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  • What Is an Annotated Bibliography? | Examples & Format

What Is an Annotated Bibliography? | Examples & Format

Published on March 9, 2021 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 23, 2022.

An annotated bibliography is a list of source references that includes a short descriptive text (an annotation) for each source. It may be assigned as part of the research process for a paper , or as an individual assignment to gather and read relevant sources on a topic.

Scribbr’s free Citation Generator allows you to easily create and manage your annotated bibliography in APA or MLA style. To generate a perfectly formatted annotated bibliography, select the source type, fill out the relevant fields, and add your annotation.

An example of an annotated source is shown below:

Annotated source example

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Table of contents

Annotated bibliography format: apa, mla, chicago, how to write an annotated bibliography, descriptive annotation example, evaluative annotation example, reflective annotation example, finding sources for your annotated bibliography, frequently asked questions about annotated bibliographies.

Make sure your annotated bibliography is formatted according to the guidelines of the style guide you’re working with. Three common styles are covered below:

In APA Style , both the reference entry and the annotation should be double-spaced and left-aligned.

The reference entry itself should have a hanging indent . The annotation follows on the next line, and the whole annotation should be indented to match the hanging indent. The first line of any additional paragraphs should be indented an additional time.

APA annotated bibliography

In an MLA style annotated bibliography , the Works Cited entry and the annotation are both double-spaced and left-aligned.

The Works Cited entry has a hanging indent. The annotation itself is indented 1 inch (twice as far as the hanging indent). If there are two or more paragraphs in the annotation, the first line of each paragraph is indented an additional half-inch, but not if there is only one paragraph.

MLA annotated bibliography

Chicago style

In a  Chicago style annotated bibliography , the bibliography entry itself should be single-spaced and feature a hanging indent.

The annotation should be indented, double-spaced, and left-aligned. The first line of any additional paragraphs should be indented an additional time.

Chicago annotated bibliography

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For each source, start by writing (or generating ) a full reference entry that gives the author, title, date, and other information. The annotated bibliography format varies based on the citation style you’re using.

The annotations themselves are usually between 50 and 200 words in length, typically formatted as a single paragraph. This can vary depending on the word count of the assignment, the relative length and importance of different sources, and the number of sources you include.

Consider the instructions you’ve been given or consult your instructor to determine what kind of annotations they’re looking for:

  • Descriptive annotations : When the assignment is just about gathering and summarizing information, focus on the key arguments and methods of each source.
  • Evaluative annotations : When the assignment is about evaluating the sources , you should also assess the validity and effectiveness of these arguments and methods.
  • Reflective annotations : When the assignment is part of a larger research process, you need to consider the relevance and usefulness of the sources to your own research.

These specific terms won’t necessarily be used. The important thing is to understand the purpose of your assignment and pick the approach that matches it best. Interactive examples of the different styles of annotation are shown below.

A descriptive annotation summarizes the approach and arguments of a source in an objective way, without attempting to assess their validity.

In this way, it resembles an abstract , but you should never just copy text from a source’s abstract, as this would be considered plagiarism . You’ll naturally cover similar ground, but you should also consider whether the abstract omits any important points from the full text.

The interactive example shown below describes an article about the relationship between business regulations and CO 2 emissions.

Rieger, A. (2019). Doing business and increasing emissions? An exploratory analysis of the impact of business regulation on CO 2 emissions. Human Ecology Review , 25 (1), 69–86. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26964340

An evaluative annotation also describes the content of a source, but it goes on to evaluate elements like the validity of the source’s arguments and the appropriateness of its methods .

For example, the following annotation describes, and evaluates the effectiveness of, a book about the history of Western philosophy.

Kenny, A. (2010). A new history of Western philosophy: In four parts . Oxford University Press.

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A reflective annotation is similar to an evaluative one, but it focuses on the source’s usefulness or relevance to your own research.

Reflective annotations are often required when the point is to gather sources for a future research project, or to assess how they were used in a project you already completed.

The annotation below assesses the usefulness of a particular article for the author’s own research in the field of media studies.

Manovich, Lev. (2009). The practice of everyday (media) life: From mass consumption to mass cultural production? Critical Inquiry , 35 (2), 319–331. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/596645

Manovich’s article assesses the shift from a consumption-based media culture (in which media content is produced by a small number of professionals and consumed by a mass audience) to a production-based media culture (in which this mass audience is just as active in producing content as in consuming it). He is skeptical of some of the claims made about this cultural shift; specifically, he argues that the shift towards user-made content must be regarded as more reliant upon commercial media production than it is typically acknowledged to be. However, he regards web 2.0 as an exciting ongoing development for art and media production, citing its innovation and unpredictability.

The article is outdated in certain ways (it dates from 2009, before the launch of Instagram, to give just one example). Nevertheless, its critical engagement with the possibilities opened up for media production by the growth of social media is valuable in a general sense, and its conceptualization of these changes frequently applies just as well to more current social media platforms as it does to Myspace. Conceptually, I intend to draw on this article in my own analysis of the social dynamics of Twitter and Instagram.

Before you can write your annotations, you’ll need to find sources . If the annotated bibliography is part of the research process for a paper, your sources will be those you consult and cite as you prepare the paper. Otherwise, your assignment and your choice of topic will guide you in what kind of sources to look for.

Make sure that you’ve clearly defined your topic , and then consider what keywords are relevant to it, including variants of the terms. Use these keywords to search databases (e.g., Google Scholar ), using Boolean operators to refine your search.

Sources can include journal articles, books, and other source types , depending on the scope of the assignment. Read the abstracts or blurbs of the sources you find to see whether they’re relevant, and try exploring their bibliographies to discover more. If a particular source keeps showing up, it’s probably important.

Once you’ve selected an appropriate range of sources, read through them, taking notes that you can use to build up your annotations. You may even prefer to write your annotations as you go, while each source is fresh in your mind.

An annotated bibliography is an assignment where you collect sources on a specific topic and write an annotation for each source. An annotation is a short text that describes and sometimes evaluates the source.

Any credible sources on your topic can be included in an annotated bibliography . The exact sources you cover will vary depending on the assignment, but you should usually focus on collecting journal articles and scholarly books . When in doubt, utilize the CRAAP test !

Each annotation in an annotated bibliography is usually between 50 and 200 words long. Longer annotations may be divided into paragraphs .

The content of the annotation varies according to your assignment. An annotation can be descriptive, meaning it just describes the source objectively; evaluative, meaning it assesses its usefulness; or reflective, meaning it explains how the source will be used in your own research .

A source annotation in an annotated bibliography fulfills a similar purpose to an abstract : they’re both intended to summarize the approach and key points of a source.

However, an annotation may also evaluate the source , discussing the validity and effectiveness of its arguments. Even if your annotation is purely descriptive , you may have a different perspective on the source from the author and highlight different key points.

You should never just copy text from the abstract for your annotation, as doing so constitutes plagiarism .

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Caulfield, J. (2022, August 23). What Is an Annotated Bibliography? | Examples & Format. Scribbr. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/citing-sources/annotated-bibliography/

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How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: The Annotated Bibliography

  • The Annotated Bibliography
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Explanation, Process, Directions, and Examples

What is an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

Annotations vs. Abstracts

Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they may describe the author's point of view, authority, or clarity and appropriateness of expression.

The Process

Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.

Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

Critically Appraising the Book, Article, or Document

For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, see How to Critically Analyze Information Sources . For information on the author's background and views, ask at the reference desk for help finding appropriate biographical reference materials and book review sources.

Choosing the Correct Citation Style

Check with your instructor to find out which style is preferred for your class. Online citation guides for both the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) styles are linked from the Library's Citation Management page .

Sample Annotated Bibliography Entries

The following example uses APA style ( Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , 7th edition, 2019) for the journal citation:

Waite, L., Goldschneider, F., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51 (4), 541-554. The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

This example uses MLA style ( MLA Handbook , 9th edition, 2021) for the journal citation. For additional annotation guidance from MLA, see 5.132: Annotated Bibliographies .

Waite, Linda J., et al. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review, vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 541-554. The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

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A Guide to Annotated Bibliographies

What is an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources on a single topic, with an annotation provided for each source. An annotation is a one or two paragraph summary and/or analysis of an article, book, or other source. Generally, the first paragraph of the annotation provides a summary of the source in direct, clear terms. The second paragraph provides an analysis or evaluation of the source, taking into consideration the validity, audience, holes in the argument, etc.

The sources are typically listed in alphabetical order. They can sometimes be organized by subject, but the entries in every group should be listed in alphabetical order.

For each source, provide the bibliographic citation (the citation as it would appear in a Works Cited or References page) in your chosen citation style. 

Note: Always check with your professor to see exactly what they want included in your annotations. Also, check with your professor on the length of each annotation. Always get specific guidelines. 

Why write or use annotated bibliographies?

Writing an annotated bibliography gives a researcher a way to organize their sources as well as aiding other researchers interested in the same topic. Composing annotations also helps you look at your sources more carefully and critically. When you are researching a topic, browsing through another writer's annotated bibliography can help guide your research. Reading annotated bibliographies is a great way to see if specific sources are useful. 

What types of annotations are there?

There are three main types of annotations, and the different kinds of information can be combined, such as the summary and evaluation or evaluation and reflection, etc.

The summary—This type of annotation provides a summary of the source. The summary often begins by describing the source's purpose, then describes the method the source author(s) used in their argument or study, and ends with providing the main finding(s) or conclusion(s).

The evaluation—This type of annotation examines the source’s strengths and weaknesses. It may also state why/how the article is useful or interesting and who it would be useful for (someone new to the topic, someone knowledgeable about the topic, graduate students or professional, undergraduates, etc).

The reflection—This type of annotation states how the source informed (or did not inform) your research. It may also state how the source helped shape your argument and/or how it changed your view on the topic.

Check with your instructor on the kinds of information they want your annotations to include.

How should you write an annotation?

  • Annotations should be brief.
  • Use clear, direct language.
  • Consider launching the annotation with a statement that describes the source author's purpose. This statement can prepare readers to interpret the source author's thesis, conclusions, or findings more easily.
  • The summary of the source should not just describe what the article is about. It should provide the source's specific conclusions or findings. (Compare: "The researchers discuss the positive impact of student-teacher relationships" versus "The researchers showed that strong relationships between students and teachers were associated with better learning and behavior outcomes for students.")
  • Omit references to background material and previous works by the author.
  • Mention only directly significant details.

Sample Annotations

The first is an example of an annotation done in two paragraphs and written in complete sentences. This type of annotation is the most thorough. The first paragraph summarizes the source’s argument, and the second paragraph evaluates the source. The second annotation is more informal and written in phrases. It gives a basic summary and evaluation. The third is similar to the second in that it provides summary and evaluation, but it is written in full sentences. These are only three examples of the many different forms an annotation can take. Always check with your professor for guidelines on length, style, and content. Note the use of the third person and the use of the source author’s name only once in the beginning.

Bedrosian, Margaret. “Grounding the Self: The Image of the Buddha in Gary Snyder’s Myths & Texts.” South Asian Review 17.14 (1993): 57-69.

Bedrosian states that Gary Snyder has internalized both Buddhist and American Indian myth and lore as a way through which he can apply their truths to contemporary American culture and society, as he does in his collection Myths & Texts. Snyder restates the Buddhist four noble truths for modern man’s needs. This didactic element gives bare directions in poems such as “For The Children.” At other times his poetry reads like a Zen koan designed to puzzle and shock one into enlightenment. Snyder blends myth into his texts as a way to help modern American culture by infusing it with new “cultural options.”

This article is a very thoughtful examination of Snyder’s collection Myths & Texts, yet it is hard to judge the objectivity of the author since she taught at the same university in 1993 that Snyder does now. However, this article contextualizes Snyder’s work in both the Buddhist and American Indian traditions that he draws from and reinvents.

Elkin, P.K. The Augustan Defense of Satire. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973.

Excellent look at Augustan satire from many different angles. Places Augustan satire firmly in context through a thorough discussion. Focuses on the attacks upon and defenses of Augustan satire. Moves quickly and sensibly through the argument; rules the defense as inadequate based upon modern notions of satire. Provides an extensive, useful bibliography. Immensely helpful to any scholar of the Eighteenth century and/or satire.

Ronald, Kate and Hephizbah Roskelly. “Untested Feasibility: Imagining the Pragmatic Possibility of Paulo Freire.” College English 63.5 (May 2001): 612-32.

Ronald and Roskelly expand upon the possibilities that lay within Freire’s pedagogy. They make a comparison between Freire and the North American pragmatists. Discourse and action are inter-related, and process is communal, not solely individual. They expand on the idea that experience is a source of knowledge and action is a way of knowing. Freire’s four pragmatic principles of literacy and education are clearly laid out. This article fits in as a way to understand the practical applications of Freire’s pedagogy. While this article spends a lot of time on North American pragmatists, it does break down Freire’s pedagogy very well.

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How to Write a Research Paper: Annotated Bibliography

  • Anatomy of a Research Paper
  • Developing a Research Focus
  • Background Research Tips
  • Searching Tips
  • Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Journals
  • Thesis Statement
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Citing Sources
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Literature Review
  • Academic Integrity
  • Scholarship as Conversation
  • Understanding Fake News
  • Data, Information, Knowledge

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

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Write an Annotated Bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?

It is a list of citations for various books, articles, and other sources on a topic. 

An annotation is a short summary and/or critical evaluation of a source.

Annotated bibliographies answer the question: "What would be the most relevant, most useful, or most up-to-date sources for this topic?"

 Annotated bibliographies can be part of a larger research project, or can be a stand-alone report in itself. 

Annotation versus abstracts 

An abstract is a paragraph at the beginning of the paper that discusses the main point of the original work. They typically do not include evaluation comments. 

Annotations can either be descriptive or evaluative. The annotated bibliography looks like a works cited page but includes an annotation after each source cited. 

Types of Annotations: 

Descriptive Annotations: Focuses on description. Describes the source by answering the following questions. 

Who wrote the document?

What does the document discuss?

When and where was the document written? 

Why was the document produced?

How was it provided to the public?

Evaluative Annotations: Focuses on description and evaluation. Includes a summary and critically assess the work for accuracy, relevance, and quality. 

Evaluative annotations 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.

What does the annotation include?

Depending on your assignment and style guide, annotations may include some or all of the following information. 

  • Should be no more than 150 words or 4 to 6 sentences long. 
  • What is the main focus or purpose of the work?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • ​How useful or relevant was the article to your topic?
  • Was there any unique features that useful to you?
  • What is the background and credibility of the author?
  • What are any conclusions or observations that your reached about the article?

Which citation style to use?

There are many styles manuals with specific instructions on how to format your annotated bibliography. This largely depends on what your instructor prefers or your subject discipline. Check out our citation guides for more information. 

Additional Information

Why doesn't APA have an official APA-approved format for annotated bibliographies?

Always consult your instructor about the format of an annotated bibliography for your class assignments. These guides provide you with examples of various styles for annotated bibliographies and they may not be in the format required by your instructor. 

Citation Examples and Annotations

Book Citation with Descriptive Annotation

Liroff, R. A., & G. G. Davis. (1981). Protecting open space: Land use control in the Adirondack Park. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger.

This book describes the implementation of regional planning and land use regulation in the Adirondack Park in upstate New York. The authors provide program evaluations of the Adirondack Park Agency’s regulatory and local planning assistance programs.

Journal Article Citation with Evaluative Annotation

Gottlieb, P. D. (1995). The “golden egg” as a natural resource: Toward a normative theory of growth management. Society and Natural Resources, 8, (5): 49-56.

This article explains the dilemma faced by North American suburbs, which demand both preservation of local amenities (to protect quality of life) and physical development (to expand the tax base). Growth management has been proposed as a policy solution to this dilemma. An analogy is made between this approach and resource economics. The author concludes that the growth management debate raises legitimate issues of sustainability and efficiency.

Examples were taken from http://lib.calpoly.edu/support/how-to/write-an-annotated-bibliography/#samples

Book Citation

Lee, Seok-hoon, Yong-pil Kim, Nigel Hemmington, and Deok-kyun Yun. “Competitive Service Quality Improvement (CSQI): A Case Study in the Fast-Food Industry.” Food Service Technology 4 (2004): 75-84.

In this highly technical paper, three industrial engineering professors in Korea and one services management professor in the UK discuss the mathematical limitations of the popular SERVQUAL scales. Significantly, they also aim to measure service quality in the fast-food industry, a neglected area of study. Unfortunately, the paper’s sophisticated analytical methods make it inaccessible to all but the most expert of researchers.

Battle, Ken. “Child Poverty: The Evolution and Impact of Child Benefits.”  A Question of Commitment: Children's Rights in Canada . Ed. Katherine Covell and R.Brian Howe. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 2007. 21-44.

             Ken Battle draws on a close study of government documents, as well as his own research as an extensively-published policy analyst, to explain Canadian child benefit programs.  He outlines some fundamental assumptions supporting the belief that all society members should contribute to the upbringing of children.  His comparison of child poverty rates in a number of countries is a useful wake-up to anyone assuming Canadian society is doing a good job of protecting children.  Battle pays particular attention to the National Child Benefit (NCB), arguing that it did not deserve to be criticized by politicians and journalists.  He outlines the NCB’s development, costs, and benefits, and laments that the Conservative government scaled it back in favour of the inferior Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB).  However, he relies too heavily on his own work; he is the sole or primary author of almost half the sources in his bibliography.  He could make this work stronger by drawing from others' perspectives and analyses.  However, Battle does offer a valuable source for this essay, because the chapter provides a concise overview of government-funded assistance currently available to parents.  This offers context for analyzing the scope and financial reality of child poverty in Canada.

Journal Article Example

  Kerr, Don and Roderic Beaujot. “Child Poverty and Family Structure in Canada, 1981-1997.”  Journal of Comparative Family Studies  34.3 (2003): 321-335.

             Sociology professors Kerr and Beaujot analyze the demographics of impoverished families.  Drawing on data from Canada’s annual Survey of Consumer Finances, the authors consider whether each family had one or two parents, the age of single parents, and the number of children in each household.  They analyze child poverty rates in light of both these demographic factors and larger economic issues.  Kerr and Beaujot use this data to argue that. 

Examples were taken from  http://libguides.enc.edu/writing_basics/ annotatedbib/mla

Check out these resources for more information about Annotated Bibliographies. 

  • Purdue Owl- Annotated Bibliographies
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill- Annotated Bibliographies
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Creating an Annotated Bibliography

  • Writing an Annotation
  • Introduction
  • How Is an Annotated Bibliography Useful?

Writing the Annotation

  • A Sample Annotated Bibliography

Writing the annotation is the most difficult part of creating an annotated bibliography. Creating a bibliography in itself is fairly straightforward and is described in numerous writing style manuals, including the APA's and the MLA's style manuals. A writer needs only to be careful in documenting the facts about the source being listed and in properly formatting the information about the source to create a simple bibliography or reference list.

Providing annotations for the sources is a different thing entirely. The researcher must not only identify the sources, but must also read them in their entirety or at least review key portions of the entire works to arrive at a critical assessment of the value. Although the annotation might include information on article or book content, one of its aims is to evaluate the article or book. Things to observe might include the availability of statistical data, inclusion of photographs or illustrations, author's qualifications, presence of a reference list, historical significance of the material, etc. In short, review the source's content and features and evaluate it in relation to the topic you are covering. A collection of essays may only have one relevant essay. In evaluating the collection, you need only comment on the relevant information rather than try to cover the entire book. If an entire book has information relevant to your topic, hit the highlights rather than trying to cover the entire book in an annotation. Comment on the most useful chapters, on features of the book that proved useful (references, illustrations, statistics, etc.), and on the author's qualifications for writing such a book. For journal articles, focus on author qualifications, special features, recency, and references.

Keep in mind that the overall purpose of the annotated bibliography is to provide other researchers with enough information about the sources you've gathered to help them evaluate and select from among them.

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  • 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
  • 1 Unit Introduction
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 "Reading" to Understand and Respond
  • 1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez
  • 1.3 Glance at Critical Response: Rhetoric and Critical Thinking
  • 1.4 Annotated Student Sample: Social Media Post and Responses on Voter Suppression
  • 1.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text”
  • 1.6 Evaluation: Intention vs. Execution
  • 1.7 Spotlight on … Academia
  • 1.8 Portfolio: Tracing Writing Development
  • Further Reading
  • Works Cited
  • 2.1 Seeds of Self
  • 2.2 Identity Trailblazer: Cathy Park Hong
  • 2.3 Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation
  • 2.4 Annotated Sample Reading from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
  • 2.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about How Identity Is Constructed Through Writing
  • 2.6 Evaluation: Antiracism and Inclusivity
  • 2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English
  • 2.8 Portfolio: Decolonizing Self
  • 3.1 Identity and Expression
  • 3.2 Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
  • 3.3 Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
  • 3.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • 3.5 Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
  • 3.6 Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
  • 3.7 Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
  • 3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
  • 3.9 Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
  • Works Consulted
  • 2 Unit Introduction
  • 4.1 Exploring the Past to Understand the Present
  • 4.2 Memoir Trailblazer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • 4.3 Glance at Genre: Conflict, Detail, and Revelation
  • 4.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
  • 4.5 Writing Process: Making the Personal Public
  • 4.6 Editing Focus: More on Characterization and Point of View
  • 4.7 Evaluation: Structure and Organization
  • 4.8 Spotlight on … Multilingual Writers
  • 4.9 Portfolio: Filtered Memories
  • 5.1 Profiles as Inspiration
  • 5.2 Profile Trailblazer: Veronica Chambers
  • 5.3 Glance at Genre: Subject, Angle, Background, and Description
  • 5.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Remembering John Lewis” by Carla D. Hayden
  • 5.5 Writing Process: Focusing on the Angle of Your Subject
  • 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
  • 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
  • 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
  • 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
  • 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
  • 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
  • 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
  • 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
  • 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
  • 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
  • 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
  • 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
  • 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
  • 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
  • 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
  • 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
  • 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
  • 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
  • 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
  • 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
  • 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
  • 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
  • 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
  • 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
  • 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
  • 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
  • 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
  • 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
  • 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
  • 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
  • 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
  • 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
  • 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
  • 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
  • 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
  • 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
  • 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
  • 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
  • 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
  • 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
  • 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
  • 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
  • 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
  • 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
  • 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
  • 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
  • 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
  • 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
  • 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
  • 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
  • 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
  • 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
  • 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
  • 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
  • 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
  • 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
  • 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
  • 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
  • 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
  • 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
  • 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
  • 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
  • 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
  • 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
  • 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
  • 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
  • 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
  • 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
  • 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
  • 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
  • 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
  • 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
  • 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
  • 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
  • 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
  • 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
  • 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
  • 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
  • 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
  • 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
  • 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
  • 3 Unit Introduction
  • 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
  • 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
  • 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
  • 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
  • 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
  • 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
  • 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
  • 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
  • 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
  • 17.1 “Reading” Images
  • 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
  • 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
  • 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
  • 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
  • 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
  • 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
  • 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
  • 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
  • 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
  • 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
  • 18.3 Glance at Genre: Genre, Audience, Purpose, Organization
  • 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
  • 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
  • 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
  • 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
  • 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
  • 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
  • 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
  • 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
  • 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
  • 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
  • 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
  • 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
  • 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
  • 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
  • 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
  • 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
  • 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
  • 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
  • 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
  • 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
  • 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Integrate your ideas with ideas from related sources.
  • Locate, compile, and evaluate primary, secondary, and tertiary research materials related to your topic.

A bibliography is a list of the sources you use when doing research for a project or composition. Named for the Greek terms biblion , meaning “book,” and graphos , meaning “something written,” bibliographies today compile more than just books. Often they include academic journal articles, periodicals, websites, and multimedia texts such as videos. A bibliography alone, at the end of a research work, also may be labeled “References” or “Works Cited,” depending on the citation style you are using. The bibliography lists information about each source, including author, title, publisher, and publication date. Each set of source information, or each individual entry, listed in the bibliography or noted within the body of the composition is called a citation .

Bibliographies include formal documentation entries that serve several purposes:

  • They help you organize your own research on a topic and narrow your topic, thesis, or argument.
  • They help you build knowledge.
  • They strengthen your arguments by offering proof that your research comes from trustworthy sources.
  • They enable readers to do more research on the topic.
  • They create a community of researchers, thus adding to the ongoing conversation on the research topic.
  • They give credit to authors and sources from which you draw and support your ideas.

Annotated bibliography expand on typical bibliographies by including information beyond the basic citation information and commentary on the source. Although they present each formal documentation entry as it would appear in a source list such as a works cited page, an annotated bibliography includes two types of additional information. First, following the documentation entry is a short description of the work, including information about its authors and how it was or can be used in a research project. Second is an evaluation of the work’s validity, reliability, and/or bias. The purpose of the annotation is to summarize, assess, and reflect on the source. Annotations can be both explanatory and analytical, helping readers understand the research you used to formulate your argument. An annotated bibliography can also help you demonstrate that you have read the sources you will potentially cite in your work. It is a tool to assist in the gathering of these sources and serves as a repository. You won’t necessarily use all the sources cited in your annotated bibliography in your final work, but gathering, evaluating, and documenting these sources is an integral part of the research process.

Compiling Sources

Research projects and compositions, particularly argumentative or position texts, require you to collect sources, devise a thesis, and then support that thesis through analysis of the evidence, including sources, you have compiled. With access to the Internet and an academic library, you will rarely encounter a shortage of sources for any given topic or argument. The real challenge may be sorting through all the available sources and determining which will be useful.

The first step in completing an annotated bibliography is to locate and compile sources to use in your research project. At the beginning, you do not need to be highly selective in this process, as you may not ultimately use every source. Therefore, gather any materials—including books, websites, professional journals, periodicals, and documents—that you think may contain valuable ideas about your topic. But where do you find sources that relate to your argument? And how do you choose which sources to use? This section will help you answer those questions and choose sources that will both enhance and challenge your claim, allowing you to confront contradictory evidence and synthesize ideas, or combine ideas from various sources, to produce a well-constructed original argument. See Research Process: Accessing and Recording Information for more information about sources and synthesizing information.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

In your research, you likely will use three types of sources: primary, secondary, and tertiary. During any research project, your use of these sources will depend on your topic, your thesis, and, ultimately, how you intend to use them. In all likelihood, you will need to seek out all three.

Primary Sources

Primary sources allow you to create your own analysis with the appropriate rhetorical approach. In the humanities disciplines, primary sources include original documents, data, images, and other compositions that provide a firsthand account of an event or a time in history. Typically, primary sources are created close in time to the event or period they represent and may include journal or diary entries, newspaper articles, government records, photographs, artworks, maps, speeches, films, and interviews. In scientific disciplines, primary sources provide information such as scientific discoveries, raw data, experimental and research results, and clinical trial findings. They may include published studies, scientific journal articles, and proceedings of meeting or conferences.

Primary sources also can include student-conducted interviews and surveys. Other primary sources may be found on websites such as the Library of Congress , the Historical Text Archive , government websites, and article databases. In all academic areas, primary sources are fact based, not interpretive. That is, they may be commenting on or interpreting something else, but they themselves are the source. For example, an article written during the 1840s condemning the practice of enslavement may interpret events occurring then, but it is a primary source document of its time.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources , unlike primary sources, are interpretive. They often provide a secondhand account of an event or research results, analyze or clarify primary sources and scientific discoveries, or interpret a creative work. These sources are important for supporting or challenging your argument, addressing counterarguments, and synthesizing ideas. Secondary sources in the humanities disciplines include biographies, literary criticism, and reviews of the fine arts, among other sources. In the scientific disciplines, secondary sources encompass analyses of scientific studies or clinical trials, reviews of experimental results, and publications about the significance of studies or experiments. In some instances, the same item can serve as both a primary and a secondary source, depending on how it is used. For example, a journal article in which the author analyzes the impact of a clinical trial would serve as a secondary source. But if you instead count the number of journal articles that feature reports on a particular clinical trial, you might use them as primary sources because they would then serve as data points.

Table 14.1 provides examples of how primary and secondary sources often relate to one another.

Tertiary Sources

In addition to primary and secondary sources, you can use a tertiary source to summarize or digest information from primary and/or secondary sources. Because tertiary sources often condense information, they usually do not provide enough information on their own to support claims. However, they often contain a variety of citations that can help you identify and locate valuable primary and secondary sources. Researchers often use tertiary sources to find general, historical, or background information as well as a broad overview of a topic. Tertiary sources frequently placed in the secondary-source category include reference materials such as encyclopedias, textbooks, manuals, digests, and bibliographies. For more discussion on sources, see The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources .

Authoritative Sources

Not all sources are created equally. You likely know already that you must vet sources—especially those you find on the Internet—for legitimacy, validity, and the presence of bias. For example, you probably know that the website Wikipedia is not considered a trustworthy source because it is open to user editing. This accessibility means the site’s authority cannot be established and, therefore, the source cannot effectively support or refute a claim you are attempting to make, though you can use it at times to point you to reliable sources. While so-called bad sources may be easy to spot, researchers may have more difficulty discriminating between sources that are authoritative and those that pose concerns. In fact, you may encounter a general hierarchy of sources in your compilation. Understanding this hierarchy can help you identify which sources to use and how to use them in your research.

Peer-Reviewed Academic Publications

This first tier of sources—the gold standard of research—includes academic literature, which consists of textbooks, essays, journals, articles, reports, and scholarly books. As scholarly works, these sources usually provide strong evidence for an author’s claims by reflecting rigorous research and scrutiny by experts in the field. These types of sources are most often published, sponsored, or supported by academic institutions, often a university or an academic association such as the Modern Language Association (MLA) . Such associations exist to encourage research and collaboration within their discipline, mostly through publications and conferences. To be published, academic works must pass through a rigorous process called peer review , in which scholars in the field evaluate it anonymously. You can find peer-reviewed academic sources in library catalogs, in article databases, and through Google Scholar online. Sometimes these sources require a subscription to access, but students often receive access through their school.

Academic articles, particularly in the social and other sciences, generally have most or all of the following sections, a structure you might recognize if you have written lab reports in science classes:

  • Abstract . This short summary covers the purpose, methods, and findings of the paper. It may discuss briefly the implications or significance of the research.
  • Introduction . The main part of the paper begins with an introduction that presents the issue or main idea addressed by the research, establishes its importance, and poses the author’s thesis.
  • Review . Next comes an overview of previous academic research related to the topic, including a synthesis that makes a case for why the research is important and necessary.
  • Data and Methods . The main part of the original research begins with a description of the data and methods used, including what data or information the author collected and how the author used it.
  • Results . Data and methods are followed by results, detailing the significant findings from the experiment or research.
  • Conclusion . In the conclusion, the author discusses the results in the context of the bigger picture, explaining the author’s position on how these results relate to the earlier review of literature and their significance in the broad scope of the topic. The author also may propose future research needs or point out unanswered questions.
  • Works Cited or References . The paper ends with a list of all sources the author used in the research, including the review of literature. This often-overlooked portion of the composition is critical in evaluating the credibility of any paper that involves research.

Credible Nonacademic Sources

These sources, including articles, books, and reports, are second in authority only to peer-reviewed academic publications. Credible nonacademic sources are often about current events or discoveries not yet reviewed in academic circles and often provide a wider-ranging outlook on your topic. Peer-reviewed texts tend to be narrow and specific, whereas nonacademic texts from well-researched sources are often more accessible and can offer a broader perspective. These three major categories generally provide quality sources:

  • Information, white papers, and reports from government and international agencies such as the United Nations , the World Health Organization , and the United States government
  • Longer articles and reports from major newspapers, broadcast media, and magazines that are well regarded in academic circles, including the New York Times , the Wall Street Journal , the BBC, and the Economist
  • Nonacademic books written by authors with expertise and credentials, who support their ideas with well-sourced information

To find nonacademic sources, search for .gov or .org sites related to your topic. A word of caution, however: know that sources ending in .org are often advocacy sites and, consequently, inherently biased toward whatever cause they are advocating. You also can look at academic article databases and search articles from major newspapers and magazines, both of which can be found online.

Short Informational Texts from Credible Websites and Periodicals

The next most authoritative sources are shorter newspaper articles or other pieces on credible websites. These articles tend to be limited in scope, as their authors report on a single issue or event. Although they do not often provide in-depth analysis, they can be a source of credible facts to support your argument. Alternatively, they can point you in the direction of more detailed or rigorous sources that will enhance your research by tracing the original texts or sources on which the articles are based. Usually, you can find these sources through Internet searches, but sometimes you may have difficulty determining their credibility.

Judging Credibility

To judge credibility, begin by looking for the author or organization publishing the information. Most periodical compositions contain a short “About the Author” blurb at the beginning or end of the article and often include a link to the author’s credentials or to more information about them. Using this information, you can begin to determine their expertise and, potentially, any agenda the author or organization may have. For example, expect a piece discussing side effects of medical marijuana written by a doctor to present more expertise than the same piece written by a political lobbyist. You also can determine whether bias is present; for example, the organization may promote a particular way of thinking or have an agenda that will influence the content and language of the composition. In general, look for articles written with neutral expertise.

The CRAAP Test

You may find the CRAAP test a helpful and easy-to-remember tool for testing credibility. This checklist provides you with a method for evaluating any source for both reliability and credibility. CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. The CRAAP test, as shown in Table 14.2 , includes questions that can be asked of any source.

Sources with Clear Bias or Unclear Authority

The final type of source encompasses nearly everything else. Although they cannot be considered credible or valid to support your argument or claims, these sources are not necessarily useless. Especially when you are compiling sources at the beginning of a project, those with clear bias or unclear authority can be useful as you explore all facets of a topic, including positions within an argument. These sources also can help you identify topics on which to base your search terms and can even point you toward more credible sources.

Locating Sources

Academic article databases are the best starting places for finding sources. There are too many databases to cover them all in this chapter, but you would be wise to familiarize yourself with those to which you have access through your school or program. For further information on databases, see The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources . In the long run, this knowledge will save you a good deal of time and a possible headache.

You will want to start with your college library website, which includes access to sources paid for by your institution. As a student, you should be able to access these quickly and easily. Another popular and wide-ranging database is Google Scholar . Google Scholar is helpful for finding sources across a wide range of topics. One drawback, however, is that it catalogues nearly all disciplines, so the results can be vast and unfocused. Therefore, when using Google Scholar, be as specific as possible, and add your academic discipline as a keyword. For example, when searching for information on climate change, add the keyword “environment” or “politics” depending on your research angle; otherwise, the results will include all disciplines and potentially bury the articles you seek. Google Scholar also has a feature labeled “Cited by,” which shows you other papers that cite the article in their review of literature relate to the topic. Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing contains more information about focusing your searches. Like clues to a mystery, one search can lead you to a wealth of related articles.

When you are able to identify potential sources by reading their abstracts or using Google Scholar, you may at times land on a publisher’s website that requires you to pay to read the full article. When you find yourself in a situation such as this, record information about the article—author(s), article title, journal title, publication date. It is likely that you will be able to use your school’s database to access the article. For information about other databases, consult The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources .

Just as writing is recursive , requiring you to go back and forth between different stages of the process, you will likely return to your annotated bibliography at different points. You may begin by looking for sources related to your topic, or you may choose or narrow your topic after an initial database search for sources. If your project has a variety of possible topics, you may even start with a current issue of a leading journal in the field, find an article that interests you, and use that article to shape your topic selection. As a bonus, you will have your first reputable source. Later, as you refine your thesis, reasoning, and evidence, you may find yourself returning to your search for sources. Consider this hypothetical situation: You are developing an argument that examines the risk factors of childhood trauma that surface in later life. As you analyze the data from your sources, it occurs to you to find out whether any documented correlation exists between early trauma and resilience. So you return to Google Scholar and your university’s academic database to find more research based on this idea in order to revise your analysis by adding the new viewpoint.

One difficulty may be homing in on the keywords that will lead you to the sources you need. At this point, sources from the last two categories discussed may come into play: short pieces from credible websites and newspapers and other texts with clear bias or unclear authority. Less credible sources may lead you to better ones, particularly if you can identify the keywords used in them and then apply those keywords within academic databases. For more on developing useful keywords, consult The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources .

Boolean Operators

Keyword searches can become frustrating, either yielding so much information that it seems impossible to sort through or narrowing the search so much that you miss important potential sources. One way to remedy this situation is to become familiar with Boolean operators , the basis of mathematical sets and database logic. Rather than searching with natural language only, you can use these operators to focus your search. The three basic Boolean operators are AND , OR , and NOT . Using these operators helps you search by linking necessary information, excluding irrelevant information, and focusing information. For example, if you have some pieces of information from tertiary sources, you may be able to use Boolean operators to find additional useful sources. A search string such as artificial intelligence (title) AND Buiten (author) AND 2019 (year) can yield the exact journal source you need. Here is a brief review of how to use the three operators:

  • Use AND to narrow search results and tell the database to include all search terms in finding sources. If you want to find sources that include all of the search terms entered, use the AND operator. In Figure 14.11 , the darkest blue triangular section in the center of the Venn diagram represents the result set for this search, including all three terms. In many databases, including Google, AND is implied between each word. To exclude AND, use quotation marks. For example, Google would translate the search term ethics artificial intelligence as ethics AND artificial AND intelligence . To make your phrases more specific, use the AND operator combined with quotation marks: “ethics” AND “artificial intelligence” .
  • Use OR to connect two or more similar concepts and broaden your results, telling the search engine that any of your search terms can appear in the results it gives you. The Boolean operator OR is represented by Figure 14.12 . Using the OR operator gives you a very large set of results.
  • Use NOT to exclude results from a search. This operator can help you narrow your search, telling the search engine to ignore names or words you do not want included in your results. For example, if you know you don’t want self-driving cars in your search results, you might search for “artificial intelligence” NOT “self-driving cars” .

Choosing Sources

Choosing sources to include in your annotated bibliography may seem overwhelming. However, if you can find a few good academic articles as a starting point, use them to guide your research. Academic articles are efficient, scrutinized by experts in their fields, and organized in ways that aid readers in identifying key findings that relate to their argument. The following tips will help you choose solid sources to guide your research:

  • Look for relevant scholarly articles. Even the briefest Google search can yield an overwhelming amount of content. Sift through it by looking first through academic databases to find high-quality sources relevant to your research.
  • Read abstracts. As you sift through scholarly articles, you can get a good idea of what each one is about by reading the abstract. It includes the findings and will show you in about 100 words whether the paper holds relevance to your research.
  • Skim. Once you have determined that an article may be useful, skim each section to glean the information you need. Closer and more extensive reading can come later as you develop and support your argument.
  • Avoid getting bogged down in technical information or industry-specific jargon. The benefit of reading peer-reviewed research is that you know the reviewers have determined it to be solidly constructed. Therefore, even if you don’t understand some portions completely, you can still feel confident about using relevant information from the article.
  • Work smarter by using the research provided. Once you have identified an article that is helpful to your research, use it to find more like it. Search for other publications by the authors; researchers often spend much of their careers researching one overarching topic or theme. Use the review of literature to identify related articles that may add to your research. You can also use the article’s bibliography to find additional sources. Or reverse engineer the process: use article databases to find other articles that cite the article in their literature reviews.

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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

  • Introduction
  • New RefWorks
  • Formatting Citations
  • Writing Annotations
  • Sample Annotated Bibliographies

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is an enhanced list of citations that briefly summarizes each article, book, or other source of information and explains why it is important for your topic.  It can be divided into two distinct parts: the annotation and the bibliography.

  • A bibliography is a list of articles, books, and or other sources of information that have been used for researching a topic. This list is called “References” In APA format or “Works Cited” in MLA format.  All academic papers should have a bibliography that lists the sources used for its creation. 
  • An annotation is a short paragraph that summarizes a source and describes how it is relevant to your research.  To annotate literally means “to make notes.”

There is not an official format for annotated bibliographies, though usually the bibliographic citation is written in APA or MLA format.  If this is being done for a class, ask the instructor which format you should use. ​

  • Example of an Annotated Bibliography The William Morris Collection at the Archives and Rare Books Library, University of Cincinnati
  • More Examples

Example of entries on an Annotated Bibliography

Henderson, R., & Honan, E. (2008). Digital literacies in two low socioeconomic classrooms: Snapshots of practice. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, (7)2 , 85-98.

Provides snapshots of digital practices in two middle-level classrooms within low socioeconomic suburbs in Australia during one school term. Ethnographic research techniques were used to investigate (1) teachers' pedagogical approaches to using digital literacy practices with low-income students; (2) students' access to digital technologies at home and at school; and (3) how home literate practices compared to the practices valued in school. Results underscore the need to disrupt teachers' deficit views of these students' home digital literacies so that school practices can be built upon the knowledge and literacies students already have. 

(Beach et al., 2009)

Frazen, K., & Kamps, D. (2008). The utilization and effects of positive behavior support strategies on an urban school playground. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 10, 150-161. doi: 10.1177/1098300708316260.

This study examined the effectiveness of a school-wide PBS recess intervention across three grades—2 nd , 3 rd , and 4 th .  The intervention included a token economy system for following five operationally defined, positively stated school rules.  A multiple baseline design across grades was used to determine the effectiveness of the swPBS recess intervention on inappropriate behaviors.  Intervention was implemented across the three grades at staggered times.  When intervention was implemented, inappropriate behavior demonstrated a change in level for all grades and a decrease in variability for one grade (2 nd ). Trend was relatively stable across all phases for two classrooms and a slight increasing trend was observed during baseline for the 4 th grade that stabilized once the intervention was implemented. Experimental control was demonstrated when (1) baseline behavior remained consistent despite the implementation of intervention in other grades, (2) only when intervention was implemented was a change in behavior level observed, and (3) experimental control was demonstrated at three distinct points. 

(McCoy, 2015)

Why are Annotated Bibliographies useful?

An annotated bibliography demonstrates your understanding of a topic.  It's easy to add a source to a reference list and forget about it when you just need a citation, but you will read and evaluate that source more carefully when you have to write an annotation for it. Since annotations need to be more than just a summary and explain the value of each source, you are forced to think critically and develop a point of view on the topic.  Writing an annotated bibliography is a great way to start preparing a major research project because you will see what arguments have already been proposed in the literature and where your project can add something new to the larger body of work.

Reading published scholarly annotated bibliographies is an efficient method for starting research since they will provide a comprehensive overview of a topic and introduce what other researchers are saying about a topic.

Beach, R., Bigelow, M., Dillon, D., Dockter, J., Galda, L., Helman, L., . . . Janssen, T. (2009). Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.  Research in the Teaching of English,   44 (2), 210-241. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27784357

McCoy, D. (2015). Annotated bibliography #1 behavior research methods [Class handout]. Behavior Analysis, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH.

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Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources, each of which is followed by a brief note or “annotation.”

These annotations do one or more of the following:

  • describe the content and focus of the book or article
  • suggest the source’s usefulness to your research
  • evaluate its method, conclusions, or reliability
  • record your reactions to the source.

How do I format the bibliographic citations?

Check with your instructor to determine which documentation style is required for your class: APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, CBE, Numbered References, APSA, etc.

Then, remember that the bibliography is an organized list of sources used. The annotation may immediately follow the bibliographic information on the same line, or it may begin on a new line, two lines below the publication information.

But, since style manuals differ, check with your instructor about which one to use concerning form, spacing, and consistency.

If you are using APA documentation, the Writing Center offers a short workshop called “APA Documentation”.

What goes into the content of the annotations?

Below are some of the most common forms of annotated bibliographies. Click on the links to see examples of each.

This form of annotation defines the scope of the source, lists the significant topics included, and tells what the source is about.

This type is different from the informative entry in that the informative entry gives actual information about its source.

In the indicative entry there is no attempt to give actual data such as hypotheses, proofs, etc. Generally, only topics or chapter titles are included.

Indicative (descriptive–tell us what is included in the source) Griffin, C. Williams, ed. (1982). Teaching writing in all disciplines. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Ten essays on writing-across-the-curriculum programs, teaching writing in disciplines other than English, and teaching techniques for using writing as learning. Essays include Toby Fulwiler, “Writing: An Act of Cognition”; Barbara King, “Using Writing in the Mathematics Class: Theory and Pratice”; Dean Drenk, “Teaching Finance Through Writing”; Elaine P. Maimon, “Writing Across the Curriculum: Past, Present, and Future.” (Bizzell and Herzberg, 1991, p. 47)

Informative

Simply put, this form of annotation is a summary of the source.

To write it, begin by writing the thesis; then develop it with the argument or hypothesis, list the proofs, and state the conclusion.

Informative (summary–tell us what the main findings or arguments are in the source) Voeltz, L.M. (1980). Children’s attitudes toward handicapped peers. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 84, 455-464. As services for severely handicapped children become increasingly available within neighborhood public schools, children’s attitudes toward handicapped peers in integrated settings warrant attention. Factor analysis of attitude survey responses of 2,392 children revealed four factors underlying attitudes toward handicapped peers: social-contact willingness, deviance consequation, and two actual contact dimensions. Upper elementary-age children, girls, and children in schools with most contact with severely handicapped peers expressed the most accepting attitudes. Results of this study suggest the modifiability of children’s attitudes and the need to develop interventions to facilitate social acceptance of individual differences in integrated school settings. (Sternlicht and Windholz, 1984, p. 79)

In this form of annotation you need to assess the source’s strengths and weaknesses.

You get to say why the source is interesting or helpful to you, or why it is not. In doing this you should list what kind of and how much information is given; in short, evaluate the source’s usefulness.

Evaluative (tell us what you think of the source) Gurko, Leo. (1968). Ernest Hemingway and the pursuit of heroism. New York: Crowell. This book is part of a series called “Twentieth Century American Writers”: a brief introduction to the man and his work. After fifty pages of straight biography, Gurko discussed Hemingway’s writing, novel by novel. There’s an index and a short bibliography, but no notes. The biographical part is clear and easy to read, but it sounds too much like a summary. (Spatt, 1991, p. 322) Hingley, Ronald. (1950). Chekhov: A biographical and critical study. London: George Allen & Unwin. A very good biography. A unique feature of this book is the appendix, which has a chronological listing of all English translations of Chekhov’s short stories. (Spatt, 1991, p. 411)

Combination

Most annotated bibliographies are of this type.

They contain one or two sentences summarizing or describing content and one or two sentences providing an evaluation.

Combination Morris, Joyce M. (1959). Reading in the primary school: An investigation into standards of reading and their association with primary school characteristics. London: Newnes, for National Foundation for Educational Research. Report of a large-scale investigation into English children’s reading standards, and their relation to conditions such as size of classes, types of organisation and methods of teaching. Based on enquiries in sixty schools in Kent and covering 8,000 children learning to read English as their mother tongue. Notable for thoroughness of research techniques.

Which writing style should I use in the annotations?

The most important thing to understand is that entries should be brief.

Only directly significant details will be mentioned and any information apparent in the title can be omitted from the annotation.

In addition, background materials and references to previous work by the same author usually are not included.

Listed below are three writing styles used in annotated bibliographies. Click on a link to see examples of each.

Telegraphic

(phrases, non-sentences)

Get the information out, quickly and concisely. Be clear, but complete and grammatically correct sentences are unnecessary.

Telegraphic (phrases, non-sentences) Vowles, Richard B. (1962). Psychology and drama: A selected checklist. Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature, 3,(1), 35-48. Divided by individual authors. Reviews the research between 1920 and 1961. (Bell and Gallup, 1971, p. 68)

Complete sentences

In this style you must always use complete sentences.

The length of the sentences varies. Subjects and conjunctions are not eliminated even though the tone may be terse. Avoid long and complex sentences.

Complete sentences Kinter, W. R., and R L. Pfaltzgraff. (1972). Assessing the Moscow SALT agreements. Orbis, 16, 34l-360. The authors hold the conservative view that SALT can not halt the slipping nuclear advantage of the United States. They conclude that the United States needs a national reassessment of defense policy. They further conclude that the only utility of SALT is in developing a dialogue with the Soviets. This is a good conservative critique of SALT I. (Strenski and Manfred, 1981, p. 165)

When using this form of annotation, you must write a full, coherent paragraph.

Sometimes this can be similar to the form of a bibliographic essay. It goes without saying that you need to use complete sentences.

Paragraph (a little more formal) Voeltz, L.M. (1980). Children’s attitudes toward handicapped peers. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 84, 455-464. As services for severely handicapped children become increasingly available within neighborhood public schools, children’s attitudes toward handicapped peers in integrated settings warrant attention. Factor analysis of attitude survey responses of 2,392 children revealed four factors underlying attitudes toward handicapped peers: social- contact willingness, deviance consequation, and two actual contact dimensions. Upper elementary-age children, girls, and children in schools with most contact with severely handicapped peers expressed the most accepting attitudes. Results of this study suggest the modifiability of children’s attitudes and the need to develop interventions to facilitate social acceptance of individual differences in integrated school settings. (Sternlicht and Windholz, 1984, p. 79)

Additional information

If you have additional questions, ask your course instructor or consider scheduling an appointment with a Writing Center instructor.

The Writing Center also has information on different documentation systems, such as MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, CBE, Numbered References, and APSA styles of citation.

If you are using APA documentation, you are in luck! The Writing Center offers a short class called “The Basics of APA Documentation”!

References for examples used

Bell, Inglis F., and Jennifer Gallup. (1971). A reference guide to English, American, and Canadian literature . Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzberg. (1991). Bedford bibliography for teachers of writing . 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press.

Center for Information on Language Teaching and The English Teaching Information Center of the British Council. (1968). A Language-teaching bibliography . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spatt, Brenda. (1991). Writing from sources . 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Sternlicht, Manny, and George Windholz. (1984). Social behavior of the mentally retarded. New York and London: Garland Press.

Strenski, Ellen, and Madge Manfred. (1981). The research paper workbook . 2nd ed. New York and London: Longman.

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Annotated Bibliographies

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What Is An Annotated Bibliography?

What is an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations (references) to books, articles, and documents followed by a brief summary, analysis or evaluation, usually between 100-300 words, of the sources that are cited in the paper.  This summary provides a description of the contents of the source and may also include evaluative comments, such as the relevance, accuracy and quality of the source.  These summaries are known as annotations. 

  • Annotated bibliographies are completed before a paper is written
  • They can be stand-along assignments
  • They can be used as a reference tool as a person works on their paper

Annotations vs. Abstracts

Abstracts are the descriptive summaries of article contents found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles that are written by the article author(s) or editor. Their purpose is to inform a reader about the topic, methodology, results and conclusion of the research of the article's author(s).  The summaries are provided so that a researcher can determine whether or not the article may have information of interest to them.  Abstracts do not serve an evaluative purpose.

Annotations found in bibliographies are evaluations of sources cited in a paper.  They describe a work, but also critique the source by examining the author’s point of view, the strengths and weakness of the research or article hypothesis or how well the author presented their research or findings.

How to write an annotated bibliography

The creation of an annotated bibliography is a three-step process. It starts with finding and evaluating sources for your paper. Next is choosing the type or category of annotation, then writing the annotation for each different source. The final step is to choose a citation style for the bibliography.

Types of Annotated Bibliographies

Types of Annotations

Annotations come in different types, the one to use depends on the instructor’s assignment.  Annotations can be descriptive, a summary, or an  evaluation or a combination of descriptive and evaluation.

Descriptive/Summarizing Annotations

There are two kinds of descriptive or summarizing annotations, informative or indicative, depending on what is most important for a reader to learn about a source.  Descriptive/summarizing annotations provide a brief overview or summary of the source. This can include a description of the contents and a statement of the main argument or position of the article as well as a summary of the main points.  It may also describe why the source would be useful for the paper’s topic or question. 

Indicative annotations provide a quick overview of the source, the kinds of questions/topics/issues or main points that are addressed by the source, but do not include information from the argument or position itself.

Informative annotations, like indicative annotations, provide a brief summary of the source.   In addition, an informative annotation identifies the hypothesis, results, and conclusions presented by the source.  When appropriate, they describe the author’s methodology or approach to the topic under discussion.  However, they do not provide information about the sources usefulness to the paper or contains analytical or critical information about the source’s quality. 

Evaluative Annotations (also known as critical or analytical)

Evaluative annotations go beyond just summarizing the source and listing out it’s key points, but also analyzes the content. It looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the article’s argument, the reliability of the presented information as well as any biases of the author. It talks about how the source may be useful to a particular field of study or the person’s research project.

Combination Annotations

Combination annotations “combine” aspects from indicative/informative and evaluative annotations and are the most common category of annotated bibliography.  Combination annotations include one to two sentences summarizing or describing content, in addition to one or more sentences providing an critical evaluation.

Writing Style for Annotations

Annotations typically follow three specific formats depending on how long they are.

  • Phrases – Short phrases providing the information in a quick, concise manner.
  • Sentences – Complete sentences with proper punctuation and grammar, but are short and concise.
  • Paragraphs – Longer annotations break the information out into different paragraphs. This format is very effective for combination annotations.

To sum it up:

An annotation may include the following information:

  • A brief summary or overview of the source content
  • The source’s strengths and weaknesses in presenting the argument or position
  • Its conclusions
  • Why the source is relevant in to field of study of the paper
  • Its relationships to other studies in the field
  • An evaluation of the research methodology (if applicable)
  • Information about the author’s background and potential biases
  • Conclusions about the usefulness of the source for the paper

Critically Analyzing Articles

In order to write an annotation for a paper source, you need to first read and then critically analyze it:

  • Try to identify the topic of the source -- what is it about and is it clearly stated.
  • See if you can identify the purpose of the author(s) in doing the research or writing about the topic. Is it to survey and summarize research on a topic?  Is the author(s) presenting an argument based on previous research, or refuting previously published research?
  • Identify the research methods used and try to identify whether they appear to be suitable or not for the stated purpose of the research.  
  • Was the research reported in a consistent or clear manner?  Or, was the author's argument/position presented in a consistent or convincing manner? Did the author(s) fail to acknowledge and explain any limitations?
  • Was the logic of the research/argument claims properly supported with convincing evidence/analysis/data? Did you spot any fallacies?
  • Check whether the author(s) refers to other research and if similar studies have been done. 
  • If illustrations or charts are used, are they effective in presenting information?
  • Analyze the sources that were used by the author(s). Did the author(s) miss any important studies they should have considered?
  • Your opinion of the source -- do you agree with or are convinced of the findings?  
  • Your estimation of the source’s contribution to knowledge and its implications or applications to the field of study.

Worksheet for Taking Notes for Critical Analysis of Sources/Articles

Additional Resources:

Hofmann, B., Magelssen, M. In pursuit of goodness in bioethics: analysis of an exemplary article. BMC Med Ethics 19, 60 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-018-0299-9

Jansen, M., & Ellerton, P. (2018). How to read an ethics paper. Journal of Medical Ethics, 44(12), 810-813.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2018-104997

Research & Learning Services, Olin Library, Cornell University Library  Critically Analyzing Information Sources: Critical Appraisal and Analysis

Formatting An Annotated Bibliography

How do I format my annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography entry consists of two components: the Citation and the Annotation.

The citation should be formatted in the bibliographic style that your instructor has requested for the paper. Some common citation styles include APA, MLA, and Chicago. For more information on citation styles, see Writing Guides, Style Manuals and the Publication Process in the Biological & Health Sciences .

Many databases (e.g., PubMed, Academic Search Premier, Library Search on library homepage, and Google Scholar) offer the option of creating your references in various citation styles. 

Look for the "cite" link -- see examples for the following resources:

University of Minnesota Library Search

Library Search Citation and List

Google Scholar

Google Scholar Citation List

Sample Annotated Bibliography Entries

An example of an Evaluative Annotation , APA style (7th ed). (sample from University Libraries, University of Nevada ).

APA does not have specific formatting rules for annotations, just for the citation and bibliography.

Maak, T. (2007). Responsible leadership, stakeholder engagement, and the emergence of social capital. Journal of Business Ethics, 74, 329-343.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-007-9510-5

This article focuses on the role of social capital in responsible leadership. It looks at both the social networks that a leader builds within an organization, and the links that a leader creates with external stakeholders. Maak’s main aim with this article seems to be to persuade people of the importance of continued research into the abilities that a leader requires and how they can be acquired. The focus on the world of multinational business means that for readers outside this world many of the conclusions seem rather obvious (be part of the solution not part of the problem). In spite of this, the article provides useful background information on the topic of responsible leadership and definitions of social capital which are relevant to an analysis of a public servant.

An example of an Evaluative Annotation , MLA Style (10th ed), (sample from Columbia College, Vancouver, Canada )

MLA style requires double-spacing (not shown here) and paragraph indentations.

London, Herbert. “Five Myths of the Television Age.” Television Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 1, Mar. 1982, pp. 81-69.

     Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: “seeing is believing”; “a picture is worth a thousand words”; and “satisfaction is its own reward.” London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He does not refer to any previous works on the topic. London’s style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly illustrates London’s points, but does not explore their implications leaving the reader with many unanswered questions.

Additional Resources

University Libraries Tutorial --  Tutorial: What are citations?  Completing this tutorial you will:

  • Understand what citations are
  • Recognize why they are important
  • Create and use citations in your papers and other scholarly work

University of Minnesota Resources

Beatty, L., & Cochran, C. (2020). Writing the annotated bibliography : A guide for students & researchers . New York, NY: Routledge. [ebook] 

Efron, S., Ravid, R., & ProQuest. (2019). Writing the literature review : A practical guide . New York: The Guilford Press. [ebook -- see Chapter 6 on Evaluating Research Articles] 

Center for Writing: Student Writing Support

  • Critical reading strategies
  • Common Writing Projects (includes resources for literature reviews & analyzing research articles)

Resources from Other Libraries

Annotated Bibliographies (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Writing An Annotated Bibliography (University of Toronto)

Annotated Bibliographies (Purdue Writing Lab, Purdue University)

Annotated Bibliography (UNSW Sydney)

What is an annotated bibliography? (Santiago Canyon College Library): Oct 17, 2017. 3:47 min.

Writing an annotated bibliography (EasyBib.com) Oct 22, 2020. 4:53 min.

Creating an annotated bibliography (Laurier University Library, Waterloo, Ontario)/ Apr 3, 2019, 3:32 min.

How to create an annotated bibliography: MLA (JamesTheDLC) Oct 23, 2019. 3:03 min.

Citing Sources

Introduction

Citations are brief notations in the body of a research paper that point to a source in the bibliography or references cited section.

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Health Statistics and Data Sources Health related statistics and data sources are increasingly available on the Internet. They can be found already neatly packaged, or as raw data sets. The most reliable data comes from governmental sources or health-care professional organizations.

Evaluating Information

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources in the Health Sciences Understand what are considered primary, secondary and tertiary sources.

Scholarly vs Popular Journals/Magazines How to determine what are scholarly journals vs trade or popular magazines.

Identifying Peer-Reviewed Journals A “peer-reviewed” or “refereed” journal is one in which the articles it contains have been examined by people with credentials in the article’s field of study before it is published.

Evaluating Web  Resources When searching for information on the Internet, it is important to be aware of the quality of the information being presented to you. Keep in mind that anyone can host a web site. To be sure that the information you are looking at is credible and of value.

Conducting Research Through An Anti-Racism Lens This guide is for students, staff, and faculty who are incorporating an anti-racist lens at all stages of the research life cycle.

Understanding Research Study Designs Covers case studies, randomized control trials, systematic reviews and meta-analysis.

Qualitative Studies Overview of what is a qualitative study and how to recognize, find and critically appraise.

Writing and Publishing

Citing Sources Citations are brief notations in the body of a research paper that point to a source in the bibliography or references cited section.

Structure of a Research Paper Reports of research studies usually follow the IMRAD format. IMRAD (Introduction, Methods, Results, [and] Discussion) is a mnemonic for the major components of a scientific paper. These elements are included in the overall structure of a research paper.

Top Reasons for Non-Acceptance of Scientific Articles Avoid these mistakes when preparing an article for publication.

Annotated Bibliographies Guide on how to create an annotated bibliography.

Writing guides, Style Manuals and the Publication Process in the Biological and Health Sciences Style manuals, citation guides as well as information on public access policies, copyright and plagiarism.

Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

VII. Researched Writing

7.6 Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Emilie Zickel; Melanie Gagich; and Terri Pantuso

As you are gathering sources in your research, you will want to keep track of which information comes from what source. While other strategies have been discussed such as note taking, some researchers use an annotated bibliography for long term reference purposes. As the name implies, an annotated bibliography is the bibliographical reference of a given source along with key information from that source that you may use for future reference. As assignment parameters will vary by instructor, generally speaking the annotations are 150-200 words in length per source and do not include quoted material. The purpose of the annotations is to summarize the material within the context of your thesis statement.

Annotated Bibliographies follow a common structure and format. Below is an explanation of the elements and format of an annotated bibliography.

Components of an Annotated Bibliography

An annotation often offers a summary of a source that you intend to use for a research project as well as some assessment of the source’s relevance to your project or quality and credibility. There are two key components for each source: the citation and the annotation.

The Annotated Bibliography Samples page [1]  on the Purdue OWL offers examples of general formatting guidelines for both an MLA and an APA Annotated Bibliography.

You will provide the full bibliographic reference for the source: author, title, source title, and other required information depending on the type of source. This will be formatted just as it would be in a typical Works Cited for an MLA paper or a References page for an APA paper.

Tone and Style

Some elements can vary depending on the style you are using (e.g., APA or MLA). Be sure to review your style guide along with your assignment sheet. Generally speaking, use the following as a guide:

  • Use signal phrases to refer to the author(s).
  • Always maintain a neutral tone and use the third-person point of view and correct tense according to style guide (present tense for MLA, past tense for APA) (i.e., Tompkins asserts… ).
  • Keep the focus of the summary on the text, not on what you think of it, and try to put as most of the summary as you can in your own words. If you must use exact phrases from the source that you are summarizing, you must quote and cite them.
  • Annotations should not be a replication of the abstract provided by the source.

What to Include in Annotations

  • After the bibliographical information, begin to discuss the source. Begin with a general summary of the source. Describe the key sections of the text and their corresponding main points. Try to avoid focusing on details; a summary covers the essential points and typically does not include quoted material.
  • Evaluate the source’s credibility or relevance. Is the author an expert on the topic? How do you know? Is the source peer-reviewed or otherwise credible in nature? How do you know? What makes this source a good one to use?
  • Discuss how you plan to integrate the source in your paper. Do you need to point out similarities or differences with other sources in the annotated bibliography? How does it support (or refute) your intended thesis?

Review your Annotated Bibliography assignment sheet for additional content requirements . Instructors often require more than a simple summary of each source, and specific requirements may vary. Any (or all) of these aspects may be required in an annotated bibliography, depending on how or if your instructor has designed this assignment as part of a larger research project.

This section contains material from:

Gagich, Melanie, and Emilie Zickel. “Keeping Track of Your Sources and Writing an Annotated Bibliography.” In A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing . Cleveland: MSL Academic Endeavors. Accessed July 2019. https://pressbooks.ulib.csuohio.edu/csu-fyw-rhetoric/chapter/annotated-bibliography/ . Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License .

OER credited in the text above includes:

Jeffrey, Robin. About Writing: A Guide . Portland, OR: Open Oregon Educational Resources. Accessed December 18, 2020. https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/aboutwriting/ . Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License .

  • "Annotated Bibliography Samples," Purdue Online Writing Lab, accessed December 20, 2021, https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/common_writing_assignments/annotated_bibliographies/annotated_bibliography_samples.html . ↵

A statement, usually one sentence, that summarizes an argument that will later be explained, expanded upon, and developed in a longer essay or research paper. In undergraduate writing, a thesis statement is often found in the introductory paragraph of an essay. The plural of thesis is theses .

7.6 Writing an Annotated Bibliography Copyright © 2022 by Emilie Zickel; Melanie Gagich; and Terri Pantuso is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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  • Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Introduction

What is an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 - 300 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

Annotations vs. Abstracts

Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they may describe the author's point of view, authority, or clarity and appropriateness of expression. They may also comment on the relevance of a source to your particular research. 

Types of annotations

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) breaks annotations into several categories:

  • Summarize : Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say? The length of your annotations will determine how detailed your summary is.
  • Assess : After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. 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 goal of this source?
  • Reflect : Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. 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?

Why write an annotated bibliography?

Writing an annotated bibliography is an excellent way to prepare for a research project. Writing a critical evaluation of each source requires you to read more carefully and thoroughly, and to collect resources more intentionally. Professional annotated bibliographies, which are often published, provide a comprehensive overview of important themes, issues, and arguments on a given topic. These can be useful for understanding the state of a particular field of study, and seeing where your research fits within it.

How to write an annotated bibliography

For each citation in your bibliography, write a short paragraph beneath it, and consider the following questions. The length of your annotation will depend on its purpose. A simple summary may be shorter than an annotation that contains analysis or evaluation:

  • Content -  What is the resource about? Is it relevant to your research?
  • Purpose -  What is it for? Why was this written?
  • Methods used to collect data -  Where did the information come from?
  • Usefulness -  What does it do for your research?
  • Reliability-  Is the information accurate?
  • Authority -  Is it written by an expert or knowledge keeper?
  • Currency -  Is it up-to-date for the topic?
  • Scope/Limitations -  What does it cover? What does the author state s/he will cover? What doesn't the resource provide that could be helpful?
  • Ease of use  - Can a non-specialist use this resource? What reading level is it?

Annotated bibliography examples in APA style:

Formatting an annotated bibliography is the same as formatting an APA reference list. You use the same author-date style and place the elements in the same order. Indent the annotation five spaces. You can find examples at the links below:

  • Purdue OWL examples
  • The Writing Center - UNC at Chapel Hill

This 14:48 minute video walks through the steps of writing and formatting your annotated bibliography, including a discussion of the three types of annotation. You can use the timestamps below to navigate to the various sections.

00:00 Introduction

00:33 What is an annotated bibliography?

1:15 Formatting annotated bibliography

5:35 Researching pro tips

7:28 Three types of annotations

Attribution

Content on this page adapted with permission from  Olin Library Reference, Research & Learning Services Cornell University Library  and  Cornish College of the Arts Library ; and Burkhardt J. M., MacDonald M. C. & Rathemacher A.J. (2010).  Teaching information literacy : 50 standards-based exercises for college students  (2nd ed.). American Library Association.

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1 Annotated Bibliography

Virginia Costello

By the end of this chapter, you will be able to do the following:

  • Understand the rhetorical basis of the annotated bibliography genre
  • Conduct academic research drawing from multiple sources in multiple media
  • Write paragraphs that describe, evaluate, and/or summarize sources
  • Choose discipline-appropriate citation styles and citation managers

I. Introduction

The annotated bibliography comes in various forms and serves a variety of purposes. Thus, authors might include an annotated bibliography at the end of their text to offer further reading. Advanced students might be required to produce an extended annotated bibliography before they begin their dissertation. Professionals, such as those from the Bureau of International Labor Affairs and the U.S. Department of Labor, for example, might create an annotated bibliography to inform other scholars, policy-makers, and the general public :   Addressing Labor Rights in Colombia . Or, more importantly for the purposes of this chapter, students might create an annotated bibliography at the preliminary stage of their research, as it serves as a foundation for a larger project, like a college-level research paper.

Writing an annotated bibliography helps researchers organize their sources and gain perspective on the larger conversation about their topic . It is a list of sources (or a bibliography) divided into two parts: The first part, the citation, contains basic information about the source, such as the author’s name, the title of the work, and the date of publication. The second part contains individual paragraphs that describe, evaluate, or summarize each source.

As you will notice in the examples in this chapter, the number and type of sources (e.g., books, scholarly articles, government websites) required for an annotated bibliography vary, as do the requirements for each paragraph. If your wider goal is to create an annotated bibliography for your dissertation committee, you may need eighty scholarly sources (e.g., peer-reviewed articles, books on theory related to your topic, or recent studies that evaluate data), each followed by an evaluative paragraph. If, however, you are a first-year college student enrolled in an introductory research class, your instructor may require you to find, say, seven specific types of sources: four scholarly articles, two primary sources, and a chapter in a book. Your instructor might ask you to write a simple summary paragraph for each source and then add a sentence about how you plan to use the source in a final research paper.

If you have written a research paper before, then, in all likelihood, you have also created a list of the sources you referenced in the paper. Depending on the style of citation required (e.g., MLA, APA, CMS), that list might have been called Works Cited, R eferences, Endnotes, or, perhaps, Bibliography. Similar to these pages, citations in the annotated bibliography are often listed in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name. Although the order of the information about the source varies depending on which citation style you use, most of the basic information required, such as the author’s name, the title of work, and the date of publication, does not. Unlike those pages that only list sources, in the annotated bibliography, each citation is followed by a paragraph.

Example 1.1: Selection from a student paper in MLA format (8th Edition)

Prison Reform: Annotated Bibliography

Høidal, Are. “Prisoners’ Association as an Alternative to Solitary Confinement—Lessons Learned from a Norwegian High-Security Prison.”  Solitary Confinement. Effects, Practices, and Pathways toward Reform , Eds. Jules Lobel and Peter S. Smith. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2020, pp. 297–309.

In his piece about the effects of solitary confinement, Høidal draws attention to the 17th Section of the Norwegian Penal Code. This section of the code states that all inmates should be allowed to work with others during daytime hours. Norway, the inspiration for many modern-day prison reformations, is globally recognized for taking excellent care of its prisoners, as opposed to other countries, such as the United States. In this chapter, Høidal discusses and evaluates Norway’s idea that prisoners should have access to the community both within and outside the prison system during daytime hours. He mentions that Norway offers educational programs for prisoners because it aligns with what Norway views as the purpose of prisons and Section 17 of the Norwegian Penal Code: to rehabilitate. Inmates are nourished both physically and mentally so that upon their release, they can return as functioning members of society. This nourishment, Høidal concludes, also lessens the likelihood of re-conviction.

Tønseth, Christin, and Ragnhild Bergsland. “Prison Education in Norway – the Importance for Work and Life After Release.” Cogent Education. vol. 6, no. 1, 2019, pp. 1-13, https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2019.1628408

Tønseth and Bergsland delve into the complexity of Norway’s prison education system. Norwegian prisons have introduced a transformative learning theory, one that argues that providing education can promote change in the learner. After enabling inmates to obtain an education, researchers noticed an increase in self-determination, an increase in self-esteem, and several social benefits. Tønseth and Bergsland show that learning, especially in the prison system, is more than merely obtaining knowledge. A new, mentally stimulating environment is associated with learning in prisons, which promotes self-growth, something that is very important to the people running the Norwegian Prison System. Research on the effects of different methods of rehabilitation on inmates is still being conducted; however, according to the authors, there is already a promising trajectory.

In the example above, the student’s paragraphs include each source’s main points, some context, and an occasional evaluative adjective or sentence. Before you begin your assignment, carefully read or reread the assignment prompt from your instructor .  If your assignment calls for descriptive and evaluative paragraphs, that means that you should discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your sources’ arguments. You might also complete basic background information on the author and then discuss the author’s credibility. Some assignments may ask you to discuss the source’s relevance in the larger conversation of that particular discipline and/or to discuss the types of sources the author references.

If your assignment calls for summary paragraphs, you should identify the main points of each source and write those points in your own words, employing transitions to help create a unified paragraph (rather than a list of ideas). Summary paragraphs do not include your own opinion or quotations from the text. Whether you are writing descriptive, evaluative, or summary paragraphs, the main purpose is to provide enough information about the source so that readers can determine if they want to read the original. After reading and annotating your sources and writing your paragraphs, you will have a clearer understanding of the arguments other scholars are making about your topic. This understanding will help you situate or contextualize your own argument in your research paper. (See section VI. Writing Strategies in this chapter for detailed examples.)

Many students think that research is a linear process: choose a topic, research the topic, write the research paper. But it can be more helpful and productive to think of the process in a much less linear and restrictive way. The sources you include in your annotated bibliography, the first stage of your research, may not be the same as those you include in your final paper. In fact, as you narrow your focus, read more sources and allow your ideas to change, you will find yourself eliminating sources that are too broad, too narrow, or tangential to your focus. Your search for new sources should continue throughout the writing process. In other words, as mentioned in the introduction, and as you will see in this and other chapters of this text, the research process is complicated (and interesting) and, at some stages, nearly cyclical: the research you do informs the research you are going to do and re-situates the research you have completed.

“What we think we need to get started: a perfect map of the future. What we actually need: A general direction.”

Practical Guidelines and Considerations

Once you have a general understanding of the purpose and format of the final product, the annotated bibliography, you should thoughtfully choose your topic within the parameters of your assignment; choosing your topic is the beginning of your research.

Here is a simplified list of steps for developing your annotated bibliography, with names of sections in this chapter that provide more detail.

  • Choose a topic and, if your instructor requires it at this stage, develop a research question. (In this section, below)
  • Briefly consider the purpose and style of the assignment ( II. Rhetorical Considerations )
  • Create keywords and plug them into library databases or other search engines. ( IV. Research Strategies )
  • Choose appropriate sources from the database/search engine results. Read and annotate those sources. ( IV. Research Strategies and V. Reading Strategies )
  • Use your annotations on your sources to write evaluative, descriptive, or summary paragraphs. ( VI. Writing Strategies )
  • Choose a citation manager, identify an appropriate citation style, and alphabetize citations and paragraphs. ( III. The Annotated Bibliography Genre Across Disciplines )

Introductory research classes often offer a theme and require students to narrow their focus by choosing a topic within that theme. If your class offers a theme, you might narrow your focus by thinking about the topic through the lens of your major. Thus, for example, if your class has a theme such as prison reform and your major is architecture, you may wonder what architects consider as they build new prisons, or you might compare prison architecture in different countries, like the U.S. and Norway.

North Carolina State University Libraries offers this video, which might help you choose a topic.

Library Referral: Topic Development and Your Personal Angle

(by Annie R. Armstrong)

It might be tempting to ask someone, “What’s a good research topic?” While discussing possible topics with your classmates is a good idea, in the end, you should be the one providing that answer. Your personal investment in a topic can propel you through the thorniness of the research process. If your course has a set theme (e.g., sustainability, stand-up comedy, censorship, prison reform), consider your personal angle: what passions, interests, or causes excite you, and how might they be related to this theme?

Even if you say “cats,” or “video games,” you’ll be able to make a connection to the course theme that intrigues both you and your reader. There are always larger questions you can ask about these interests. For example, if you love cats: are you more broadly concerned with animal welfare? If your passion is video games: to what degree do you think they help or hinder the social lives of teens? Think about how you can “zoom in” or “zoom out,” to focus on both broad and narrow aspects of your topic.

Discuss your topic with a librarian to unearth new ideas and connections, and watch the video One Perfect Source? for an explanation of how to find sources for a topic.

Developing a Research Question

Some instructors may ask you to develop a research question before you begin your annotated bibliography. Others may instruct you to develop it in the proposal stage (see Chapter 3 ). In either case, at some point in the early stages of research, you will need to write a question that guides your research. It should be one that is focused, complex, and genuinely interests you. Writing the research question will help you narrow your focus and create keywords. The more time and thought you put into creating this question now, the easier it will be to complete your research and write the paper later.

Example 1.2 Here are a few student examples of research questions.

  • In what ways might the U.S. look to the Norwegian prison system as a model for prisoner rehabilitation?
  • To what extent can the U.S. incarceration system be reformed to be more cost-effective while at the same time helping prisoners undergo significant rehabilitation?
  • How has the reintroduction of wolves into the Yellowstone region affected the livelihood of cattle ranchers in the region?

Notice that these questions avoid a simple either/or binary (e.g., either we look to Norway for answers or we don’t). Language such as “in what ways” and “to what extent” open up the possibility of a range of answers.

While the answers to these questions will include factual, verifiable evidence (e.g., the kinds of rehabilitation programs the U.S. offers, the number of prisons in the U.S.), the questions themselves do not for ask for simple, factual answers. A factual question does not make a solid research question because it doesn’t present information upon which reasonable people might disagree, and it is easily answered. (Here is an example of a factual question, not a research question: How much does it cost to maintain the U.S. prison system? The question asks for a number, not a thoughtful argument.)

One way to begin writing the research question is with a timed writing exercise like the one below.

Write or type your topic at the top of a piece of paper or document. Set a timer for exactly six minutes. Once the timer begins, allow yourself to write every question that comes to mind about your topic, even if it might seem somewhat off-topic, mundane or simplistic. In other words, don’t censor yourself, and don’t worry about spelling or typos.   When you think about your topic, what aspect of it makes you curious? You might start with  how  or  why questions. Turn whatever comes into your head into a question. Continue writing for the entire time, even when your mind wanders and gives you a sentence like, “I don’t know what to write.” Turn it into a question: “I don’t know what to write?” Doing so keeps your mind moving and your handwriting. More importantly, it often helps you move on to a new idea.

When the time is up, read and categorize your questions. First, underline the factual questions. You may want to find the answers to those questions, but they are not research questions. Second, strike through the mind-wandering questions. Examine what you have left. Any question strike you? Can you develop a research question by combining the simple questions and adding, “to what extent,” or, “in what ways”? Remember that this is a draft research question and that you may revise it as you find more information about your topic. 

In general, your research question should guide your exploration of your topic rather than lead you to a preconceived answer or a belief you already hold. For example, if your topic is prison reform and you think private prisons are morally or ethically problematic, consider sources that take a variety of positions, not simply ones that point to what you already believe. Leave your mind open to finding sources that explain the complexities of the prison system, including reasons that states have relied on private prisons (such as relieving overcrowding issues). In other words, don’t avoid sources that seem to contradict or complicate your current position. When you read arguments that you find problematic and consider evidence that might not support your original ideas, you develop a wider understanding of your topic. Grappling with arguments that challenge your own ideas expands your ability to understand, address, and perhaps refute points and shows that you understand the larger conversation about your topic.

In short, let the research inform your position.

Note that this doesn’t mean you should suddenly change your position. It does mean that just as you do in a reasonable conversation, you should consider views and values other than your own. Then you reevaluate, modify, and/or fortify your original position.

More Resources 1.1: Research Questions

Here’s a link with more tips about How to Write a Research Question .

II. Rhetorical Considerations: Purpose and Style

Whether you are writing an annotated bibliography for a biology or anthropology class, a grant application, or a section at the end of a book, you will want to consider the purpose and style of your work.  If you are writing your annotated bibliography for a class, identify the parameters of the assignment and consider a few questions:

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • How many and what kind of sources do you need? (e.g., scholarly articles, books, government websites)
  • What citation style will you use? (e.g., AMA, APA, CMS, MLA)
  • What types of paragraphs should you write? (e.g., evaluative, descriptive, summary, or some combination)

In answering the last question, remember that some instructors will ask you to simply summarize each source. Others may want a summary and a sentence about how you will use each source, or a sentence that explains how each source will help you answer your research question. Still other instructors will ask for descriptive or evaluative information about your sources. You can find examples and further discussion of these types of paragraphs in the VI. Writing Strategies section of this chapter.

III. The Annotated Bibliography Genre Across Disciplines

Briefly examine the following annotated bibliographies written by academics and other professionals. These examples will provide you with a greater understanding of how your work in the classroom translates to the work in the profession. The first example, written by Professor Sue C. Patrick and published on the American Historical Association website, centers on primary sources and is part of a larger project: Annotated Bibliography of Primary Sources | AHA .

Primary sources, which will be discussed in greater detail in the IV. Research Strategies section of this chapter, are those from a first-person perspective or a direct piece of evidence (e.g., constitutions, eyewitness accounts, diaries, letters, raw data). After each citation, Patrick provides an explanation of how she used the source as a part of a writing project for her students. If you navigate to the contents page of Patrick’s original project, you will see that this annotated bibliography is one small part of her project. The larger project offers a wide range of information for history instructors: Teaching Difficult Legal or Political Concepts: Using Online Primary Sources in Writing Assignments | AHA .

The second example, Parental Incarceration and Child Wellbeing: An Annotated Bibliography , focuses on quantitative research, which means that it centers around secondary sources. The author, Christopher Wildeman, professor of Policy Analysis and Management (and Sociology) at Cornell University, categorizes and summarizes studies that address the effects of paternal and maternal incarceration on children. In his summary paragraphs, Wildeman includes the data and final results of each study. Notice that he does not evaluate the information. Notice, too, that rather than listing all sources in alphabetical order, as students are generally required to do for their annotated bibliography, this author divides his annotated bibliography into sections, and each of those sections are in alphabetical order.

Example 1.3: Academic and Professional Examples

In order to provide context and to help you make connections between the work you complete in your classes and the work professionals do, examine a few more annotated bibliographies i n this  Box Folder . You will notice these annotated bibliographies include a wide range of citation styles, sources, and summary, description, or evaluation paragraphs.

These examples are meant to show you how this genre looks in other disciplines and professions. Make sure to follow the requirements for your own class, or seek out specific examples from your instructor in order to address the needs of your own assignment. 

Citation Styles

You may have noticed that in the annotated bibliographies linked above, the authors organized their source citations differently. The following video offers an introduction to citation styles.

Academic disciplines use different conventions for the style, placement, and format of their citations. You will find a few examples in the purple box below. It’s a good idea to become familiar with the citation style that professionals in your discipline use. For example, if you are premed, you may want to read the American Medical Association or AMA style guidelines. (Note that in-text citations which appear in the text of a research paper itself—rather than as a list—will be covered in Chapter 4 .)

Example 1.4: Examine the following examples of two sources cited in four different styles. What do you notice about the similarities and difference between these styles? What does your comparison tell you about the priorities of those who developed these styles?

AMA (American Medical Association)

Black B. The character of the self in ancient India : Priests, kings, and women in the early Upanisads. Ithaca: State University of New York Press; 2007. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uic/detail.action?docID=3407543.

Costello JF & Fisher SJ. The Placenta – Fast, Loose, and in Control. N Engl J Med . 2021; 385(1):87-89. doi:10.1056/NEJMcibr2106321

APA (American Psychological Association)

Black, B. (2007). The character of the self in ancient India : Priests, kings, and women in the early Upanisads . Ithaca: State University of New York Press. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uic/detail.action?docID=3407543

Costello, J. F., & Fisher, S. J. (2021). The placenta — fast, loose, and in control. The New England Journal of Medicine, 385 (1), 87-89. doi:10.1056/NEJMcibr2106321

CMS (Chicago Manual of Style)

Black, Brian. 2007. The Character of the Self in Ancient India : Priests, Kings, and Women in the Early Upanisads . Ithaca: State University of New York Press. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uic/detail.action?docID=3407543.

Costello, Joseph F., and Susan J. Fisher. 2021. “The Placenta — Fast, Loose, and in Control.” The New England Journal of Medicine 385 (1): 87-89. doi:10.1056/NEJMcibr2106321

MLA (Modern Language Association)

Black, Brian. The Character of the Self in Ancient India : Priests, Kings, and Women in the Early Upanisads. State University of New York Press, Ithaca, 2007, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uic/detail.action?docID=3407543.

Costello, Joseph F., and Susan J. Fisher. “The Placenta — Fast, Loose, and in Control.” The New England Journal of Medicine , vol. 385, no. 1, 2021, pp. 87-89, doi:10.1056/NEJMcibr2106321.

Behind each style of citation is a logic that is connected to the discipline. Professional groups from each discipline create these styles that reflect the values of that discipline.

AMA , for example, emphasizes collaboration among researchers, and so articles are often discussed with and written by more than one scholar. The titles of the journals are abbreviated, as readers are expected to know those names. Here are general guidelines for AMA General Style.

APA style citation begins with the author’s last name and first initial, followed by the year of publication in parenthesis. APA professionals are social scientists, and thus emphasize the date of publication because it is more important when something is published than, say, where it was published. When readers skim a list of citations in APA style, they can quickly see how the focus of the research has changed over the years. Here are general guidelines for APA General Format .

CMS incorporates two systems. Purdue OWL describes these as “the Notes-Bibliography System (NB), which is used by those working in literature, history, and the arts. The other documentation style, the Author-Date System, is nearly identical in content but slightly different in form and is preferred by those working in the social sciences.” Here are general guidelines for CMS General Format .

MLA is more often used in the humanities; it emphasizes the full name of the author and thus the creativity or individuality of the writer. The date of publication appears toward the end of the citation. Here are general guidelines for MLA Format and Style .

Although we are only addressing styles of citations for the purpose of creating an annotated bibliography, these styles also require a specific document format. So, for example, if you are writing a research paper in APA style, you may use section headings, place page numbers in the upper righthand corner of every page, and title your citations page “References.” MLA style requires a header with your last name, a space and the page number on every page (except the first), and the citation page is called “Works Cited.”

Citation Management Tools

Citation management tools help keep your research organized and create individual citations as well as bibliographies in the proper style for your discipline. Your library may offer programs such as RefWorks or EndNote or provide links to open-source programs such as Zotero . If you want help deciding which tool is best for your project, click here: How to Choose a Citation Manager.

These tools are useful, but you will still want to understand the basic conventions of the citation style that you are using so that you can spot errors. Proofread carefully. Stick to one style of citation and do your best not to confuse it with another style—something that is easy to do if, for example, you are reading articles that use APA style, but you are writing in MLA style. Note also that the styles change with each new handbook edition. So for example, the most recent MLA Handbook (9 th edition) was updated in 2021. Fortunately, Zotero and other citation mangers will offer you an option of not only style, but also edition (e.g., MLA 8 th or 9 th edition).

IV. Research Strategies: Finding, Identifying, and Using Sources

Before you begin your library research, list at least seven keywords or phrases. These are words that describe your topic. Your list might begin with the most basic nouns (e.g., prison, mental health) and then become more personalized and specific (e.g., mass incarceration, schizophrenia). If you have written a research question, identify the keywords in that question. List the nouns and verbs and then find synonyms.

More Resources 1.2: Search Strategies

The following video offers suggestions on how to use keywords in your research question to create more keywords: Savvy Search Strategy

Here’s another short video on searching databases using Boolean logic: How Should I Search in a Database?

Types of Sources

Your instructor might require you to find sources from general categories, like primary or secondary sources. Alternatively, she might outline something more specific, such as peer-reviewed articles, ebooks, interviews, or book reviews. A few categories worth recognizing at the onset of your research include primary vs. secondary sources, popular vs. scholarly sources, and peer-reviewed journals and articles. Whatever your requirements, you should be choosy about your sources; do not simply settle for the first ones you find. Skim or read the sources before you count on them to help you develop your argument. Don’t be afraid to reject a few. Research is a process, and not every search will yield good results. Furthermore, if you simply accept all the sources you find on your first keyword search, you may have problems tying things together later.

Primary sources are those that offer firsthand accounts, like witness statements from an accident or crime, diaries, personal letters, interviews, photographs like the one of Ida B. Wells-Barnett and her son Charles, or flyers like the one that lists lectures Emma Goldman gave in Portland in 1915 (see Figure 1.2 and Figure 1.3 below).

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, with her son Charles Aked Barnett, circa 1917-1919.

A secondary source analyzes a primary source or other secondary sources. The image of the campaign card in Figure 1.4 is a primary source, but when a scholar writes and publishes an analysis of this source and refers to other sources that, say, describe the Republican Party principles as outlined in 1928 and why Wells-Barnett wanted to be a part of the party, then that analysis (the scholar’s work) becomes a secondary source.

Campaign card of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, activist, journalist, teacher, and anti-lynching crusader. Support for her candidacy is requested as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, June 1928. Credit: University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf1-08621, Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

When you are trying to determine if a source is primary or secondary, pay attention to the author’s language. For example, examine Jessica Dillard-Wright’s abstract below .

Screenshot of a scholarly journal abstract

Here’s the text for the entire abstract:

In the middle of the paragraph, she states, “I draw on anarchist, abolitionist, posthuman, Black feminist, new materialist and other big ideas to plant seeds of generative insurrection and creative resistance.” In this sentence, the writer points out how she builds her argument and analysis on the work of others, meaning that it is a secondary source. Another clear indication that this is a secondary source lies in the bibliography. Here’s a selection from the first page of Dillard-Wright’s citations.

Ashley, J. A. (1980). Power in structured misogyny: Implications for the politics of care. Advances in Nursing Science , 2(3), 2–22.

Benjamin, R. (2018). Black afterlives matter: Cultivating kinfulness as reproductive justice. In A. Clarke, &amp; D. Haraway (Eds.), Making kin not population (pp. 41–66). Prickly Paradigm Press.

Benjamin, R. (2020). Black skin, white masks: Racism, vulnerability, and refuting blackpathology. Department of African American Studies. https://aas.princeton.edu/news/black-skin-white-masks-racism-vulnerability-refuting-black-pathology

Braidotti, R. (2020). “We” are in this together, but we are not one and the same. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry , 17(4), 465–469. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11673-020-10017-8

Butler, J. (2002). Is kinship always already heterosexual? Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studie s, 13(1), 14–44.

Chinn, P. (2020, May 21). Nursing in the Anthropocene. Advances in Nursing Science Blo g. https://ansjournalblog.com/2020/05/21/nursing-in-the-anthropocene

Choy, C. (2003). Empire of care: Nursing and migration in Filipino American history . Duke University Press.

Connolly, C. A. (2010). “I am a trained nurse”: The nursing identity of anarchist and radical Emma Goldman. Nursing History Revie w, 18, 84–99.

Davis, A. Y. (2020, October 6). Why arguments against abolition inevitably fail. Medium . https://level.medium.com/why-arguments-against-abolition-inevitably-fail-991342b8d042

Although the difference between primary and secondary sources may seem obvious now, consider this complication. On one hand, a recent article from a newspaper may be considered a secondary source, as the reporter might have talked to witnesses or other people involved. On the other hand, a newspaper article from 1920 might be considered a primary source because it provides a historical perspective.

Popular vs. Scholarly Sources

A scholarly source employs technical or discipline-specific language, is written for a narrow audience (specific scholars), and always includes a bibliography or list of sources. A popular source is one that employs more accessible language, appeals to a wider audience, and often includes photos or images.

Most instructors will require you to use library databases to find sources, but may allow you to use search engines such as Google or Google Scholar later in the course, when you have a clearer understanding of the wider conversation around your topic and how you might use these sources. Academics (and the greater educated world) consider sources found in the library databases or through the library search box as reliable and credible. They also recognize that rather than a simple line between reliable and unreliable sources, there is a spectrum, which simply means that some sources are more credible than others.

For example, some academics consider peer-reviewed journals such as The Prison Journal more credible than popular sources such as Psychology Today , both of which are available through many academic library databases. Articles published in The Prison Journal undergo a rigorous peer review process, which means that a variety of experts in the field read and comment on a draft of the article. Often, the writer has to revise and resubmit the draft before the editor approves it and the final article is published. Articles published in Psychology Today are written by authorities on a particular subject but do not go through a peer-review process. Generally, editors are the only ones that read submissions to determine if they are worthy of publication. Although the process of publication is different, both types of articles offer valuable and useful research.

In general, we accept that sources found through library search engines and databases are reliable; they are worthy of thoughtful consideration and analysis. There are many sources found outside the library that are reliable, too, but determining the reliability of the source becomes more of a challenge. Here are questions to consider when evaluating the reliability of a source:

  • What’s the writer’s purpose in creating the source? Is the source meant to entertain, provide news, or both? Is it meant to educate, persuade, scandalize, or sell a product or service, or does it have a different purpose altogether?
  • Is the source built on credible sources? (Check the credibility of the sources in the bibliography.)
  • Is the author an authority on the subject? Does the author refer to other authorities? (Check the author’s background and experience.)
  • Does the source provide verifiable evidence and facts to support claims?

More Resources 1.3: Questions for Analyzing Sources

Library Referral: Searching is Experimental

Think of searching library databases and catalogs as an experiment rather than a linear process. It may get messy and lead you in unexpected directions. The databases can’t interpret natural language, so you’ll need to boil your topic down to a few keywords. See the Choosing Keywords video for a full illustration of this process.

Your first search won’t be your last! Experiment with different keywords and gather more sources than you think you’ll actually need. Once you start reading and learning more about your topic, you may discover that some of your sources are only tangentially connected to the direction in which you want to take your topic.

The focus of your research changes as you become more knowledgeable about the topic.

Searching a variety of research databases and catalogs will open the door to a broader range of viewpoints from different academic disciplines and publication types (think books, book chapters, scholarly/peer-reviewed journals, newspapers, and popular/mainstream magazines).

Library Databases

Once you know what kind of sources you need for your assignment (e.g., primary or secondary, popular or scholarly) and you have a list of keywords, examine library databases. Libraries buy subscriptions to two basic types of databases: general or multidisciplinary (e.g., JSTOR, Academic Search Complete, ProQuest) and subject-specific (e.g., Psycinfo, AccessAnesthesiology, Embase, Excerpta Medica). Unlike Web-based searches, library databases offer quality controls. Articles have been reviewed by professional editors and fact-checked before they are published in academic journals. Database companies, like JSTOR, buy subscriptions to these journals, organize, and categorize them.

For introductory research courses, you will want to start with the general and multidisciplinary databases. Plug your keywords into the database search box. Skim the titles for appropriate sources. As you progress and find more information on your topic, you may want to use the subject-specific databases.

As you are researching your topic, pay attention to the types of sources you find. If your source is from the New York Times, for example, is it a news story or an opinion piece? If it’s a video, is it a documentary or a TED Talk? What difference does the type of source make? The answer to this question depends, in part, on how you will use the source. Will you use a source as background information or evidence to support your argument? Will you use the source to present a claim that opposes your argument and then refute that claim by providing factual or authoritative evidence? You may not know how you will use a source when you first find it, but it’s worth thinking about the different ways a source can be put to use. See Chapter 4 for more about how to use sources once you start writing your research essay.

Finding More Keywords

After you type the keywords in library search boxes or databases, you may need to narrow or expand your search, depending on your results. If your topic is prison reform, for example, you will need to choose an angle. Start by asking questions about your topic, and think about choosing a lens through which to view your topic. Even if it seems obvious, start with the basics: What do you know about your topic? Can you use something you already know about or have an intense interest in as a lens through which to view your topic?

For example, if architecture students are interested in this topic, they might ask questions about what the architecture of U.S. prisons tells us about how we understand punishment and rehabilitation. When you find a scholarly article worth reading, examine the list of words under the headings Keywords, Subject, or Author’s Key Terms and look for more words to add to your own list.

Abstract page of a scholarly journal article highlighting the Keywords section, including the keyword phrase "carceral geography"

In the example above, the list of keywords appears below the abstract: “ethical prison architecture, prison design, carceral geography, environmental psychology, prisoner wellbeing, prison climate.” While architecture students may have searched databases with keywords like “prison architecture” or “prison design,” they may not have thought of “carceral geography,” a phrase worthy of another database search.

Beyond the Library: Sources on the Web

Thus far, we focused on finding sources through academic or public library databases. For a wider search that includes reliable sources which may not be available through the library, such as an organization’s website (e.g., The Marshall Project which collects articles published about the prison system), use common search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing. These search engines use algorithms based on popularity, previous searches, commercial investment, location, and relevance, rather than on keywords and combinations of keywords, like library databases. This means that you will want to approach these sources with a healthy dose of skepticism: Double-check facts (see links to fact checkers in the last part of this section) and ask questions about the people, organizations, corporations, or businesses behind the sources you find using common search engines.

Generally, .com or commercial sites do not consistently offer information suitable in length, breadth, or reliability to be referenced in a research paper. The major exception to this rule is reliable newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The  Guardian . Reliable news outlets may report on a groundbreaking discovery from NASA and will explain that discovery in terms a non-expert will understand, but they will also provide a link to the study so that an expert (or a researcher like you) can examine the original.

If you want to save yourself the frustration of sifting through many .com sites, try searching domains that end in .edu. In the Google search box, type Site:edu and then add a keyword or phrase, like “prison reform.” Thus, you would write, Site:edu prison reform . You can also use this formula for sites ending in .gov or .org. These three domains tend to offer more credible information than .com, but, again, you should critically analyze the websites rather than simply accepting the information as accurate. Evaluate the source by asking questions like those listed in the previous section.

If you want to go in a different direction, search for websites that professionals in your discipline use and search the bibliographies posted there. For example, professionals in the life sciences use bioRxiv , a free online archive and distribution service for unpublished manuscripts. It’s a place where professionals deposit their papers for comments before they submit them to journals for publication.

Social Media

While you would not want to use information on social media to support an argument you are making in an academic research paper, the effect and use of these outlets might be worthy of note. Thus, for example, you might ask about the patterns of use of social media like Twitter. Tweets offer fragments of ideas, and they are not particularly useful when you are writing a research paper, but if social scientists collect these primary sources, they might notice patterns that tell us something about politics and culture. More generally, they might study tweets and their influence on how and what people think. The Pew Research Center ( https://www.pewresearch.org) , a nonpartisan, non-advocacy group, collects and analyzes tweets.

Checking for Accuracy: Here’s the Principle

That Beyoncé tweeted something in particular is easily certifiable by finding the tweet in which she made the claim. However, consider a separate question: Is what Beyoncé said true? This is the more difficult question to answer, as you need to find verifiable evidence. You will need to look for evidence that is an authoritative confirmation of a claim. Authoritative confirmation means that someone, or better yet several someones, in authority on the subject support the claim and perhaps offer data, statistics, or facts.

Beyoncé may have millions of followers, and thus what she tweets influences what her followers think, but does that make what she says accurate or factual? No, of course not. She may be an expert in making music, but she is not an expert in all things. She clearly influences people, and that is worthy of note if your research question asks something about how social media influencers gain popularity.

If you come across information that you are not sure is accurate, whether you found it in a scholarly source or on a website, use a reliable fact checker, like the ones listed below, and find out what the experts say.

  • Center for Disease Control
  • Fact Checker – The Washington Post
  • Reuters Fact Check
  • FactCheck.org

More Resources 1.4: Assessing Sources

V. Reading Strategies: Skim, Annotate, Summarize, and Evaluate

When you find a source that looks interesting, skim, don’t read it (yet). Because we are wary of the message it sends to students, some instructors hesitate to admit that skimming is a valid reading and research tool. Skimming allows you to search through many resources in a short amount of time and is a generally acceptable method of determining whether a source is appropriate for your project.

When you are searching for sources on the library databases, skim article abstracts, as they offer a short summary of the argument in the paper. Also skim introductions, headings, conclusions, and citation pages. Skimming is not, of course, a substitute for thoughtfully reading your sources before you begin writing your final paper. Here’s a helpful video on how to read a scholarly article:

More Resources 1.5: Reading Scholarly Articles

Notice that the scholars interviewed in “How to Read a Scholarly Article” all start by skimming the abstract and then, if the source seems appealing and appropriate, they read the abstract but also still skim (or skip altogether) other sections of the article.

Some instructors will expect you to have read and annotated all of your sources before you draft your annotated bibliography assignment. Annotating, in this context, means marking up the text by underlining or paraphrasing important points, commenting on claims the author makes, or asking questions of the text. The word “annotated” that modifies the word “bibliography” refers to the paragraphs that are written based on the comments or annotations you made on each source.

Examine the annotations below. You may want to use the standard pen-and-paper method and write on the text itself (Figure 1.7), or you may want to use programs or apps such as Adobe, Diigo, or Notability to annotate a text electronically (Figure 1.8). ​​

A sample annotated text. A few written paragraphs are marked up by a reader who underlines key words and phrases, then writes observations and questions about the text in the margins, such as "How do governments rest on violence?" and "So is poverty the greatest evil?"

Annotating Video and Visual Sources

Traditionally, students annotate documentaries by simply taking notes with pen and paper. They keep track of important points and the times when those points occur. So, for example, in the video   Anatomy of a Scholarly Article | NC State University Libraries mentioned in the previous section, you might pause the video and note the time that the important point occurs. For example, at 1:32 (one minute and thirty-two seconds from the beginning of the video), the speaker defines an abstract of article, so your notes might look like this:

1:32: An abstract is a summary of the article, usually under 150 words

More recent and sophisticated ways of annotating videos include downloading software programs that allow you to take notes directly on a video—a TED Talk video posted on YouTube, for example. Some programs allow you to use a split screen to watch the video, take notes on a document, and link those notes to specific parts of the video. Others, like YiNote and Transnote, allow you to take time-stamped notes while watching videos.

VI. Writing Strategies: Turning Annotations into an Annotated Bibliography

The annotations you have written on your sources become the fodder for the descriptive, evaluative, or summative paragraphs you need to write after each citation in your annotated bibliography.

Let’s look at a few specific examples and explore the style and tone of each. The descriptive and evaluative (also called “annotated”) are probably the most common, so we will start here. This paragraph might provide some background information on the author, place the author’s argument in the context of the field or discipline, and evaluate the claims and evidence provided in the source.

Example 1.5: Here’s an annotated example with an MLA style citation from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign library guide .

The first sentence in italics and yellow highlight summarize s the argument . The bolded and blue highlighted phrases offer an evaluation , and the underlined and orange highlighted phrase identifies the larger conversation in that discipline.

Gilbert, Pam. “From Voice to Text: Reconsidering Writing and Reading in the English Classroom.” English Education , vol. 23, no. 4, 1991, pp. 195-211.

Gilbert provides some insight into the concept of “voice” in textual interpretation, and points to a need to move away from the search for voice in reading . Her reasons stem from a growing danger of “social and critical illiteracy,” which might be better dealt with through a move toward different textual understandings . Gilbert suggests that theories of language as a social practice can be more useful in teaching. Her ideas seem to disagree with those who believe in a dominant voice in writing , but she presents an interesting perspective .

Example 1.6: Here’s an example of an APA style (7th edition, 2019) citation and a slightly different evaluative paragraph from the Cornell Libraries .

The first sentence offers a little background information on the authors. The bulk of the paragraph is italicized and highlighted yellow to show where it summarizes the authors’ hypothesis and the results of their findings . The last line in this paragraph is underlined and highlighted orange to show where it makes a comparison to another study. This sentence shows that the writer is aware of the larger conversation happening in this discipline. Other paragraphs might focus more on the author’s credentials (degree, employment, experience), author’s reliability, and main points of the source.

Waite, L., Goldschneider, F., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review , 51, 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

Example 1.7: For comparison, here’s the same citation in MLA style, 8th edition.

Waite, Linda J., et al. “Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults.” American Sociological Review , vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 541-554.

Example 1.8: Finally, here’s an example of a paragraph that primarily summarizes and then indicates how the student plans to use the source in the final paper.

The first sentence is underlined and highlighted orange to show the conversation and what the author is arguing against . The middle sentences are italicized and highlighted yellow to show where the author summarizes the main points of the chapter , and the final sentence is bolded and highlighted blue to show how the student will use this source in the final paper.

Thorp, Thomas. “Thinking Wolves.” The Philosophy of the Midwest . Eds. Josh Hayes, Gerard Kuperus, and Brian Treanor. Routledge, 2020. pp. 71-89.

Thorp claims that philosophers and scientists, motivated by a desire to increase our care and respect for non-human animals, have begun to question all of the traditional distinctions between humans and other animals. Beginning with a political analysis of the attitudes of western ranchers toward the return of wolves to the Yellowstone region, Thorp argues that our human reasoning is importantly and essentially different from animal cognition, for example, what wolves do when they hunt. He concludes that only humans have the capacity to be truly responsible for our choices, including our choices about how to care for the natural world. This source offers a foundation on which I will build my argument about the cognitive differences between animals and humans.

Example 1.9: More Samples

Whatever your discipline or particular assignment, remember that the best annotated bibliographies build their own credibility by referring to the credibility of their sources.

Key Takeaways

  • Before you dive into the research, identify the parameters of your assignment and examine a model or example.
  • Use the lens of your interests or academic discipline to choose a relevant topic.
  • Create keywords and plug them into library databases or other search engines.
  • Sift through the results and allocate time to read (or skim) and annotate sources.
  • Use your annotations to write paragraphs that evaluate, describe, or summarize each source.
  • Choose a citation manager and identify an appropriate citation style.
  • Alphabetize and/or categorize citations and paragraphs.

Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition . Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition – Purdue OWL® – Purdue University. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/chicago_manual_of_style_17th_edition.html?edu_mode=on

Dillard-Wright, J. (2021). A radical imagination for nursing: Generative insurrection, creative resistance.   Nursing Philosophy ,  23 , e12371.  https://doi-org.proxy.cc.uic.edu/10.1111/nup.12371

Davis, B. W. (2021). Zen pathways : An introduction to the philosophy and practice of Zen Buddhism. Oxford University Press, Incorporated.

“Emma Goldman Lectures in Portland, Oregon, August 1, 1915.” Jewish Women’s Archive. https://jwa.org/media/handbill-advertising-group-of-lectures-by-goldman-in-portland-oregon

Fosslien, Liz. (2022). What We Think . https://www.fosslien.com/

Mueller, S. (2005). “Documentation styles and discipline-specific values,” The Writing Lab Newsletter. Vol. 29, No. 6, pp. 6-9.

Patrick, S. C. “Annotated Bibliography of Primary Sources. Teaching Difficult Legal or Political Concepts: Using Online Primary Sources in Writing Assignments.” American Historical Association. https://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/teaching-resources-for-historians/teaching-and-learning-in-the-digital-age/the-history-of-the-americas/teaching-difficult-legal-or-political-concepts/annotated-bibliography-of-primary-sources

Wells, I. B.  Campaign card of anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1928. Credit: University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf1-08621, Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

Writing for Inquiry and Research Copyright © 2023 by Virginia Costello is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Information Literacy Research Skill Building: What is an Annotation?

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What is an Annotation?

  • Most of us are probably more familiar with seeing or writing “summaries” or “abstracts” of articles or information we find. Summaries or abstracts basically rehash the content of the material. Writing annotations, however, require a different approach. Annotations, on the other hand, look at the material a little more objectively. When writing an annotation, you should consider who wrote it and why. Consult the Elements of an Annotation below for more detail.

Elements of an Annotation

  • Identification and qualifications of the author: Did a journalist, scientist, politician, professor, or a lay person write the material? What do you know about the person?
  • Major thesis, theories and ideas: What is the basic idea the author is trying to convey? What is the message?
  • Audience and level of reading difficulty: For whom is the article written? Does the author use simple language? Scientific language? A particular jargon or specialized terms?
  • Bias or standpoint of the author in relation to his theme: Does the author have a particular axe to grind, point to make, or something to sell (even if it is an idea)? What does the author have to gain or lose?
  • Relationship of the work to other works in the field: Compared to other things you have read about the topic, what does this particular source add to your knowledge? Why is it worthy of inclusion into your project? What purpose does it serve? (This means you have to have already read a number of other materials on the topic before you can accurately annotate something.)
  • Conclusions, findings, results : What is your basic assessment of the article based on everything else you know?
  • Special features. If the work is long enough (a book or extensive article) you may want to briefly explain how it is organized. If there are indexes, statistical tables, pictures, or a bibliography, your reader will want to know.
  • Annotations are short - not over 150 words. Because annotations are usually just a paragraph long, they need to be very succinct and to the point. You shouldn’t feel like you need to add “filler” information, especially if you cover all the annotation elements listed above. Annotations are also written in 3rd person.

Article Annotation Activity

  • After you read the annotation, see if you can identify which annotation elements correspond with the bold text you see in the text of the annotation.
  • Remember, there is no one correct to annotate an article, as long as most of the seven elements outlined above are addressed. When you evaluate an information source, pick out and make judgments about what you think is important based on how the item relates to your research.

Article Annotation

  • Annotation of “Tells of Vaccine to Stop Influenza.” New York Times. October 2, 1918. ProQuest Historical News York Times (1851-2003). Pg. 10: This primary source article was written at the time of the 1918 flu outbreak by a New York Times journalist. It is a basic, unbiased report of information the author received from the U.S. Army. As a NYT’s article, it was written for the public at a basic reading level , and accounts for the development of immunization against the Spanish Flu . This would have been spectacular news at this point in time. The article, it turns out, was not accurate , as no immunization against the flu was ever found. In the second paragraph, there is evidence that Army doctors reporting this information have an interest in consoling the American public from “undue alarm.” This comment by Dr. Copeland, Health Commissioner of New York City, supports the idea that there was great concern in keeping the public confident that the matter was under control – even when the worst of the pandemic was hitting America. ACTIVITY: Look at the text in bold in the annotation above. Try to match each phrase in bold font with one of the seven annotation elements listed on the front of this handout. There may be more than one answer for each phrase you see in bold.

Original Article

1918 New York Times article about influenza vaccine

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Reading and Study Strategies

What is annotating and why do it, annotation explained, steps to annotating a source, annotating strategies.

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What is Annotating?

Annotating is any action that deliberately interacts with a text to enhance the reader's understanding of, recall of, and reaction to the text. Sometimes called "close reading," annotating usually involves highlighting or underlining key pieces of text and making notes in the margins of the text. This page will introduce you to several effective strategies for annotating a text that will help you get the most out of your reading.

Why Annotate?

By annotating a text, you will ensure that you understand what is happening in a text after you've read it. As you annotate, you should note the author's main points, shifts in the message or perspective of the text, key areas of focus, and your own thoughts as you read. However, annotating isn't just for people who feel challenged when reading academic texts. Even if you regularly understand and remember what you read, annotating will help you summarize a text, highlight important pieces of information, and ultimately prepare yourself for discussion and writing prompts that your instructor may give you. Annotating means you are doing the hard work while you read, allowing you to reference your previous work and have a clear jumping-off point for future work.

1. Survey : This is your first time through the reading

You can annotate by hand or by using document software. You can also annotate on post-its if you have a text you do not want to mark up. As you annotate, use these strategies to make the most of your efforts:

  • Include a key or legend on your paper that indicates what each marking is for, and use a different marking for each type of information. Example: Underline for key points, highlight for vocabulary, and circle for transition points.
  • If you use highlighters, consider using different colors for different types of reactions to the text. Example: Yellow for definitions, orange for questions, and blue for disagreement/confusion.
  • Dedicate different tasks to each margin: Use one margin to make an outline of the text (thesis statement, description, definition #1, counter argument, etc.) and summarize main ideas, and use the other margin to note your thoughts, questions, and reactions to the text.

Lastly, as you annotate, make sure you are including descriptions of the text as well as your own reactions to the text. This will allow you to skim your notations at a later date to locate key information and quotations, and to recall your thought processes more easily and quickly.

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annotation writing research

Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Learn how to write and format an annotated bibliography in APA Style (7th ed.).

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. https://doi.org/10.9999/1.111111

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. https://jedivcs.sourceforge.net

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. https://doi.org/10.9999/2.222222

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.

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Writing, Research, & Editing

by Ronda Bowen

annotation writing research

How to Create an Annotated Outline

annotation writing research

Creating an annotated outline is an important step for major writing and research projects. It helps to make your writing complete by showing you how the different parts relate to one another.

Annotations can give extra info, summarize sources, evaluate the accuracy of sources, and provide evidence and examples. It also helps you to ensure that your paper’s structure makes sense. Annotating the outline can make sure all the needed info is there and save time when it comes to writing the final paper.

Like many documents, the annotated outline is a living document. That means you won’t just create it once. Instead, be prepared to revise it and move things around as your research deepens and you gain a better understanding of the topic at hand.

Before You Start: Conduct Preliminary Research

Write the annotated outline only after you have conducted preliminary research.  If you begin writing it before you have compiled any research , you will not know enough about your topic or the direction of your paper to properly outline it.

Skipping over this important step can cost you a lot of time when working on your project. You may find once you start researching that the paper you thought you were going to write isn’t feasible. You may discover your assumptions or hypothesis was wrong. It’s even possible you’ll need to reframe your research question.

First: Create a Clear and Concise Thesis Statement

Once you’ve gathered enough research to have a general idea of the direction your project will take, it’s time to create your thesis statement. In order for your annotated outline to be effective, your thesis statement needs to be clear and concise.

This sentence should clearly state what you will be arguing or demonstrating in the paper. You will type this at the top of your outline. Be aware, as you research and work through your questions, your thesis statement may change a little. That is just fine. Just be sure that as you move forward, you are working with the most recent version of your document.

Second: Begin to Create Your Annotated Outline

Example of an annotated outline

Next, you will outline your paper. Instead of simply writing keywords as you would in a standard outline, you will write out a detailed description of the paper’s content. You’ll include what you intend to write or argue in a particular paragraph, list out all major arguments and sub-arguments, and include annotations.

An annotation is a brief comment that gives extra information or background about the point in the outline. This can include summarizing a source, judging the accuracy and reliability of the source, and explaining how the source supports your argument. Annotations can also be used to give extra evidence or examples to back up the point.

Make sure you cite your research next to any arguments or supporting details so it’s easy for you to recall which quotes and data you wanted to use in a section when you go to write your paper.

Additionally, as you are outlining your paper, it is important to be mindful of the overall structure and flow of the paper and ensure that each section logically follows the previous one. By taking the time to create a detailed outline, you will have a better understanding of the paper’s content, which will help guide your writing process.

It may also be beneficial to outline what will be used as a transition between each section of the paper, helping to make your argument more cohesive and persuasive.

Third: Check Your Annotated Outline for Consistency and Gaps

Once you have a working outline, it’s time to go back and double-check it for consistency and gaps. Make sure your arguments are well-supported. You may find that you need additional resources to bolster a point you want to make – or that you’ve left an entire sub-argument unsupported.

If there are any holes that need to be filled, now is the time to acquire that additional source material – not when you are halfway through writing the paper.

Finally: Continue to Annotate and Update Your Outline

Finally, you’ll treat your outline as a living document. Keep adding annotations and sources as you conduct further research. This helps you see what you still need to research and where you can stop researching. That way, you don’t over-research your paper and you save time.

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Hello there, and welcome to my page! I have been working as a full-time freelance writer and editor since 2008 when I decided that while I rather enjoyed philosophy, the Ph.D. program I was in was not a good fit for my life goals. Since then, I have published many papers and articles, started two blogs, worked as a senior editor for a magazine, served on the board of a start-up non-profit organization, and walked across fire. View all posts by RondaBowen

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Annotation Tips - Writing Lab Tips & Strategies: Home

  • Example Annotated Text

annotation writing research

Marking up a passage you are reading is a great way to encourage understanding.  However, if you do not own the book, or do not feel comfortable writing in it, you have other options.

1.  Use sticky notes .  You can even color-coordinate, assigning certain colors to certain topics.

2.  Make photo copies of the pages, with room to write in the margins.

3.  Take notes on a s eparate sheet of paper .

By Jasmine Hopkins and Anna Belcher

Personal Reflection Steps

Purpose:   Relating an item to your own experiences helps you understand and remember better

1.  Mark any place (with a symbol or different color) that reminds you of something in your life or something you already know.

2.  Write yourself a note in the margin as a reminder .

Annotation Definition

An  annotation   is a note that is made while reading any form of text. This may be as simple as underlining or highlighting passages. 

Preparation Steps

Purpose:  To understand the author's point of view, to stay focused and involved with the text, to monitor and improve comprehension.

If you are struggling to understand the author's idea or main point, re-read the first and last pages or paragraphs--the introduction and conclusion.

Spot the thesis, and make it stand out (underline it, highlight it, draw stars around it).  Rewrite it in your own words to make sure you understand it.

Circle or underline words you don't understand.  Look up the definitions of these words and make sure they make sense to you.  Put the definitions in your own words.  Try to minimize them so they can fit on the page.  If possible, write a one word definition right above the word you don't understand.

Underline all key ideas.  Look for ideas that are repeated or emphasized.  Look for personal examples, expansive descriptions and the use of other sources.  Also look for anything that makes the author's point clear to you.

Put the underlined ideas or phrases into your own words in the margins.  (This forces you to process the information).  Locate significant quotes.  Look for clues about the organization of the text.  Write a short summary of each paragraph or main idea beside it so you can quickly review what the author has said.  Draw graphs, charts, diagrams, or sketches if it helps you understand or remember a main point.

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Email us your paper ([email protected]) along with the specific description of the assignment.  We will comment on the paper in regards to purpose, organizational structure, internal organization, format, and patterns of grammatical error.

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The goal of the Writing Lab is to equip students with the communication tools necessary to develop stronger academic writing.  Tutors do not correct, revise or edit student writing.  They aim to guide and empower students toward becoming better independent writers.  The Writing Lab is a student-to-student help available to all students desiring help with writing, including ESL tutoring.  All services are offered at no cost to students.

The Writing Lab is available to students from any discipline for help with any stage of the writing process.

Tutors focus on assignment fulfillment, content, organization, and areas for which suggestions on improvement can be made.

The Writing Lab does not proofread papers; tutors help students learn how to recognize problems or errors and self-edit.  Help is available with MLA, APA and other formatting as well as with grammar skills.

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Subject Guide

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Ask Yourself:

1.  What is the author's point of view and/or main idea :

Does the author have reliable research?

Does the author have a solid argument ?  Are there contradictions ?

2.  Are there any key phrases or quotes that stuck out and what do they mean?  ( Think critically !)

3.  How can I relate to what I just read?  Can I apply any of these principles to my life ?

4.  What is my opinion about what I just read?  Do I agree with the author?   Why or why not ?

So, What's an Annotated Bibliography?

What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotation is a note , so an annotated bibliography is a bibliography with notes about each of your sources .  

Why Am I Being Asked to Include an Annotated Bibliography?

This is helpful for anyone else who wants to do research on the same subject .  Other researchers can easily see which of your sources will pertain to the work they are doing.  The annotated bibliography also proves that you have read and understood your sources.

What Should My Annotated Bibliography Include ?

If you are asked to include an annotated bibliography for a paper, keep track of what type of information each of your sources provides you as you take notes and begin writing your paper.  For each title in your bibliography, you will add a few sentences stating the benefit of each source.  You may also talk about the usefulness or limitations of the source, the point-of-view of the author, or the reliability of the author.

  • Next: Example Annotated Text >>
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How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography

  • Critical Appraisal & Analysis

Sample Annotations

Attributions.

  • Citation Styles

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SAMPLE DESCRIPTIVE ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ENTRY FOR A JOURNAL ARTICLE

The following example uses the APA format for the journal citation.

Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51 (4), 541-554.

This example uses the MLA format for the journal citation. NOTE: Standard MLA practice requires double spacing within citations.

Waite, Linda J., Frances Kobrin Goldscheider, and Christina Witsberger. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review 51.4 (1986): 541-554. Print.

More Sample Annotations

  • ​​ Annotated Bibliography Examples
  • ​ Annotated Bibliography Samples

The University of Toronto offers  an example  that illustrates how to summarize a study's research methods and argument.

The Memorial University of Newfoundland presents  these examples of both descriptive and critical annotations.

The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin gives examples  of the some of the most common forms of annotated bibliographies.

The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina gives examples of several different forms of annotated bibliographies in 3 popular citation formats: 

  • MLA Example
  • APA Example
  • CBE Example

This page was adapted with permission from the following:

http://guides.library.cornell.edu/annotatedbibliography

How to prepare an annotated bibliography Research & Learning Services Olin Library Cornell University Library  Ithaca, NY, USA

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  • Last Updated: Jul 28, 2022 10:35 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.library.nd.edu/annotated-bibliography

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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

Getting started.

  • Further Resources
  • Research Help

Ask a Librarian

About this guide.

This guide will provide you with basic information on creating an annotated bibliography. Always refer to your instructor for clarification on the details of your assignment. In the examples below, the citations follow APA formatting. Be sure to complete your assignment in the correct citation style for your class.

If you need help with library search tools and resources, just click on the Research Help tab. For other questions about your assignment, consult with your professor.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (like a reference list). It differs from a straightforward bibliography in that each reference is followed by a paragraph length annotation, usually 100–200 words in length.

Depending on the assignment, an annotated bibliography might have different purposes:

  • Provide a literature review on a particular subject
  • Help to formulate a thesis on a subject
  • Demonstrate the research you have performed on a particular subject
  • Provide examples of major sources of information available on a topic
  • Describe items that other researchers may find of interest on a topic

What is an Annotation?

An annotation is more than just a brief summary of an article, book, website or other type of publication. An annotation should give enough information to make a reader decide whether to read the complete work. In other words, if the reader were exploring the same topic as you, is this material useful and if so, why?

Annotations vs. Abstracts

While an abstract also summarizes an article, book, website or other type of publication, it is purely descriptive. Although annotations can be descriptive, they also include distinctive features about an item. Annotations can be evaluative and critical as we will see when we look at the two major types of annotations.

Types of Annotated Bibliographies

Descriptive or informative.

A descriptive or informative annotated bibliography describes or summarizes a source, similar to an abstract. It describes why the source is useful for researching a particular topic or question and its distinctive features. In addition, it describes the author's main arguments and conclusions without evaluating what the author says or concludes.

For example:

Breeding evil. (2005, August 6). Economist, 376(8438), 9. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com

This editorial from the Economist describes the controversy surrounding video games and the effect they have on people who use them. The author points out that skepticism of new media have gone back to the time of the ancient Greeks, so this controversy surrounding video games is nothing new. The article also points out that most critics of gaming are people over 40 and it is an issue of generations not understanding one another, rather than of the games themselves. As the youth of today grow older, the controversy will die out, according to the author. The author of this article stresses the age factor over violence as the real reason for opposition to video games and stresses the good gaming has done in most areas of human life. This article is distinctive in exploring the controversy surrounding video games from a generational standpoint and is written for a general audience.

Notice in the last sentence, the writer points out distinctive features about the item. It does not analyze the author's conclusions.

Analytical or Critical

An analytical or critical annotation not only summarizes the material, it analyzes what is being said. It examines the strengths and weaknesses of what is presented as well as describing the applicability of the author's conclusions to the research being conducted.

For most of your annotated bibliographies, however, you will be writing analytical or critical annotations. For example:

This editorial from the Economist describes the controversy surrounding video games and the effect they have on people who use them. The article points out that most critics of gaming are people over 40 and it is an issue of age not of the games themselves. While the author briefly mentions studies done around the issue of violence and gaming, he does not go into enough depth for the reader to truly know the range of studies that have actually been done in this area, other than to take his word that the research is unsatisfactory. The author of this article stresses the age factor over violence as the real reason for opposition to video games and stresses the good gaming has done in most areas of human life. This article is a good resource for those wanting to begin to explore the controversy surrounding video games, however for anyone doing serious research, one should actually examine some of the research studies that have been done in this area rather than simply take the author's word that opposition to video games is simply due to an issue of generational divide.

Notice how the last sentence criticizes the author’s research.

Now you are ready to begin writing your own annotated bibliography:

  • Choose your sources: Before writing your annotated bibliography, you must choose your sources. This involves doing research much like for any other project. Locate records to materials that may apply to your topic.
  • Review the items: Then review the actual items and choose those that provide a wide variety of perspectives on your topic. Article abstracts are helpful in this process.
  • The purpose of the work
  • A summary of its content
  • For what type of audience is the work is written
  • Its relevance to the topic

This page has been adapted from the University of Maryland - University College Library's How to Write an Annotated Bibliography guide with permission. 

  • Next: Further Resources >>
  • Last Updated: Jan 16, 2024 1:25 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.uwgb.edu/annotatedbib

Narrative Essay

How to write an annotation.

One of the greatest challenges students face is adjusting to college reading expectations.  Unlike high school, students in college are expected to read more “academic” type of materials in less time and usually recall the information as soon as the next class.

The problem is many students spend hours reading and have no idea what they just read.  Their eyes are moving across the page, but their mind is somewhere else. The end result is wasted time, energy, and frustration…and having to read the text again.

Although students are taught  how to read  at an early age, many are not taught  how to actively engage  with written text or other media. Annotation is a tool to help you learn how to actively engage with a text or other media.

View the following video about how to annotate a text.

Annotating a text or other media (e.g. a video, image, etc.) is as much about you as it is the text you are annotating. What are YOUR responses to the author’s writing, claims and ideas? What are YOU thinking as you consider the work? Ask questions, challenge, think!

When we annotate an author’s work, our minds should encounter the mind of the author, openly and freely. If you met the author at a party, what would you like to tell to them; what would you like to ask them? What do you think they would say in response to your comments? You can be critical of the text, but you do not have to be. If you are annotating properly, you often begin to get ideas that have little or even nothing to do with the topic you are annotating. That’s fine: it’s all about generating insights and ideas of your own. Any good insight is worth keeping because it may make for a good essay or research paper later on.

The Secret is in the Pen

One of the ways proficient readers read is with a pen in hand. They know their purpose is to keep their attention on the material by:

  • Predicting  what the material will be about
  • Questioning  the material to further understanding
  • Determining  what’s important
  • Identifying  key vocabulary
  • Summarizing  the material in their own words, and
  • Monitoring  their comprehension (understanding) during and after engaging with the material

The same applies for mindfully viewing a film, video, image or other media.

Annotating a Text

Review the video, “How to Annotate a Text.”  Pay attention to both how to make annotations and what types of thoughts and ideas may be part of your annotations as you actively read a written text.

Example Assignment Format: Annotating a Written Text

For the annotation of reading assignments in this class, you will cite and comment on a minimum of FIVE (5) phrases, sentences or passages from notes you take on the selected readings.

Here is an example format for an assignment to annotate a written text:

Example Assignment Format: Annotating Media

In addition to annotating written text, at times you will have assignments to annotate media (e.g., videos, images or other media). For the annotation of media assignments in this class, you will cite and comment on a minimum of THREE (3) statements, facts, examples, research or any combination of those from the notes you take about selected media.

Here is an example format for an assignment to annotate media:

  • Provided by : Lumen Learning. Located at : http://www.lumenlearning.com/ . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Authored by : Paul Powell . Provided by : Central Community College. Project : Kaleidoscope Open Course Initiative. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Authored by : Elisabeth Ellington and Ronda Dorsey Neugebauer . Provided by : Chadron State College. Project : Kaleidoscope Open Course Initiative. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Annotating a Text. Authored by : HaynesEnglish. Located at : http://youtu.be/pf9CTJj9dCM . License : All Rights Reserved . License Terms : Standard YouTube license
  • How to Annotate a Text. Authored by : Kthiebau90. Located at : http://youtu.be/IzrWOj0gWHU . License : All Rights Reserved . License Terms : Standard YouTube License
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Critical Writing Program: Decision Making - Spring 2024: Researching the White Paper

  • Getting started
  • News and Opinion Sites
  • Academic Sources
  • Grey Literature
  • Substantive News Sources
  • What to Do When You Are Stuck
  • Understanding a citation
  • Examples of Quotation
  • Examples of Paraphrase
  • Chicago Manual of Style: Citing Images
  • Researching the Op-Ed
  • Researching Prospective Employers
  • Resume Resources
  • Cover Letter Resources

Research the White Paper

Researching the White Paper:

The process of researching and composing a white paper shares some similarities with the kind of research and writing one does for a high school or college research paper. What’s important for writers of white papers to grasp, however, is how much this genre differs from a research paper.  First, the author of a white paper already recognizes that there is a problem to be solved, a decision to be made, and the job of the author is to provide readers with substantive information to help them make some kind of decision--which may include a decision to do more research because major gaps remain. 

Thus, a white paper author would not “brainstorm” a topic. Instead, the white paper author would get busy figuring out how the problem is defined by those who are experiencing it as a problem. Typically that research begins in popular culture--social media, surveys, interviews, newspapers. Once the author has a handle on how the problem is being defined and experienced, its history and its impact, what people in the trenches believe might be the best or worst ways of addressing it, the author then will turn to academic scholarship as well as “grey” literature (more about that later).  Unlike a school research paper, the author does not set out to argue for or against a particular position, and then devote the majority of effort to finding sources to support the selected position.  Instead, the author sets out in good faith to do as much fact-finding as possible, and thus research is likely to present multiple, conflicting, and overlapping perspectives. When people research out of a genuine desire to understand and solve a problem, they listen to every source that may offer helpful information. They will thus have to do much more analysis, synthesis, and sorting of that information, which will often not fall neatly into a “pro” or “con” camp:  Solution A may, for example, solve one part of the problem but exacerbate another part of the problem. Solution C may sound like what everyone wants, but what if it’s built on a set of data that have been criticized by another reliable source?  And so it goes. 

For example, if you are trying to write a white paper on the opioid crisis, you may focus on the value of  providing free, sterilized needles--which do indeed reduce disease, and also provide an opportunity for the health care provider distributing them to offer addiction treatment to the user. However, the free needles are sometimes discarded on the ground, posing a danger to others; or they may be shared; or they may encourage more drug usage. All of those things can be true at once; a reader will want to know about all of these considerations in order to make an informed decision. That is the challenging job of the white paper author.     
 The research you do for your white paper will require that you identify a specific problem, seek popular culture sources to help define the problem, its history, its significance and impact for people affected by it.  You will then delve into academic and grey literature to learn about the way scholars and others with professional expertise answer these same questions. In this way, you will create creating a layered, complex portrait that provides readers with a substantive exploration useful for deliberating and decision-making. You will also likely need to find or create images, including tables, figures, illustrations or photographs, and you will document all of your sources. 

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  • Next: Getting started >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 15, 2024 12:28 PM
  • URL: https://guides.library.upenn.edu/spring2024/decision-making
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Welcome to the world of library research.

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Connect to Library Resources Wherever You Are!

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annotation writing research

Knowing where to start isn't always easy, especially when you're dealing with an unfamiliar subject.  Sometimes the best place to start is a subject specific dictionary or encyclopedia. Below is a selected list of print and online reference resources.

Available Online

  • Oxford Bibliographies This link opens in a new window Literary guide to significant sources on a variety of subjects. Works as an annotated bibliography and a high-level encyclopedia.
  • Oxford Research Encyclopedias This link opens in a new window Long-form overview articles written, peer-reviewed, and edited by leading scholars. Both foundational and cutting-edge topics are covered in order to develop, over time, an anchoring knowledge base for major areas of research. Access to selected content only. Some articles may not be available.
  • Cambridge Histories Online This link opens in a new window Cambridge Histories covering American, British, economic, regional, and general history, language and linguistics, philosophy, religious studies, theatre studies and performing arts, etc.
  • Cambridge Companions Online This link opens in a new window Collection of Cambridge titles covering literature, classics, philosophy, religion and cultural studies.
  • Gale eBooks This link opens in a new window Encyclopedias and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research.
  • ABC CLIO eBook Collection This link opens in a new window Digital reference collection, including: Encyclopedia of Ellis Island, Encyclopedia of Modern Olympic Movement, Dictionary of Medical Biography, American Universities and Colleges, The American Slave narrative series, and Terrorism: a Documentary and Reference Guide.
  • ProQuest This link opens in a new window Search all ProQuest databases simultaneously. Includes arts, humanities, social sciences, news, and science and technology.
  • Independent Voices This link opens in a new window Alternative press journals, magazines, and newspapers covering feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Latinx, gays, lesbians, etc. more... less... Coverage: 1951-2015.
  • Next: Finding Books, Articles, and More >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 16, 2024 12:22 PM
  • URL: https://researchguides.library.vanderbilt.edu/c.php?g=1381692

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How Companies Should Weigh In on a Controversy

  • David M. Bersoff,
  • Sandra J. Sucher,
  • Peter Tufano

annotation writing research

Executives need guidance about managing their organizations’ engagement with societal issues—including hot-button topics such as gender, climate, and racial discrimination. Success in this realm does not mean avoiding public controversy or achieving unanimous support among key stakeholders, the authors write. Rather, it results from adhering to certain processes and strategies, which they have derived from recent global survey research along with examples from managerial best practice.

They offer an approach that is anchored in data but sensitive to values and context. It can be helpful in figuring out which issues to address and how; in ameliorating disappointment among stakeholders; and in managing any potential blowback.

Data can tell you what your various stakeholders care about, they write, but judgment is necessary to act in careful consideration of conflicting preferences while being consistent with your company’s values.

A better approach to stakeholder management

Idea in Brief

The challenge.

Given today’s widespread social and political polarization, executives need better guidance as they navigate hot-button topics such as gender, climate, and racial discrimination.

The Insight

Success at handling these subjects does not mean avoiding public controversy or achieving unanimous support among key stakeholders.

Executives can take stands on issues and skillfully address both internal and external pushback if they acquire a more sophisticated understanding of their stakeholders’ concerns.

On April 1, 2023, just as the March Madness college basketball tournament was getting underway, the transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney uploaded a sponsored post to Instagram to promote Bud Light. The backlash was immediate and cut deep. The beer brand was condemned by social conservatives across the United States, who launched a boycott.

  • DB David M. Bersoff is the head of research at the Edelman Trust Institute, a think tank dedicated to advancing the study of trust in society.
  • Sandra J. Sucher is a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School. She is the coauthor of The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, and Regain It (PublicAffairs 2021).
  • PT Peter Tufano is a Baker Foundation Professor at Harvard Business School , senior advisor to Harvard’s Salata Institue for Climate and Sustainability, and a former dean of Said Business School at the University of Oxford.

annotation writing research

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iSchool researchers to present at IDCC24

iSchool faculty, staff, and students will present their research in transparent data curation and cleaning, provenance management, certified transparency, and data ethics at the 18th International Digital Curation Conference ( IDCC24 ), which will be held from February 19-21 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The theme of this year's conference, which brings together individuals, organizations, and institutions across all disciplines and domains involved in curating data, is "Trust Through Transparency." 

Tuesday, February 20

PhD student  Lan Li will present the paper, "T-KAER: A Knowledge-Augmented Entity Resolution Framework for Enhanced Transparency," coauthored with Informatics PhD student Yiren Liu , Information Sciences PhD student Liri Fang , Associate Professor Vetle Torvik , and Professor Bertram Ludäscher , in Session A3 at 11:45 a.m.

Wednesday, February 21

Professor Bertram Ludäscher will present the paper, "Bridging the Gap Between Process and Procedural Provenance for Statistical Data," coauthored with Senior Research Scientist Timothy McPhillips , in Session M1 at 9:00 a.m.

Recent graduate Nikolaus Nova Parulian (PhD '23) will present the paper, "Collaborative Data Cleaning Framework, a Pilot Case Study for Machine Learning Development," coauthored with Professor Bertram Ludäscher in Session D2 , at 2:45 p.m.

Professor Bertram Ludäscher  will present the paper, "Reconciling Conflicting Data Curation Actions: Transparency Through Argumentation," coauthored with Information Sciences PhD students Yilin Xia and Lan Li in Session M3 , at 10:00 a.m.

Lars Vilhuber (Cornell University) will present the paper, "TROV - A Model and Vocabulary for Describing Transparent Research Objects," coauthored with Teaching Assistant Professor Craig Willis , Information Sciences PhD student Meng Li , Senior Research Scientist Timothy McPhillips ,  Nikolaus Nova Parulian , and Professor Bertram Ludäscher in Session O4 , at 11:00 a.m.

The poster session at 1:30 p.m. will include the poster, "Embedding Data Ethics in the Institute for Geospatial Understanding Through an Integrative Discovery Environment (I-GUIDE)," coauthored by Associate Professor Peter Darch , Information Sciences PhD student Ivan Kong, and Informatics PhD student Kyra Abrams .

Bertram Ludäscher

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IMAGES

  1. MLA Annotated Bibliography Examples and Writing Guide

    annotation writing research

  2. 001 Essay Example Annotated How To Annotate An Electronic Annotation Of

    annotation writing research

  3. 001 Essay Example Annotated How To Annotate An Electronic Annotation Of

    annotation writing research

  4. Examples

    annotation writing research

  5. How To Annotate An Article: Learn Annotation Strategies

    annotation writing research

  6. ⚡ How to do an apa annotated bibliography. 7 Tips for Writing Annotated

    annotation writing research

VIDEO

  1. From Annotation to Synthesis

  2. EXPOSITORY WRITING TO RESEARCH WRITING

  3. GCSE Art and Design

  4. How To Structure A Literature Review

COMMENTS

  1. Writing Annotations

    The annotation should explain the value of the source for the overall research topic by providing a summary combined with an analysis of the source. Example: Aluedse, O. (2006). Bullying in schools: A form of child abuse in schools. Educational Research Quarterly, 30(1), 37.

  2. What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

    An annotated bibliography is a list of source references that includes a short descriptive text (an annotation) for each source. It may be assigned as part of the research process for a paper, or as an individual assignment to gather and read relevant sources on a topic.

  3. The Annotated Bibliography

    The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited. Annotations vs. Abstracts Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes.

  4. The Writing Center

    An annotation is a one or two paragraph summary and/or analysis of an article, book, or other source. Generally, the first paragraph of the annotation provides a summary of the source in direct, clear terms.

  5. How to Write a Research Paper: Annotated Bibliography

    An annotation is a short summary and/or critical evaluation of a source. Annotated bibliographies answer the question: "What would be the most relevant, most useful, or most up-to-date sources for this topic?" Annotated bibliographies can be part of a larger research project, or can be a stand-alone report in itself. Annotation versus abstracts

  6. Writing an Annotation

    Writing the annotation is the most difficult part of creating an annotated bibliography. Creating a bibliography in itself is fairly straightforward and is described in numerous writing style manuals, including the APA's and the MLA's style manuals.

  7. 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography

    The purpose of the annotation is to summarize, assess, and reflect on the source. Annotations can be both explanatory and analytical, helping readers understand the research you used to formulate your argument. An annotated bibliography can also help you demonstrate that you have read the sources you will potentially cite in your work.

  8. Introduction

    An annotation is a short paragraph that summarizes a source and describes how it is relevant to your research. To annotate literally means "to make notes.". There is not an official format for annotated bibliographies, though usually the bibliographic citation is written in APA or MLA format. If this is being done for a class, ask the ...

  9. Annotated Bibliography

    Annotated Bibliography. An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources, each of which is followed by a brief note or "annotation.". These annotations do one or more of the following: describe the content and focus of the book or article. suggest the source's usefulness to your research. evaluate its method, conclusions, or ...

  10. Home

    Annotations found in bibliographies are evaluations of sources cited in a paper. They describe a work, but also critique the source by examining the author's point of view, the strengths and weakness of the research or article hypothesis or how well the author presented their research or findings. How to write an annotated bibliography

  11. 7.6 Writing an Annotated Bibliography

    An annotation often offers a summary of a source that you intend to use for a research project as well as some assessment of the source's relevance to your project or quality and credibility. There are two key components for each source: the citation and the annotation. The Annotated Bibliography Samples page [1] on the Purdue OWL offers ...

  12. Writing an Annotated Bibliography

    Writing an annotated bibliography is an excellent way to prepare for a research project. Writing a critical evaluation of each source requires you to read more carefully and thoroughly, and to collect resources more intentionally. Professional annotated bibliographies, which are often published, provide a comprehensive overview of important ...

  13. Annotated Bibliography

    Writing Strategies) Choose a citation manager, identify an appropriate citation style, and alphabetize citations and paragraphs. ( III. The Annotated Bibliography Genre Across Disciplines) Introductory research classes often offer a theme and require students to narrow their focus by choosing a topic within that theme.

  14. What is an Annotation?

    Summaries or abstracts basically rehash the content of the material. Writing annotations, however, require a different approach. Annotations, on the other hand, look at the material a little more objectively. When writing an annotation, you should consider who wrote it and why. Consult the Elements of an Annotation below for more detail.

  15. Research Guides: Reading and Study Strategies: Annotating a Text

    Annotating is any action that deliberately interacts with a text to enhance the reader's understanding of, recall of, and reaction to the text. Sometimes called "close reading," annotating usually involves highlighting or underlining key pieces of text and making notes in the margins of the text.

  16. Writing the annotation

    Writing a summary. The first part of an annotation is usually a summary or description of the text. This involves briefly outlining the author's main points, as well as providing an overview of the approach or methodology they have used. As you read each source, focus on understanding the main ideas.

  17. Writing an Annotated Bibliography

    Learn how to write and format an annotated bibliography in APA Style (7th ed.). 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…

  18. How to Create an Annotated Outline

    An annotation is a brief comment that gives extra information or background about the point in the outline. This can include summarizing a source, judging the accuracy and reliability of the source, and explaining how the source supports your argument. Annotations can also be used to give extra evidence or examples to back up the point.

  19. Home

    However, if you do not own the book, or do not feel comfortable writing in it, you have other options. 1. Use sticky notes. You can even color-coordinate, assigning certain colors to certain topics. 2. Make photo copies of the pages, with room to write in the margins. 3. Take notes on a separate sheet of paper.

  20. The Parts of an Annotation

    Often, annotations include all or some of the following: summary (which may take the form of a rhetorical précis, described below), analysis, and/or reflection. Bibliographical Information

  21. Sample Annotations

    The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina gives examples of several different forms of annotated bibliographies in 3 popular citation formats: MLA Example APA Example CBE Example Attributions This page was adapted with permission from the following: http://guides.library.cornell.edu/annotatedbibliography

  22. Getting Started

    It examines the strengths and weaknesses of what is presented as well as describing the applicability of the author's conclusions to the research being conducted. For most of your annotated bibliographies, however, you will be writing analytical or critical annotations. For example: Breeding evil. (2005, August 6). Economist, 376(8438), 9.

  23. How to Write an Annotation

    Annotation is a tool to help you learn how to actively engage with a text or other media. View the following video about how to annotate a text. Annotating a text Annotating a text or other media (e.g. a video, image, etc.) is as much about you as it is the text you are annotating. What are YOUR responses to the author's writing, claims and ideas?

  24. Annotated Bibliography

    Tutorials and quick guides about the research process; Sample citations using APA Style 7th edition (including sample table and figures) Interactive, pre-formatted paper templates; Tools to insert references; Collaborative writing tools

  25. Researching the White Paper

    Unlike a school research paper, the author does not set out to argue for or against a particular position, and then devote the majority of effort to finding sources to support the selected position. Instead, the author sets out in good faith to do as much fact-finding as possible, and thus research is likely to present multiple, conflicting ...

  26. Research Guides: ENGL 1111

    Works as an annotated bibliography and a high-level encyclopedia. Oxford Research Encyclopedias This link opens in a new window Long-form overview articles written, peer-reviewed, and edited by leading scholars.

  27. PDF Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab Research & Writing Fellow

    Research & Writing Fellow . The mission of the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab (GPL) is to accelerate progress on difficult social problems by improving how state and local governments across the country function. We hire and train full-time team members to collaborate closely with government innovators in

  28. How Companies Should Weigh In on a Controversy

    The Challenge. Given today's widespread social and political polarization, executives need better guidance as they navigate hot-button topics such as gender, climate, and racial discrimination.

  29. iSchool researchers to present at IDCC24

    iSchool faculty, staff, and students will present their research in transparent data curation and cleaning, provenance management, certified transparency, and data ethics at the 18th International Digital Curation Conference (IDCC24), which will be held from February 19-21 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The theme of this year's conference, which brings together individuals, organizations, and ...