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How to write an Annotated Bibliography

When given an assignment to write an annotated bibliography, your first step should involve a thorough understanding of what a bibliography is and how it is written.

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotation provides more than just a summary of a book or article; it gives a detailed overview of material under analysis to get the reader to decide whether to continue reading a piece of writing or not. An annotated bibliography provides an organized list of citations to documents, books and articles. Here, the writer provides the citation followed by a brief evaluative and description paragraph, usually 150 words. The primary aim of written an annotated bibliography is to show the accuracy, relevance, and the quality of evidence from the cited sources.

An annotated bibliography differs widely from an abstract. While an abstract is purely descriptive and provides a summary of a book, article, website or any other type of writing, an annotated bibliography goes further to identify distinctive features about a piece of writing. Annotations can be highly evaluative and critical.

Why write an annotated bibliography?

The drive to write an annotated bibliography will significantly vary depending on the assignment given. Among the significant reasons include;

  • Provide descriptions of items that might be interesting to researchers
  • Review the literature on a particular subject
  • Give examples of primary sources of information on a topic
  • Demonstrate that you have conducted research on a particular topic
  • help in the development of a thesis on a particular subject

The process of writing an annotated bibliography

Like any other form of writing, an annotated bibliography needs the writer to have special skills in order to write an excellent annotation. A variety of intellectual skills are critical in writing annotated bibliographies including; informed library search, succinct analysis, and a concise exposition. With these key skills, you can be sure of writing a professional annotation.

In writing your annotated bibliography, follow these steps

Step 1: Choose your sources

This is the very first step in writing an annotated bibliography. Before starting to write, it is essential to choose your sources carefully. Choose only those sources that you can well understand the message being communicated or a topic that interests you. For instance, if you are writing an annotated bibliography about change management in a business context, look for all relevant books and articles addressing change management and note down their titles in a notebook. All the relevant materials you find are your sources. To make the best choice for a topic, you must conduct in-depth research much like any other project type. Engage in a thorough search for records that relate to materials relevant to your argument. Engaging in an exhaustive search for materials will ensure that you only collect materials that are highly applicable and hose evidence can be relied on.

Step 2: Review the collected items

Briefly examine and review the materials obtained then select the ones that offer a variety of perspectives about your chosen subject.  In this step, skimming through the articles’ abstracts would be much helpful. In the example above, this step would involve thorough scrutiny of the selected source materials on business change management to identify the ones with more relevant evidence.

Step 3: Writing the citation and annotation

In this step, begin by writing down the citation followed by the annotation. Ensure your annotation is concise and gives a summary of the central theme and scope of the article or book under study. Critical information to be included in the annotation include; the evaluation of the author’s background or authority, comments about the target audience, a comparison between this work and other cited work, and an explanation of the applicability of this work to your topic of study.

The following should be included in your annotated bibliography depending on your topic

  1. The primary objective of your work
  2. summarized version of its contents
  • The type of audience you are targeting
  1. The relevance of our work to the topic
  2. The strengths, weaknesses and criticisms in the material
  3. The exceptional features in the material

Arrange the annotated bibliography according to the instructions of your teacher.  Annotated bibliographies may assume an alphabetical or chronological order depending on the preferences of your instructor.

Formatting citations

Citations need to be formatted accordingly to match the set standards of writing. Citations can be written in APA, MLA, Harvard or Chicago style. These formatting styles differ accordingly, and therefore you will need to have prior knowledge on the style you would like or required to use. You will always be given guidelines on which style to use. In case you are unsure of which style to use, check with your instructor for further guidance.

Example of an annotated bibliography in APA

Wallace, J. K., Goldschneider, W. K., & Witsberger, L. (2017). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51, 541-554.

The two authors are researchers at Rand Corporation and Brown University. By using data from the National Longitudinal surveys of youths, they tested their hypothesis that nonfamily living greatly influences the exceptions, plans, values and attitudes of young adults pushing them away from their stereotypes about traditional sex roles. In their findings, the two researchers found out that …..

From the above example, continue by stating the findings of the authors and comparing the outcomes with another similar study, preferably cited within your work.

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