primary historical data?
  4. Am I being judicious in my selection of texts? Does each text relate to my research topic and assignment requirements?
  5. What are the essential or key texts on my topic? Am I finding them? Are the sources valuable or often referred to in other texts?

Which writing style should I use in the annotations?

  • Each annotation should be concise. Do not write too much—remember, you are writing a summary, not an essay. Annotations should not extend beyond one paragraph unless otherwise stipulated in your assignment guidelines. As this is not an extended piece of writing, only mention significant and relevant details.
  • Any information apparent in the title of the text or journal can be omitted from the annotation.
  • Background materials and references to previous work by the same author usually are not included. As you are addressing one text at a time, there is no need to cross reference or use in-text citations to support your annotation.
  • Unless otherwise stipulated, you should write in full sentences using academic vocabulary.

What does an annotated bibliography look like?

An annotated bibliography starts with the bibliographic details of a source (the citation) followed by a brief annotation.

As with a normal reference list or bibliography, an annotated bibliography is usually arranged alphabetically according to the author’s last name. An annotated bibliography summary should be about 100 – 200 words per citation—check with your lecturer/tutor as this may vary between faculties and assessments. Please also check with your lecturer about the elements each annotation should include.

Contents of an annotated bibliography

An may contain all or part of the following elements depending on the word limit and the content of the sources you are examining.

  • Provide the full bibliographic citation.
  • Indicate the background of the author(s).
  • Indicate the content or scope of the text.
  • Outline the main argument.
  • Indicate the intended audience.
  • Identify the research methods if applicable.
  • Identify any conclusions made by the author/s.
  • Discuss the reliability of the text.
  • Highlight any special features of the text that were unique or helpful e.g. charts, graphs etc.
  • Discuss the relevance or usefulness of the text for your research.
  • Point out in what way the text relates to themes or concepts in your course.
  • State the strengths and limitations of the text.
  • Present your view or reaction to the text.

Sample annotation 

The citation goes first and is followed by the annotation. Make sure that you follow your faculty’s preferred citation style. The summary needs to be concise. Please note the following example is entirely fictitious.

In the sample annotation below, each element is numbered (see Key).

(1) Trevor, C.O., Lansford, B. and Black, J.W., 2004, ‘Employee turnover and job performance: monitoring the influences of salary growth and promotion’, Journal of Armchair Psychology, vol 113, no.1, pp. 56-64.(2) In this article Trevor et al. review the influences of pay and job opportunities in respect to job performance, turnover rates and employee motivation.(3) The authors use data gained through organisational surveys of blue-chip companies in Vancouver, Canada to try to identify the main causes of employee turnover and whether it is linked to salary growth.(4) Their research focuses on assessing a range of pay structures such as pay for performance and organisational reward schemes.(5) The article is useful to my research topic, as Trevor et al. suggest that there are numerous reasons for employee turnover and variances in employee motivation and performance.(6) The main limitation of the article is that the survey sample was restricted to mid-level management,(7) thus the authors indicate that further, more extensive, research needs to be undertaken to develop a more in-depth understanding of employee turnover and job performance.(8) This article will not form the basis of my research; however it will be useful supplementary information for my on pay structures. Key(1) Citation(2) Introduction (3) Aims & Research methods(4) Scope(5) Usefulness (to your research/ to a particular topic)(6) Limitations(7) Conclusions(8) Reflection (explain how this work illuminates your topic or how it will fit in with your research)
How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography
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