[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!