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Communications Research Guide: Annotated Bibliographies

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Definition:  A bibliography is usually thought of as an alphabetical listing of books at the end of a written work (book, book chapter, or article), to which the author referred during the research and writing process. The standard bibliography details the citation information of the consulted sources: author(s), date of publication, title, and publisher's name and location (and for articles: journal title, volume, issue and page numbers). The primary function of bibliographic citations is to assist the reader in finding the sources used in the writing of a work.

To these basic citations, the annotated bibliography adds descriptive and evaluative comments (i.e., an annotation), assessing the nature and value of the cited works. The addition of commentary provides the future reader or researcher essential critical information and a foundation for further research.

Purpose:

Depending on the assignment, the primary purpose of an annotated bibligraphy might have different purposes:

  • provide a literature review on a particular subject
  • help formulate a thesis on a subject
  • demonstrate the quality of research that you have done
  • show that you understand each source cited
  • provide examples of the types of sources available
  • describe other items on a topic that may be of interest to the reader
  • explore the subject for further research

    The Annotation

    Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article.   Annotations are written in paragraph form and are single spaced.

    Depending on your assignment, your annotations will generally include the following:

    • Summary: Summarize the information given in the source. Note how the source relates to the assigned book and assess the sources's contribution to the major themes in the assigned text. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? What questions are raised? What is the goal of this source?If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say?
    • Evaluation/Assessment:  Note the intended audience. Is this source credible? Who wrote it? What are their credentials? Who is the publisher? Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective?  What is the nature of the analysis; theoretical, historical or empirical? Qualitative or quantitative?  What evidence does the author use to support the thesis?  Is the data reliable and verifiable?
    • Reflection/Reaction: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. State your reaction and any additional questions you have about the information in your source.  Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic. Compare each source to other sources in your AB in terms of its usefulness and thoroughness in helping answer your research question.

    Lastly, write an introduction to your annotated bibliography: Define the topic and scope of the bibliography.  Explain how you utilized various technological tools to locate the selected sources and explain how your selected sources relate to your stated topic. 

    Video Tutorial

    Types of Annotations

    There are two common types of annotations: Descriptive and Critical

    "Descriptive annotations may summarize:

    • The main purpose or idea of the work
    • The contents of the work
    • The author’s conclusions
    • The intended audience
    • The author’s research methods
    • Special features of the work such as illustrations, maps, tables, etc." (University of Wisconsin, 2010)

    "Critical annotations include the same information as a descriptive annotation, but will also include value judgments or comments on the effectiveness of the work. [In this context, critical means evaluative and may include both positive and negative comments.] When writing a critical annotation, include some of the these features:

    • The importance of the work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
    • The author’s bias or tone
    • The author’s qualifications for writing the work
    • The accuracy of the information in the source
    • Limitations or significant omissions
    • The work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
    • Comparison with other works on the topic" (University of Wisconsin, 2010)
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