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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography - Pro Guide to Follow

During the period of finals, students encounter different challenges and writing an annotated bibliography is one of these tricky and challenging tasks. At a glance, this assignment is pretty easy - all you should do is just provide a list of sources you used to conduct your individual research. Nothing to it, right? However, this task isn't as simple as you may think, because a simple list of resources will not be enough, so the approach should be a little bit different.

All these difficulties emerger only because students have no idea how to look for sources or where to find useful annotated bibliography tips. Therefore, scholars often lose their confidence while preparing such assignment. But if handled properly, this task becomes really simple, and our guidelines will show you how to write an annotated bibliography step by step.

Annotated bibliographies can be extremely helpful to students and researchers alike. Generally, they are used to provide concise summaries of relevant sources on a topic and inform the reader of several things; the main objective and purpose of the title, any major points addressed by the author, and whether or not the work can be effectively used for a particular research project.

What is an Annotated Bibliography? From A to Z

Before you immerse yourself in the fascinating process of writing, you should study this question in-depth to understand the annotated bibliography definition.

You're probably already familiar with a bibliography - it's the list of references you include at the end of a research paper. So what's an annotated bibliography then? The short explanation is that an annotated bibliography is just an expanded version of your regular one where, instead of just listing the title of the resource, you summarize it and explain why it was important to your research. In other words, it is a short list of all citations you used followed by 150-200 words explanatory paragraph commonly referred to as the Annotation.

Depending on the researchers intent or instructor's guidelines the annotated bibliography will function as either a summary of the titles mentioned, a summary as well as an evaluation regarding the usefulness of the work, or a combination of the first two as well as an in-depth analysis of each source.

Additionally, in most cases, the commentary or summary sections of the bibliography will only come to a few sentences or paragraph at best. In some situations, a professor may ask for a more detailed interpretation (may be several paragraphs) but this is rare for a school assignment, and if anything this type of detail would be used while conducting professional research.

The annotated bibliography can either be an integral part of your assignment, or, in rare instances, a separate document.

Dealing with this task for the first time ever, you may wonder why you should do it, so let's consider the main reasons:

  • It lets the readers assess the quality of your work.
  • It allows you and the audience get acquainted with the list of literature used before reading the paper.
  • It helps to organize the resources used in your writing correctly.

The annotated bibliography can be used for several things.

  • Brief description
    With this, the only purpose intended is to give the reader a small amount of information beyond what is traditionally in a bibliography such as the topics covered in the book and a sentence or two describing its main objective.
    The following example obtained from Georgia Southern University's Dept. of Psychology is a sample of a brief annotation;
    Cronan-Hillix, T. (1991) Teaching students the importance of accuracy in research: A reply to McDonald and Peterson. Teaching of Psychology, 1 8, 101- 1 0 2.
    The author reaffirms the view that reward and punishment are effective in teaching students to pay attention to details in their research. These perhaps harsh methods have been effectively utilized by the author.
    Note that in this example the writer also includes a bit of the fourth purpose which is analyzation.

  • Summary
    A summary of the source is often seen in one way or the other in annotated bibliographies. Your summary should highlight the main focus and scope of the book or article studied, as well as the hypothesis and conclusion (if it has methods you can summarize them also) and any other significant information. If your annotations are only 1-2 paragraphs long or less than you want to ensure that this information is succinct.
  • Evaluation
    Compare this work to others in the same category and evaluate the effectiveness of the results or overall objectives. You should consider whether or not it is a helpful, reliable source with credible references and proper presentation. Ask yourself whether or not is a benefit to you and your own research as well as the field at large.
  • Analysis
    With this purpose, you'll need to think critically about the source's place in supporting your thesis statement and argument. Your analyzation is different from your evaluation because you are now discussing the source from a more objective and critical standpoint. Look more deeply into the potent aspects of the work as well as the areas in which more work needs to be conducted, or the research is lacking.

As you can see, this assignment has several goals, and if you want to get a good grade, we advise you to stick with the annotated bibliography rather than the traditional one because this way you can make your academic assignment look more attractive and informative.

Generally, annotated bibliographies are requested by instructors to aid students in transitioning to the actual construction of a research paper as well as evaluate and eliminate any unnecessary books or resources. Likewise, the annotated bibliography is also considered to be a comprehensive guide to the literature on the subject as well as a suitable literature review.

In planning for your annotated bibliography, like any other piece of writing, its necessary to plan ahead and set aside enough time to properly satisfy each requirement. Hopefully, in doing so, you will be permitted to produce a timely and presentable bibliography. Here are a few steps for your convenience.

  1. Identify the purpose and scope of the annotated bibliography
    What is the scope of your annotated bibliography? Do you plan on reviewing everything that was written on the subject (which is ideal for narrow, specific areas of study) or do you intend only to review a particular subcategory of the topic? Answering these questions will help you to properly identify the number of titles you will be required to read as well as help you to gauge where to start and where to stop. Not spending precious time reading the irrelevant material or off-topic titles should make finishing your assignment on time all the much easier. In most cases, your instructor should give you an idea of what they expect with regards to scope.
    Secondly, what is the purpose of your annotated bibliography? A few points were mentioned earlier. Providing a summary of each title as well as evaluating its worth for your particular research project are just a few. Another reason not mentioned is to provide readers with a complete listing of sources. Some sources may not have found their way directly into your paper but are marginally on topic and would be beneficial to list. Lastly, the annotated bibliography can also act as a literature review, demonstrating your competence and authority on the subject being discussed.
  2. Organize all of your sources with source cards
    A source card is simply a card that provides all of the required information to reference a particular source. This information will be needed for your bibliography even though you may not quote directly from the source reviewed. Source cards should be sent up using the bibliographic form for each title (depending on the styling guide you choose to use). The source is simply placed right in the middle of the card without any other information. For example, if referencing a book using APA, you would write the following directly in the center of the card;
    Henderson, S. (2010). The Best of Us. Chicago: Hutchinson Press.
  3. Take a reasonable amount of notes
    Proficient note taking is a skill that takes time and practice. The hard part is usually finding the right balance between recording just enough information so that essential details are not missed but also not recording too much information that would make it hard to provide a brief but comprehensive summary of the title.
    Additionally, it may be best to jot down a quick summary immediately after reading a paper to ensure that the accurate descriptions are provided. Likewise, bias opinions should be avoided as the only necessary statements or claims that need to be noted are those used to evaluate whether or not the title would fit well into a particular research project.

What Annotated Bibliography Format to Implement

Before you start working on this assignment, you should get yourself acquainted with some specific rules to understand how to format an annotated bibliography correctly. The following list provides some different types of annotated bibliographies though instructors will generally request a combination of all of them rather than just one. Likewise, if you can browse through some examples of annotated bibliographies, you may also find that those samples do not exactly fall under the three categories either. Usually, you will see that the author will combine at least two or more types into one bibliography.

  • Descriptive
    The descriptive annotation is simply done by describing a work with regards to its basic components, such as chapter headings, key features, or any notable sections such as glossaries or appendices.A descriptive annotation does not thoroughly summarize the work (as far as the author's argument) nor does it evaluate it.The key objective of the descriptive type is to give a succinct description of the source you used or, in other words, describe why you used exactly this resource, as well as its primary benefits for this particular research.
  • Informative (also known as the summary)
    This form is commonly associated with the annotation and serves the general function of a summarizing the title. It highlights the main points of the work while summarizing the author's main argument, objective, and points of discussion. This type of annotation is significant for those seeking to obtain a general idea of a topic and address a basic understanding of the main issues.
  • Analytical/Critical
    This last type is often included in annotations as well as it provides a critical analysis of the work being referenced to (similar to a book critique in some respects). The primary issue examined is the relevance of the work to the research project as well as where the particular title fits in as compared to other works of a similar type. For instance, an article or book may be fully developed and well-written, but if it doesn't fit the topic, then it will likely be criticized for this.

No one but you can decide which of the three types you will use in your papers. However, be sure to ask your professor about which type they prefer, because sometimes profs require the usage of a specific style.

We created a simple outline for you allowing you to understand how to meet the annotated bibliography challenge quickly and effectively. Among other things, this information may also help you organize thoughts efficiently and solve some of the "how to find sources for annotated bibliography" problems.

  • Process the literature and decide what books, magazines or online sources you wish to use.
  • Learn the resources thoroughly and decide whether they are relevant for your paper or not. Try to answer the question: Do they cover the chosen subject area appropriately?
  • Create both the citation and annotation. You should start with the citation and only after that, can you proceed to create an annotation to it.

What should your annotation contain? Let's have a look at what the annotation consists of:

  • The primary aim of this resource
  • A summary of the content
  • What is the core audience of this writing?
  • Is it pertinent to the chosen subject area?
  • Analyze the main advantages of this source.

You can arrange all sources either in the alphabetical or chronological order but better ask your tutor about the preferred format.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography MLA: Stepwise Guidelines

The format for your annotated bibliography may primarily be based upon specific requirements given by your instructor or other authoritative bodies. If using a particular styling guide such as MLA, APA, or Chicago, then you would simply follow the format of that guide for your listing structure. But since a styling guide is not always required, your annotated bibliography can also be organized alphabetically, chronologically, according to medium (i.e., internet source, book source, magazine, journal, etc.) or by each subtopic or subcategory.

Most commonly, though, while working on this task, you will use two major formatting styles - MLA and APA, both being standard guidelines used by all reputable educational establishments. Writing an annotated bibliography MLA, you need to be very attentive because there are specific formatting requirements to be followed. So, let's check them out now because this information may come in real handy for your future studies.

Annotated bibliography MLA format (aka Modern Language Association style) used by students who deal with papers in humanities courses or classes of liberal arts. You also can use it for any other course following your prof's instructions. But, if you learn one of these subject areas, in all likelihood, your tutor will ask you to use the MLA format for annotated bibliography. This style is all about following the guiding principles, so your key objective is to become familiar with them.

How to make an annotated bibliography MLA? Your chosen information source (book, journal, etc.) should be arranged according to a specific structure:

  1. The author's name
  2. The main title of the resource
  3. Information about the author
  4. Resource version (e.g., online)
  5. Number
  6. Information about the publisher
  7. Date of publishing
  8. Location

These elements should be separated from one another with dots or commas. After that, you should write a short annotation, describing the primary goal of providing this resource.

How to Use the Annotated Bibliography APA Format?

Sometimes, students get asked to format their resources using the annotated bibliography APA format. How should they do that? The answer is obvious - follow the APA annotated bibliography necessary rules.

APA (aka American Psychological Association) style is used by the students studying social sciences, so if you are one of them, you better take the time to explore it since your teacher may ask you to use this formatting someday.

How to write an annotated bibliography APA? It should summarize the book referred to in the citation or, in other words, provide a brief description of the book, allowing the target audience to understand the significance of this source for your research. When writing the first paragraph, make sure to mention the information about your project and why this book is helpful for you. After that, you should write about the methods used in this source and evaluate its positive aspects.

Writing an annotated bibliography APA takes time and effort, but you are ready to meet this challenge! Your job here is to provide a summary of a resource to let the target audience understand why you've used it.

Annotated Bibliography: Some Useful Tips

We're not done with helping you! Here are some more useful tips to use when you're working your way through your annotated bibliography.

Adding Annotations

When writing out the summary or commentary for each source, some things that may be helpful to include are as follows;

  1. the central argument of the author;
  2. the purpose of the work;
  3. the major points, findings, or conclusions;
  4. additional contents such as notable charts, diagrams, glossaries, or appendices;
  5. any significant points about the background of the author or their other works;
  6. how the title fits with others similar to it in the same field;
  7. how useful the title would be in answering the posed research question;
  8. the intended audience of the book and how that may affect its delivery (for ex. difficulty of vocabulary, etc.).

A Few Places to Obtain Scholarly or Academic Reviews

  • Book Review Index Online:This database has millions of book reviews from 1965 to the present, covering a range of topics from various publications.
  • Book Review Digest Plus: This service is provided by EBSCOhost and has over 200,000 full-text reviews and over 2 million review citations. Thirteen main subject categories are also included.
  • JSTOR:This popular digital library offers many full-text articles, including reviews. Reviews may be obtained by searching directly for a particular review or by selecting the "Limit: review" option on the search page.
  • H-Net Reviews:Unlike the other places mentioned, this service is free of charge but only covers the Humanities and Social Sciences. Discussion logs are also available along with each review. The reviews are competent and appear to be written by degreed writers.

In addition to collections with a range of articles, there are also opportunities to obtain book reviews under databases that provide archives of subject-specific articles or abstracts. If working through a school library website, for instance, this option (i.e., "book review") can simply be selected when searching a subject-specific database such as PsychInfo or History Abstracts.

Use a Keyword List to Help You Describe Each Source

Since a big part of writing an annotated bibliography is evaluating sources, it may be helpful to have a few 'evaluative-friendly' keywords handy when writing your descriptions. These keywords are the same ones you'll often find in compare and contrast essays, book reviews and critiques, or anything else in which evaluation plays a substantial role.

A few examples have been provided below.

Bloom's Taxonomy Action Verbs

  • Analyze
  • Appraise
  • Argue
  • Assess
  • Categorize
  • Compare
  • Contrast
  • Criticize
  • Differentiate
  • Distinguish
  • Examine
  • Experiment
  • Identify
  • Illustrate
  • Infer
  • Model
  • Outline
  • Point out
  • Question
  • Relate

Additionally, though your annotated bibliography may not be selected for publishing, its still very important to adhere to the necessary writing mechanics, such as grammar, punctuation, and fluency. The formatting style in which you choose to write is up to you, but generally its best to use complete sentences to ensure that your points are properly conveyed as opposed to partial phrases, isolated words, or simple expressions.

Annotated Bibliography Examples

Below are three examples you can use as annotated bibliography help. They range from simple to more detailed. The first includes just a summary of the work:

  • Dawson, Christopher.Progress and Religion: An Historical Inquiry.Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press. 1929.
    Progress and Religion: An Historical Inquirywas written by noted Catholic scholar Christopher Dawson in the period of relative calm between World War I and World War II. In the book, Dawson claims that religion is the soul of culture, and the society which has lost its spiritual roots is doomed to fail. He traces the history of religious and philosophical thought up to the present-day horror of World War I and argues that the world needs to turn away from totalitarianism and toward Christianity to survive.

The next example includes all three of the sections we've indicated as necessary to appear in your paper. It provides a summary, details the reliability of the source, and explains how the source is used in the paper:

  • Pepys, Samuel.The Diary of Samuel Pepys.Ed. Robert Latham. New York: Penguin Press. 2000. Print.
    TheDiary of Samuel Pepysis a private diary kept by an English naval administrator from 1660-1690. In the diary, Pepys discusses his personal life, including his wife and health, alongside important national issues of the day such military maneuvers and arguments in Parliament. A definitive translation was printed in 1970, and today the diary is one of history's most-cited primary sources. The diary will be used in this paper to demonstrate the attitude of fear created by the plague in London during the 17th century.

The third example is a longer annotation that spends more time going over the details of the source, its validity, and how it is used in the paper. Note that this example makes use of the first person:

  • Cowles, Henry. "The Ecological Relations of the Vegetation on the Sand Dunes of Lake Michigan."Botanical Gazette. 27 (1899): 95-117.
    Henry Cowles's seminal paper on plant community succession laid the groundwork for over a century of ecological experimentation and debate. In his 1899 paper, Cowles argues that plant communities are a result of geographic features in any given region, and these communities evolve over time in a set series of patterns. He believed that there was no climax community, that is, he argued that plant communities were constantly changing in response to the environment, and community evolution was not a set path with a single endpoint. Of course, the idea of community succession and the existence of climax communities is still debated today, but at the moment scientific opinion sides with Cowles in theorizing that climax communities do not exist outside of models. In this paper, I will cite Cowles's theories to demonstrate the long history of the debate surrounding climax communities before presenting my own evidence that suggests climax communities can, in fact, be found in nature.

Ask for Help Writing an Annotated Bibliography?

Not all students can cope with the annotated bibliography challenge: some of them have a part-time job and are barely able to find a few minutes to rest, while others are overloaded with other academic assignments or home chores and, therefore, can't do this task properly. If you are in one of those two groups, then you should probably consider looking for professional help.

And this is where our company comes into the picture! Being perfectly aware of all formatting guidelines and manuals, our writers can take on all kinds of assignments from an essay, paper, or review to a challenging annotated bibliography.

If you need help writing an annotated bibliography, don't hesitate to contact our company and our team of seasoned professionals will be happy to assist you! Writing is our business, and we take it very seriously for you to have a brilliant academic performance!

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