An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, journals, articles, periodicals and documents used for researching the topic. Each citation is followed by a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph usually up to 150 words, the annotation. Unlike the bibliography, which only includes the bibliographic information like the name of the author, publisher, title, etc., the annotation includes brief summary and evaluation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform about the relevance, quality and accuracy of the sources cited according to author’s point of view. Annotations can be descriptive and critical.
Creating an annotated bibliography demands a variety of intellectual skills like concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research to apply.
The first step is to mark citations in each source that may contain useful information related to the researched topic as well as the topic of a particular work. Choose the books and/or documents which provide various perspectives on your topic. Each citation should be formatted according to the appropriate style. The most common are Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) styles. All the sources should be arranged alphabetically or chronologically, this, as well as the formatting style should be agreed with the instructor.
Write a short annotation that summarizes the main idea of the source. Include the following points:
- evaluate the authority of the author
- note the intended audience
- compare and contrast the particular work with another that were cited
- name the unique features of the source, it’s strengths, weaknesses or biases
- explain how this source relates to the topic of the bibliography
An annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or evaluation, that is why, it should do at least one of the following:
- Summarize. You should name the main arguments of the source, topics covered and the point of the book/article.
- Evaluate: After summarizing you should assess the source and say if it is reliable, objective, how it compares with the other sources and if it is useful for the topic.
- Reflect: After evaluating you should resume whether the given source fits into the research and how it helped to shape the main argument and the topic itself. One annotation bibliography cannot fit all the purposes, that is why there are different kinds depending on which is the most important about the source for a reader.
A good annotated bibliography proves that you have read and understood the sources and establishes you as a competent researcher and author of a valuable work. It makes you think critically about the references you are using, their relation to your study and own ideas as well as their role in the whole field of knowledge. It also puts research and particular topic in further professional conversation.
Annotated bibliography also serves as a library for other researchers to know whether the specific source will be useful for their study or not. It may also help them to determine whether they are interested in this topic or field in general.