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What Is an Annotated Bibliography?


An annotated bibliography provides a list of research sources put in alphabetical order. Additionally, to the bibliographic data, it gives an accurate summary of every source and a brief assessment of its relevance or value. The answer to the question ‘how to write an annotated bibliography’ depends on your writing task. It may be a part of a bigger research project, or it may be a project itself.

Choosing the Sources for Your Annotation

The quality of the annotated bibliography depends on your choice of sources. You should determine the scope of your research to know what should be included and omitted. The following questions may help you to understand how to make an annotated bibliography better:

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  • What is the problem investigated? Which questions am I trying to answer? If your annotated bibliography is a part of some project, it will be probably governed by a research question as well. If it is a part of a general topic, try formulating your topic as a set of questions to determine your search better.

  • What type of material am I searching?

  • Am I getting important studies on my subject?

Making a Summary of the Source Argument

An annotated bibliography definition is to restate the primary argument of a source briefly. For example, an annotation of any academic source usually determines its thesis, main investigation methods, and major conclusions. Remember that determining the source argument is a different assignment than listing or depicting its contents. An annotation should consider why the contents are there.

The argument of your source may be identified with the help of the following reading strategies:

  • Determine the writer’s research question or thesis. The introduction and the conclusion may help you with this task.

  • Find repetition of ideas or key terms. Try to notice those key terms used in the thesis or research question. They may be governing the text.

  • See how the text is organized and structured.

  • Notice what is emphasized and why.

  • See whether/ how a theory is applied to interpret data and evidence. The method of investigation of the issues addressed in the text should be determined.

  • Special attention should be paid to the opening sentences of every paragraph. With the help of topic sentences, authors present the main point discussed in every paragraph.

  • Search the paragraphs that sum up the argument. Sometimes, a part may start or end with such paragraph.

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Evaluating the Value and Relevance of Sources

What is an annotated bibliography evaluation of sources? Your annotation should also evaluate the value of the source in terms of investigation of your problem or research question. If it is a part of a research project, briefly determine how you will use the source and why. If your annotation is an independent project, try to evaluate the contribution of a source to the research on your subject.

To identify how you will apply the source or determine its contribution, you will have to evaluate the quality of the argument. Why is it so valuable? What are its limitations?

Different Types of Annotated Bibliographies

An annotation comes in different variations. Each one may have a unique annotated bibliography format. Pay much attention to the demands of your tutor. The following are few possible variations:

  • You may be required to sum up only and not to assess the source.

  • You may be required to identify and comment the patterns of dissimilarity or similarity between sources; you may even have to treat every source separately.

  • If the annotated bibliography is long, divide it into sections. The categories of organization should assist to clarify your study question.

  • Some tutors may allow or demand you to preface the bibliography (or its parts) with a paragraph writing of the investigation scope and provide a rationale for your choice of sources.

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