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What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

First of all, let`s distinguish what is an annotated bibliography. In nutshell, this is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. There is also a brief paragraph to each citation, the annotation itself, written in a descriptive and evaluative way. These are the things which differentiate this kind of bibliography from the traditional one. The main goal of annotation is to provide readers with the relevance and accuracy of the used sources. While working on your annotated bibliography, check and keep in mind your teacher`s instructions and requirements.

Sometimes students may confuse annotations and abstracts. To cut a long story short, abstracts are just descriptive summaries written at the beginning of any work. While annotations should be critical in addition. They are created to inform readers with the cited sources relevance, describe author`s point of view, authority etc.

The Process of Writing

For creating a good annotated bibliography, the number of useful skills is required: concise exposition, critical thinking, proper library research, accurate analysis.

The first thing you have to do is to specify and locate citations to books and documents that are relevant to your topic. You need to examine and analyze all the material briefly. Having analyzed everything, choose those works that provide the brightest points and perspectives on your topic.

While citing a book or document, do not forget to use the appropriate style.

The next step is to create an accurate annotation, the aim of which is to summarize the central idea and scope of the book or article used. Your annotation should contain several elements: a sentence which shows on the author`s background or authority, a sentence that is related to the audience, a comparison of different cited sources, explanation of how these sources illuminate your bibliography topic.

There are 2 common methods for annotated bibliography writing. Let`s examine them both.

Writing Annotations for Your Sources

  1. Specify the requirements of your writing assignment
    There are some annotated bibliographies with the aim of summarizing the sources. However, another type is bibliographies evaluate the main points of the sources you have found. These requirements are usually dependent on the task specifications. So, keep in touch with your instructor to do and to understand everything in a proper way.
  2. Summarize each source
    Don’t hesitate to describe each source’s approach to the topic by providing with the information concerning its main points. The length of your summaries depends on the assignment itself, requirements, and the type of source as well. It is obvious that a summary for the article can be described more briefly then a book summary.
  3. Provide evaluations in your annotations
    Your annotated bibliography is something bigger than just sources summarizing. You should also evaluate everything and show on all sources` strengths and weaknesses. By doing this, you will complete the task successfully.
  4. Compare each source to the others
    The main task of the annotated bibliography is to provide with an overview of research in a specific learning area. By describing how each source compares to the others will provide readers with a clear understanding how the sources relate to each other.

Choosing and Organizing Your Citations

  1. Select only high-quality sources
    The main task of any annotated bibliography to give a clear overview of the researched topic. So, your bibliography can be selective or comprehensive. In any case, all sources have to be reliable and trustworthy. A good idea will be to look for sources from academic journals or ones published on reputable websites.
  2. Provide full citations for each source
    This rule should be followed by everyone aiming at making the grade. It means that alongside with your annotations, there should be presented also author, title, date of each source. The citation style you have to use is dependent on the task specification. It can be either MLA, APA, or Chicago etc. If you are not sure which style you should use, feel free to ask your instructor for advice.
  3. Format your bibliography in a proper way
    Your annotated bibliography should look like series of entries. At the very beginning, you have to provide with the full citation for your work. Then, by using paragraphing, your task is to give summarized annotations. In major cases, all annotations are approximately one paragraph long.
  4. Organize your entries accurately
    In general, all annotated bibliographies are organized alphabetically. It means that they are arranged by the authors’ last names. However, sometimes your teacher may provide you with some other specifications concerning entries organization, for examples in a chronological way, by subtopics, or in accordance with different sources formats.
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