An annotated bibliography is a list of citations related to a particular subject area or theme that include a brief descriptive and/or evaluative summary. The annotated bibliography can be arranged chronologically by date of publication or alphabetically by author, with citations to print and/or digital materials, such as, books, newspaper articles, journal articles, dissertations, government documents, pamphlets, web sites, etc., and multimedia sources like films and audio recordings.
In lieu of writing a formal research paper, your professor may ask you to develop an annotated bibliography. You may be assigned this for a number of reasons, including to show that you understand the literature underpinning the research problem, to demonstrate that you can conduct an effective review of pertinent literature, or to share sources among your classmates so that, collectively, everyone in the class obtains a comprehensive understanding of key research on the subject. Think of an annotated bibliography as a more deliberate, in-depth review of the literature than what is normally conducted for a research paper.
On a broader level, writing an annotated bibliography can be excellent preparation for conducting a larger research project by allowing you to evaluate what research has already been done and where your proposed study may fit within it. By reading and responding to a variety of sources associated with a research problem, you can begin to see what the issues are and gain a better perspective on what scholars are saying about your topic. As a result, you are better prepared to develop your own point of view and contributions to the literature.
In summary, a good annotated bibliography...
Annotated Bibliographies. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Annotated Bibliographies. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University.
II. Choosing Sources for Your Bibliography
A good strategy to help build your bibliography is to identify several key scholarly sources and review the sources cited by the author(s); often, this will lead you quickly to related sources about the topic. Note that this strategy only helps identify prior research, so look for the most recent scholarly materials on the topic of your annotated bibliography.
Appropriate sources to include can be anything that has value in regards to understanding the research problem, including non-textual sources, such as, films, maps, photographs, and audio recordings, or, archival materials and primary source materials, such as, diaries, government documents, collections of personal correspondence, meeting minutes, or official memorandums.
Your method for selecting which sources to annotate depends upon the purpose of the assignment and the research problem you select. For example, if the research problem is to compare the social factors that led to protests in Egypt with the social factors that led to protests against the government of the Philippines in the 1980's, you will have to include non-U.S. and historical sources in your bibliography.
III. Strategies to Define the Scope of your Bibliography
It is important that the sources cited and described in your bibliography are well-defined and sufficiently narrow in scope to ensure that you're not overwhelmed by the volume of items you could possibly include. Many of the general strategies you can use to narrow a topic for a research paper are the same you can use to define what to include in your bibliography. These are:
IV. Assessing the Relevance and Value of Sources
All the items you include in your bibliography should reflect the source's contribution to the research problem or overall issue being addressed. In order to determine how you will use the source or define its contribution, you will need to assess the quality of the central argument within the source. Specific elements to assess include the source’s value, limitations, effectiveness in defining the research problem, the methodology, quality of the evidence in relation to addressing the research problem, and the author’s conclusions and/or recommendations.
With this in mind, determining whether a source should be included in your bibliography depends on how you think about and answer the following questions:
V. Format and Content
The format of an annotated bibliography can differ depending on its purpose and the nature of the assignment. It may be arranged alphabetically by author or chronologically by publication date. Ask your professor for specific guidelines in terms of length, focus, and the type of annotation you are to write [see above].
Your bibliography should include a brief introductory paragraph that explains the rationale for selecting the sources and note, if appropriate, what sources were excluded and the reasons why.
This first part of your entry contains the bibliographic information written in a standard documentation style, such as, MLA, Chicago, or APA. Ask your professor what style is most appropriate and, be consistent!
The second part should summarize, in paragraph form, the material contained in the source. What you say about the source is dictated by the type of annotation you are asked to write. In most cases, though, your annotation should provide critical commentary that evaluates the source and its usefulness for your topic and for your paper. Things to think about when writing include: Does the source offer a good introduction on the issue? Does the source effectively address the issue? Would novices find the work accessible or is it intended for an audience already familiar with the topic? What limitations does the source have [reading level, timeliness, reliability, etc.]? What is your overall reaction to the source?
Annotations can vary significantly in length, from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages. However, they are normally about 300 words. The length will depend on the purpose. If you're just writing summaries of your sources, the annotations may not be very long. However, if you are writing an extensive analysis of each source, you'll need to devote more space.
Annotated Bibliographies. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Annotated Bibliographies. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Annotated Bibliography. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Annotated Bibliography. Writing Center. Walden University; Engle, Michael et al. How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography. Olin Reference, Research and Learning Services. Cornell University Library; Guidelines for Preparing an Annotated Bibliography. Writing Center at Campus Library. University of Washington, Bothell; How to Write an Annotated Bibliography. Information and Library Services. University of Maryland; Knott, Deborah. Writing an Annotated Bibliography. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Writing from Sources: Writing an Annotated Bibliography. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College.
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