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ACMB01: Find Resources for your Final Essay

For some great examples of Annotated Bibliographies, please see Purdue’s OWL page on Annotated Bibliographies.

Annotated Bibliography Worksheet

Annotated Bibliography – What and Why?

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and other resources. It also includes an annotation: a summary and evaluation of each source. The annotation informs the reader of the relevance, quality, and accuracy of the source.

Why write an annotated bibliography?

There are two main reasons to create a bibliography:

1. To learn about your topic: Reading through numerous sources more closely allows you to see how the existing literature can support or detract from your own research questions. It can also allow you to identify a gap: to see what areas have not yet been explored, This process can also help you formulate a thesis that is well formed, current, and interesting. It helps you to identify the various issues related to your topic.

2. To help other researchers: Although not completely relevant in the context of this class, it is good to keep in mind that annotated bibliographies are sometimes published, and they can help other researchers with a comprehensive overview of what has been published on a topic, and what is being said about it.

Annotated Bibliographies – More Tips

Selecting the sources:

The quality and usefulness of your bibliography will depend on your selection of sources. Define the scope of your research carefully so that you can make good judgments about what to include and exclude. Your research should attempt to be reasonably comprehensive within well-defined boundaries. Consider these questions to help you find appropriate limits for your research:

What problem am I investigating? What question(s) am I trying to pursue? If your bibliography is part of a research project, this project will probably be governed by a research question. If your bibliography is an independent project on a general topic (e.g. aboriginal women and Canadian law), try formulating your topic as a question or a series of questions in order to define your search more precisely ( e.g. How has Canadian law affecting aboriginal women changed as a result of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? How have these changes affected aboriginal women? How have aboriginal women influenced and responded to these legal developments?).

What kind of material am I looking for? (academic books and journal articles? government reports or policy statements? articles from the popular press? primary historical sources? etc.)

Am I finding essential studies on my topic? (Read footnotes in useful articles carefully to see what sources they use and why. Keep an eye out for studies that are referred to by several of your sources.)

Summarizing the argument of a source:

An annotation briefly restates the main argument of a source. An annotation of an academic source, for example, typically identifies its thesis (or research question, or hypothesis), its major methods of investigation, and its main conclusions. Keep in mind that identifying the argument of a source is a different task than describing or listing its contents. Rather than listing contents (see Example 1 below), an annotation should account for why the contents are there (see Example 2 below).

Example 1: Only lists contents:

McIvor, S. D. (1995). Aboriginal women’s rights as “existing rights.” Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 2/3, 34-38.

This article discusses recent constitutional legislation as it affects the human rights of aboriginal women in Canada: theConstitution Act (1982), its amendment in 1983, and amendments to the Indian Act (1985). It also discusses the implications for aboriginal women of the Supreme Court of Canada’s interpretation of the Constitution Act in R. v. Sparrow (1991).

Example 2: Identifies the argument:

McIvor, S. D. (1995). Aboriginal women’s rights as “existing rights.” Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 2/3, 34-38.

This article seeks to define the extent of the civil and political rights returned to aboriginal women in the Constitution Act(1982), in its amendment in 1983, and in amendments to the Indian Act (1985).* This legislation reverses prior laws that denied Indian status to aboriginal women who married non-aboriginal men. On the basis of the Supreme Court of Canada’s interpretation of the Constitution Act in R. v. Sparrow (1991), McIvor argues that the Act recognizes fundamental human rights and existing aboriginal rights, granting to aboriginal women full participation in the aboriginal right to self-government.**

Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Conducting research and documenting your findings is an essential part of the academic writing process. There are times when you will need (or be required) to conduct initial research prior to deciding on a thesis or focus for your writing. An annotated bibliography is a helpful tool to help you track and assess your sources.

Similar to formatting a paper, an annotated bibliography is formatted with double spacing and has a title page. An annotated bibliography does not typically include a list of references, since the annotated bibliography itself is a list of references, only each entry also provides information about the source.

Components of an Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography includes a reference entry and a short annotation (paragraph) for each source. How annotations are written depends on the purpose of the research. There are two main components for each source included in an annotated bibliography:

  • Bibliographic Information: This includes the same information you would provide in a reference list, formatted according to a reference entry for the particular type of source it is.
  • Annotation: This is a short paragraph about the source that oftentimes summarizes the source and evaluates the usefulness of the source for your research paper or project, but what you include in the paragraph will largely depend on your particular assignment requirements.

Purposes of Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Writing an annotated bibliography is an effective way to document the research process and better prepare for a first draft. By requiring an annotated bibliography, your professor is setting you up for success. Some of the purposes and benefits of writing an annotated bibliography include the following:

  • Formulate a thesis: Conducting research is a prewriting activity that can help narrow the focus of a topic that you are researching. Writing annotations for each source can help you understand the breadth and depth of a subject and determine your focus.
  • Review the literature: An annotated bibliography can help you analyze the available literature on a subject. This is especially helpful for relatively new or persuasive topics where it is important to read about multiple sides of an issue.
  • Illustrate the direction of your research: An employer or professor may want a preview of your research prior to the final draft of your paper. An annotated bibliography is a way to show your current research and its usefulness.
  • Help other researchers: When other researchers find your paper particularly engaging, they often will examine your reference entries. However, an annotated bibliography provides more information about a source, such as a summary, which allows researchers to make an informed decision about whether to locate that source. With a references list, the reader has to guess whether a source will be useful and relevant.

Ways to Annotate Sources

There are several ways to write annotations depending on the purpose or the requirements of the assignment or research. Common approaches to writing annotations include the following:

  • Summarize the source: Summarizing the source means to state briefly the main ideas of the source in relation to the current research. For instance, a medical book may have multiple chapters, but the only part to summarize for this source is the information that pertains to the research for the current paper’s topic. Please note: A summary must be written in your own words.
  • Evaluate the source: To evaluate a source means you determine the strengths and weaknesses of the piece in relation to a particular research topic. When evaluating a source, the reliability and validity of the source are also determined. Reliability refers to the source’s credibility. Is it biased? Is the article from a website that is also selling a product related to the subject of the article? Is there a hidden agenda in the source? Validity indicates the accuracy or correctness of the information. Is the information gathered from experts? Is it just the opinion of the author? Is the author an authority on the topic at hand? What are their professional or academic credentials?
  • Reflect on the usefulness of the source: How does this source fit in with the current research project? Is this a source you can use in your paper? Does it help define a problem or present an argument that would add depth and detail to your research? Is it better suited as a starting point to find other sources (i.e., is it useful only for background information)?
  • Combination: Any combination of the above approaches to writing an annotation may be required. You may choose to write a separate short paragraph for each approach, or combine them into one annotation. As always, it is essential that you are careful to restate things in your own words to avoid plagiarizing an authors’ original words or ideas.

Sample Annotated Bibliography

Note. When formatting an Annotated Bibliography on a Word document, the bibliographic references have hanging indents.

Baker, B. (2003, November 27). Version control helps keep rework to a minimum. *EDN, 48*(26), 227-232.

This is a short article geared mostly toward digital developers who either are programming more than 10,000 lines of code or are programming within teams. It also emphasizes the importance of a VCS, but more so in the development environment. For this project, the only thing I might use this for is the simple statement that while a VCS is great for any work environment, without the discipline to use it regularly, they are worthless.

Huber, T. (2005, May). *JEDI version control system*. SourceForge.

This site includes detailed instructions for operating an open source VCS. It is written for a technical audience that must have some background on this particular system. What is interesting about this site is the idea of open source. Maybe there are other version control systems available via the Internet through shareware sites. This particular site will probably not be used in writing the final project, but it is a source that can lead to further research on this idea of freeware for a VCS.

McVittie, L. (2007). Version control, with integrity. *Network Computing, 12*(21), 34-45.

This is an informative article with an overview of the details inside a VCS—branching, configuration, repository, access management, and more. What makes this article valuable though is the overview of several version control systems on the market (at least in 2001). After reading through the overview of several products, if one fits what my company is looking for, I can begin searching for that product and further information on the Internet. This article may or may not be used in the actual writing of the final proposal, but it will be useful information for further research on the project.

MLA Citation Guide (8th Edition): Annotated Bibliography

This sample annotated bibliography shows you the structure you should use to write an MLA annotated bibliography and gives examples of evaluative and summary annotations.

It can be used as a template to set up your assignment.

Useful Links for Annotated Bibliographies


An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for various books, articles, and other sources on a topic. The annotated bibliography looks like a Works Cited page but includes an annotation after each source cited. An annotation is a short summary and/or critical evaluation of a source. An annotated bibliography can be part of a larger research project or it can be a stand-alone assignment in itself.

Types of Annotations

A summary annotation describes the source by answering the following questions: who wrote the document, what the document discusses, when and where was the document written, why was the document produced, and how was it provided to the public. The focus is on description.

An evaluative annotation includes a summary as listed above but also critically assesses the work for accuracy, relevance, and quality. Evaluative annotations can help you learn about your topic, develop a thesis statement, decide if a specific source will be useful for your assignment, and determine if there is enough valid information available to complete your project. The focus is on description and evaluation.

Remember: Annotations are original descriptions that you create after reading the document. When researching, you may find journal articles that provide a short summary at the beginning of the text. This article abstract is similar to a summary annotation. You may consult the abstract when creating your evaluative annotation, but never simply copy it as that would be considered plagiarism.