How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

Most research projects require students to complete an annotated bibliography section. This involves more than just gathering and listing the sources you intend to use. You have to read each of the sources carefully to understand what each is talking about and how relevant it is to your research. It is one way of developing your opinion and sharpening the problem of your research. Before discussing how to write an annotated bibliography, we have to find out its meaning.

First, an annotation is a brief evaluation or summary of something, usually a page. It informs the reader of the source’s relevance, quality, and accuracy. Ideally, an annotation should be no more than 150 words. It should include a bibliographic citation, the author’s qualifications, the thesis’ overview (and the major theories applied and the ideas), identity of the target audience, the author’s bias or point of view, results, explanation of the relationship with other sources and the notes detailing special features such as maps, charts and illustrations.

As you learn how to write an annotated bibliography, you should understand that it is an organized and alphabetized citation list for sources used in a research project such as journal articles, books, and other documents. This form of bibliography requires that a brief annotation follow each citation. It is necessary to have an annotated bibliography because it demonstrates that you have engaged and understood different sources that are relevant to your research. Your purpose, therefore, should be to inform the reader that the sources are accurate, relevant and of the desired quality. The difference between an annotated bibliography and abstract or summary is that it shows the author’s perspective as well as the appropriateness of the sources used. Moreover, it shows the relevance of the sources to the topic and the authority of the authors to the discipline or field of study.


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Annotated bibliographies exist in two major types: descriptive or informative and analytical or critical. In a descriptive annotated bibliography, the writer is supposed to give a synopsis of the content of the source. It bears semblance to an abstract because it highlights the research project’s most important components. As you learn how to write an annotated bibliography of this kind, take note of its key features such as a summary of relevant information, an overview of key arguments, conclusion and a description of the mythology employed to arrive at the results.

An analytical annotated bibliography evaluates the content of the source. Learning how to write an annotated bibliography using this method requires one to have great analytical skills because you will not just give a summary of the material but show that you have engaged it deeper by analyzing the information therein. In this method, you should include key features such as a critique of the author, objectives, evidence and biases; justification of the work and its relevance to a field of study; an explanation of the benefit of the material to your project.

The above gives a summary of what an annotated bibliography is all about as well as how to approach the two main kinds. On how to write an annotated bibliography, you will need to carefully examine your project’s requirements and guidelines. Different disciplines and professors have preferences when it comes to what they expect students to include in their annotated bibliographies. Paying attention to these will go a long way in determining how you write your annotated bibliography. However, you should always remember to give attention to all the steps that the preparation of a bibliography requires to come up with a reliable one. Take time to research, read and demonstrate your engagement with the sources in the annotated bibliography.


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