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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

Are you assigned to write an annotated bibliography but you have no clue how to write an annotated bibliography. Well, it is as easy as a piece of cake if you know the basic structure and methods of writing a bibliography. So, follow the steps below to start writing an annotated bibliography.

Before that let’s have a quick look at what is an annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography is a list of information sources such as book chapters and journal articles. Besides, there is also a concise description and evaluation for each information source. The elements of an annotated bibliography vary based on what you need to include. For instance, it depends upon the type of source, the referencing style, and what you need to describe in the annotation. Therefore, it is crucial to check and understand thoroughly what you are assigned.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography- Step by Step

What is the Purpose of Annotated Bibliography?

If you are assigned to write an annotated bibliography, you first need to understand the main purpose of an annotated bibliography. Generally, it is aimed to:

  • review any particular subject’s literature;
  • give an overview of the main issues, research, and arguments present in a specific area;
  • learn about a specific topic by critically reviewing its literature;
  • discover and organize the sources for further research;
  • highlight sources that others may also find interesting.

It is sometimes assigned as an assignment at the beginning of a research project to encourage you to read more, do surveys, and reflect on the topic. Before you start writing your annotated bibliography, we recommend you ask the following questions.

  • What is the problem I am investigating?
  • What are the questions I am expected to find answers to?
  • What are my source materials and why? It can either be articles, primary historical data, policies, and reports.
  • Does every section meet the assignment requirements? If yes, how.

Structure of the Annotated Bibliography

A bibliography consists of two parts: a reference and an annotation. However, what to include in both reference and annotation mainly depends on disciplines. Therefore, it is important to check your assignment instructions carefully before you start writing.

The first step to writing an annotated bibliography is to find and record citations to books, journals, periodicals, and other documents that may have useful information related to your topic. Then, you can briefly review them one by one and select the ones that give you a variety of perspectives on your given topic.

Next, you can start citing the articles, books, and documents in the required style. Then, write a brief annotation that can summarize the main theme of the article or the book and add a couple more sentences to:

  • give a background of the author
  • compare the work of the author you have selected and other authors who have worked on the same topic
  • explain how the work you have selected helps you describe your topic.

Moreover, we recommend either consulting the assignment instruction or the teacher to learn which style you should pick.

Writing the Reference

The reference is the detail of your source such as a journal or book in the required reference style, for instance, the APA 7 or Chicago. And it is usually written in alphabetical order by the author’s surname. For instance, the following reference sample is in the APA 7 style.

“Halsall, G. (2008). Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West. Cambridge University Press.

Writing the Annotation

Once you have learned how to write the reference of your annotated bibliography, you are good to start learning how to write an annotation. The annotation is made of one or more of the following elements:

  • it can be a summary or a description of the source you have selected,
  • evaluation of the study,
  • and a reflection and analysis of how it is useful to your research.

Moreover, the annotation has two main parts. They are as follows.

Writing the Summary

This is the first part of the annotation. It is usually a description or a summary and outlines the main points of the author. And it also explains the approach or the methodology the author has used. To write the summary, highlight the important points while reading each source. Then, try to answer the following questions in your own words.

  • What was the purpose of the research?
  • How they have conducted the research and what are the research methods?
  • What are the main arguments and what is the scope of the research and its limitations?
  • Why was the research conducted and what were the issues?
  • Are there are quotations that may summarize the main argument?

Another method of writing the summary is to answer the WH questions.

  • Who did the study or who was studied?
  • When did they do the study?
  • Where was it done?
  • Why some particular issues were addressed?
  • How was the study done?
  • What were the results and conclusions?

You should remember that you do not need to include every detail. The rule of thumb is to include whatever you have been asked in the assignment instruction. Besides, sometimes you just have to include a few sentences to meet the requirements of the assignments. The following Summary is in the APA style.

“Sarkar (2007) examined the literature in order to determine the nutritional characteristics of kefir, as well as its potential to offer positive health benefits.”

Source: Potential of kefir as a dietetic beverage.

Writing an Evaluation and a Reflection

Sometimes you may have to include a critical analysis or an evaluation as a part of the annotation. If you have to critically analyze any source, it means that you have to include its strength and limitations. To do so, try to find answers to the following questions.

  • What are the assumptions the writer tried to make?
  • Whether or not the argument is logical and complete?
  • What are the limitations of the methodologies used?
  • Is the evidence strong enough to build the conclusion?

The last part of the annotation illustrates how useful the source is for your research. So, you will have to explain how the sources you have selected relate to the main purpose of your topic.

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