An annotated bibliography is a list of resource citations that all relate to the same research topic or issue. Unlike a standard bibliography, each citation listed on the bibliography has an accompanying description of the work that is being cited. This summary is called an annotation and it typically contains evaluative or critical commentary in addition to a description of the source.
Although most annotated bibliographies contain both descriptive and evaluative elements, the emphasis might vary slightly according to the requirements of your assignment. The length of the annotation might range from around one paragraph to three.
The descriptive elements of an annotation will identify basic information such as the work's primary content, conclusions, and defining characteristics (i.e. identifying the type of research method used if the work being cited is a research article).
The evaluative elements of an annotation describe the same qualities you consider when critically evaluating the resource for credibility and relevance to your research topic. For example, the evaluative elements of your annotation may discuss:
- The author’s qualifications or authority to write on the subject
- Whether the resource has an obvious bias, and if so, is the author transparent about this?
- Considerations of tone and intended audience (Is the resource written to persuade or inform? Is the language for experts or laymen?)
- Providing the context of the work within the larger body of literature on the topic (Is this a seminal piece of research? Is it recently published or recently discovered information? Is it widely controversial?)
- The accuracy of the information presented
- Any weaknesses or limitations
- How this resource and its content relate to other sources included in the annotated bibliography
Keep in mind
The annotation must be written completely yourself and in your own words. For example, one should never copy the abstract or summary provided by the author or publisher.
These source sheets were developed by William Cuthbertson with Brianne Markowski for the University of Northern Colorado guide "Annotated Bibliographies and Source Sheets" and shared under the original Creative Commons license.
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