How to write an annotated bibliography: expert advice

Writing papers is a routine task for college students. They are always under the pressure of deadlines for their research projects, essays, research proposals, and other kinds of assignments. The instructors give some general guidelines on how to deal with the projects and format them accordingly. Most of the serious papers comprise an annotated bibliography as it is necessary to give details information on the sources for the assignment or research project. Thus, it is essential for the student to know how to write an annotated bibliography not to make any mistakes in writing.


What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

It is possible to define an annotated bibliography as a list of sources with citations from books, articles, and chosen documents applied in the current dissertation or research paper. It is common to follow a word count of approximately 150 words for every citation as the descriptions should always be concise. 

Every source on the list should mention the name of the author, the title of the book or article, the publication year, and other relevant details. It is important for the researchers to get these citations as they let them get to the source easily.

One of the requirements is to get a file of bibliographic cards, bibliographic guides, catalog issues, and lists of relevant publications. Getting acquainted with the sources, one checks and refines bibliographic data. An indication of a particular webpage with the published statistics, quotes and other data is obligatory. A lot of students ask why this is so important. Only by following these rules, one can claim that the paper is unique and all used sources are properly cited without any trace of plagiarism.

Annotated Bibliography Writing: Value and Challenges

Some people start learning how to write an annotated bibliography step by step and realize that it is not a task for them as it makes them bored and exhausted. Still, it is an essential aspect of academic writing and it is impossible to skip it in serious assignments. Working on research papers, dissertations, or theses, the writers should use the sources that add credibility to the research ideas and support the writers’ arguments. 

At the level of college education, the professors find writing annotated bibliographies essential as they can easily check whether the students have taken the facts from valid sources and whether the whole bulk of the relevant information has been researched. A well-written annotated bibliography is an indication of a serious attitude of a student to his studies. An annotated bibliography gives details regarding the timeline of the quoted data in a research paper or dissertation.

The author of the research can benefit from writing an annotated bibliography as well as it helps him get to know about the scope of information already collected on the chosen topic. The arguments of research papers require debatable points and the annotated bibliography comes in handy in that. 

Another advantage of annotated bibliography writing is that the researcher gets to know about all significant studies and relevant investigations on the covered topic. It will be easier for the student to gain an insight into how to write an annotated bibliography if he or she uses some valuable samples online without copying them of course. 

From first sight, it may seem easy just to enumerate the citations with the relevant sources and describe them in writing. Still, it is more than tricky and demanding. There are a lot of strict requirements to referencing in particular styles, such as Harvard, APA, MLA, Chicago, or some others. Every instructor also adds some individual comments and guidelines which should also be addressed in writing. 


Annotations: Popular Types

It is not possible to fit all the required purposes with a single annotation. Depending on the most essential aspects for the readers, the annotations can have different focuses. Your instructor will give you specific instructions regarding the formatting of your annotated bibliography sources, but it will be still unclear for you which of the annotated bibliography styles to follow. If you have got no specific information on that, you will either request clarifications from the instructor or make your decision yourself based on the available clue words and phrases.  For example, your task implies that the annotative bibliography has to prove that you have used your sources and gained an analytic understanding of the raised problem. Thus, you will conclude that your task is to give an analytical evaluation of the selected sources with certain critiques in them.  

Summarizing Annotations

Summary annotations are of two types: indicative and informative. In general, both of them have a number of peculiar characteristics: 

  1. They give a summary of the source content. 
  2. They overview the evidence, proofs, and arguments addressed in the paper with the indication of the conclusion.
  3. They are different from evaluative or critical annotations as they do not contain any judgments of the discussed work. 
  4. They present the methodology or approach of the author, if needed. Thus, it is possible to refer to the source as an ethnography work.
  • Indicative Annotation

A summary annotation of indicative type does not cover any actual details from the argument. Instead, it provides some overall details regarding the kinds of issues and questions covered in the paper. It may also include the chapter titles. 

  • Informative Annotation

It is possible to draw parallels between the informative annotations and summaries of the sources, but annotations get a closer look at the relevant details about the research or author.  

Evaluative / Critical Annotation

It is not enough just to give the summary in evaluative annotations. You have to deal with the general points and also address the following tasks: 

  1. Give critical evaluation of the author or source, covering the evidence, objective presentation, biases, and so on.
  2. Specify how useful the work may be for a specific audience or field of study.  
  3. Give explanations of the role of the used material in your project. 

Mixed Type

Learning how to write an annotated bibliography, you get to know that it can be a combination of various types. Thus, it will give a summary, some evaluation, and descriptions. 

You might also find Literature Review useful.

Annotated Bibliography Writing: Effective and Professional

You have to be extra careful, working on an annotated bibliography as it may appear to be a demanding project because of the requirements of a particular referencing style. The most popular styles are MLA, APA, and Turabian which have certain similar features, but the differences will make you focus on following the instructions. It is essential to pay special attention to formatting your annotated bibliography as the paper evaluation will depend on this aspect as well. You will succeed only if you have read all the requirements of your instructor and written the assignment properly. 

  • MLA

MLA style implies left alignment of the text and double spacing in all entries of the Works Cited page. Each of the entries gets a hanging indent. Indents are needed for the first line of the paper and all subsequent paragraphs.

  • APA

APA style implies left alignment of the text and double spacing in the annotation and reference entries. Learning how to format an annotated bibliography in APA, you will get to know that there is a hanging indent in the reference entries themselves. The indentation of the entire annotation, which follows, should match the hanging indent. There should be an indentation of the first line of all extra paragraphs.

  • Chicago

Chicago style implies having a hanging indent and single spacing in the annotation entries. There should be an indentation of the first line of all extra paragraphs. A double-spaced annotation should be aligned left and indented.

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