What Is An Annotated Bibliography?

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[OWL hoot] One of the most important parts of conducting  research for any project is reading and   collecting sources. But what do you do when  you're swimming in dozens of books, reports,   and journal articles? How do  you keep your head above water?   Hi, I'm Helen from the OWL. Today we're going to  talk about something that can help us navigate the   sea of complicated sources we use for research  projects: the annotated bibliography. Don't   let the fancy name scare you. Essentially, an  annotated bibliography is just a list of sources,   each followed by a brief description of the  content.

I like to think of it as an encyclopedia,   or a dictionary with bite-sized entries for all  the sources you're using in your own research.   You compile relevant information for each source,  including a brief summary of the major ideas in   your sources, their positions, and any research  methods they use. You can also include an overview   of the authors and their credibility, and even a  little bit about the source as relevance to your   research project. So, how do you put together  an annotated bibliography? Generally, you will   find an annotated bibliography consists of three  major components.

First, there's the descriptive   paragraph that appears at the beginning of your  annotated bibliography and provides a brief   overview for the scope of your project. As we'll  discuss in a moment, this is sometimes optional.   Second, each entry will begin with the source of  citation, following whatever citation format you   are using for your project, whether that's MLA,  APA, Chicago, or another style. Third, you will   write a brief annotation for each source that  will follow the corresponding citations. These  are usually no longer than a paragraph.

Let's dive  into each of these components individually now.   Now, depending on your assignment, you might not  need to write an introductory scope paragraph.   However, some teachers and professors require  them. If you do need to write one, treat it like   the elevator pitch for your research. What have  you found so far, and how does it fit together?   What might you do with it in the  future?

What's the big picture here?  This paragraph goes right at the top of  your document before your annotations begin.   Moving on to the citations themselves, be sure  to follow whatever style format you need for your   class: MLA for Modern Language Association, APA,  American Psychological Association, Chicago style,   or another format. For this part, you'll create  citations just like you would for any other   bibliography or works cited page. Follow the  proper formatting for the kind of source you   are using. Remember that the way you cite things  changes depending on the type of source you're   using. We've included links to some OWL pages  that will help you get started in the description.

   Last, but certainly not least, are the annotations  themselves. The goal for these is to accomplish   quite a lot in just a little bit of space. At the  most basic level, the annotations do three things:   they provide a summary of your source, they assess  your source's methods, strengths, and weaknesses,   and they provide a brief justification as to  why your source is useful for your research.   You can see how keeping track of all this  information in a neat and tidy list could   help readers follow along with the research. Here  are just a few questions to consider when writing   your annotations: how is this source written  or presented? What is its genre, and does that   affect anything?

Is it a scholarly source?  Is it credible, or not? Is it well-written?   Why should this appear in my research, and how  does this source add to my annotated bibliography?   Once you've got the content of your annotations  covered, they're pretty simple to format. Type   them underneath their corresponding citations  and be sure to indent the entire annotation   by one inch. Now that you've got the basics of  the annotated bibliography down, here are a few   more general tips to remember: just like when you  format a regular bibliography or works cited page   for an essay, your annotated bibliography  entries need to be in alphabetical order.

   You also want to remember to format  your citations with hanging indents;   that means to indent every line but the first  one if your citations are longer than one line.   Be sure to follow your teacher’s or professor’s  instructions if they provide guidance on how long   they want your annotations to be or how  many entries they want you to complete.   Finally, remember, the annotated bibliography  is a great tool to keep handy. Future you will   be thankful when you're working on that  essay during finals week and you just   know you read a book chapter about something,  somewhere, but you can't quite remember it.   A little perusal of your annotated bibliography to  refresh your memory and you're ready to set sail!   I’m Helen with the Purdue  OWL.

Thanks for reading!

About Post Author

Professor Cram

Professor Lawrence Cram is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University working in the Department of Applied Mathematics. His interests include astronomy, mathematics, engineering, computing, and physics. Due to his extensive expertise, professor Cram has worked as a Professor of Physics at the University of Sydney and as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at ANU during 2004-2012. In 2013, he retired as a Master, University House and Graduate House. In January 2014, he was appointed as an acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Charles Darwin University. Professor Cram is also a Fellow at the Royal Astronomical Society and the Australian Institute of Physics.
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