Part 2: The research process
2.6 Annotated bibliography
An annotated bibliography is a descriptive and evaluative list of citations for books, articles, or other documents. Each citation is followed by a brief paragraph – the annotation – alerting the reader to the accuracy, quality, and relevance of that source.
Composing an annotated bibliography helps you to gather your thoughts on how to use the information contained in the cited sources, and it helps the reader to decide whether to pursue the full context of the information you provide.
Depending on the purpose of your bibliography, different elements will be more important and some may not be important at all. Your instructor may also have guidelines or be able to talk about priorities.
While an annotation can be as short as one sentence, the average entry in an annotated bibliography consists of a work’s citation information followed by a short paragraph. The annotated bibliography may potentially include:
- Author information
Who is the author? What is her/his background? Is the author qualified to write this document?
- Author’s purpose
What is the author’s purpose in writing this article or doing this research? Is the purpose stated or implied? Does the author have a particular message?
- Audience information
To what audience is the author writing (scholars, teachers, the general public, etc.)? Is this reflected in the author’s style of writing or presentation?
- Author bias
Does the author show any biases or make assumptions upon which the rationale of the article rests? If so, what are they?
- Information source
What methods did the author use to obtain the data? Is the article based on personal opinion, experience, interviews, library research, questionnaires, laboratory experiments, empirical observation, or standardized personality tests?
- Author conclusion
What conclusions does the author draw? Are these conclusions specifically stated or implied?
- Conclusion justification
Are the conclusions justified from the research or experience? Are the conclusions in sync with the original purpose of the research and supported by the data? Are the conclusions skewed by bias?
- Relationship to other works
How does this work compare with others cited? Does it conflict with conventional wisdom, established scholarship, government policy, etc.? Are there specific studies or writings cited with which this one agrees or disagrees? Are there any opinions not cited of which readers should be aware? Is the evidence balanced or weighted in favor of a particular perspective?
- Time frame
Is the work current? Is this important? How does the time in which it was written reflect on the information contained in this work?
- Significant attachments
Are there significant attachments such as appendices, bibliographies, illustrations, etc.? Are they valuable or not? If there are none, should there be?
Your instructor may have specific requirements for what your annotated bibliography should address.
Sample annotated bibliography entry using APA style (Trent University, 2019)
Morey, D. F. (2006). Burying key evidence: The social bond between dogs and people. Journal of Archaeological Science, 33, 158-175. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2005.07.009
In this article, Morey documents the widespread human practice of burying domesticated dogs and questions what this practice can reveal about relationships between the two [This sentence demonstrates the topic of the article]. He argues that dog burials have been more frequent and more consistent than burials of other types of animals, suggesting that humans have invested dogs with spiritual and personal identities. Morey also demonstrates that the study of dog burials can help scholars to more accurately date the domestication of dogs; thus, he challenges scholars who rely solely on genetic data in their dating of domestication to consider more fully the importance of archaeological finds [The previous 2 sentences explain the article’s argument]. To support his arguments, Morey provides detailed data on the frequency, geographic and historical distribution, as well as modes of dog burials and compares the conclusions he draws from this data to those found by scholarship based on genetic data [This sentence gives an overview of the method used in the article]. This article is useful to a literature review on the domestication of dogs because it persuasively shows the importance of using burial data in dating dog domestication and explains how use of this data could change assessments of when domestication occurred [This sentence explains the relevance of the article to the assigned topic].
Trent University. (2019). How to create an annotated bibliography. Retrieved from https://www.trentu.ca/academicskills/how-guides/how-write-university/how-approach-any-assignment/how-create-annotated-bibliography.
This chapter contains material taken from Annotated Bibliographies by the Laurence McKinley Gould Library (used under a CC-BY-NC 4.0 International License) and Annotated Bibliographies by the Western Nevada College Library (used under a CC-BY 3.0 International license).