This is the "Why and What" page of the "Annotated Bibliographies" guide.
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Last Updated: Mar 23, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Why and What Print Page

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of citations for writings (sources) with a specific focus. 

An annotated bibliography also provides description and/or opinion for each source.  Annotations are usually brief (less than 150 words). Two basic types of information they can include are:

Summary / Description

    • What credentials does the author have? 
    • What does it cover, or not cover?  
    • Who is the intended audience?   
    • What is it about?  
    • What is the main argument?

 Evaluation / Opinion 

    • How useful is this source for a specific purpose?  
    • Are the conclusions of the research reliable? 
    • Is it well presented or laid out?  
    • How does it compare with other references in the list?

What you write depends on your purpose.  Annotations can be written in short phrases for brevity or private use, or in complete sentences for clarity and/or publication. 

If you are writing an annotated bibliography for a class assignment, ask which writing style and citation format style to use (see Overview box in Using RefWorks for Annotations tab). Also, make sure you know what kind of annotations are expected.


Why write an Annotated Bibliography?

Reading research papers is essential preparation for a research project.

   Taking notes as you read captures this work.

      An annotated bibliography captures and organizes these notes.

  • Annotating each source forces you to take in what you read and digest it.
    Read actively and critically instead of passively absorbing information.
    riting about what you read helps to incorporate the ideas into your own thinking. 
  • Writing an annotated bibliograpy will help you
    • develop your own point of view, and formulate your own thesis
    • be sure that it isn't out of date
    • be sure it doesn't duplicate research already done
  • Discipline yourself to always take notes on what your read - This will be a great help in your future reading and writing!

Using Annotated Bibs and Literature Reviews by Other Authors

Published annotated bibliographies by others on your topic will save you time and effort!

Gathering in the city [electronic resource] : an annotated bibliography and review of the literature about human-plant interactions in urban ecosystems. This U.S. Forest Service report discusses 140 sources, but begins with an introduction and "key findings" in the research.

Literature review articles are a closely related type of article. The author synthesizes research articles written on a topic over a particular span of time to create a narrative report on the "state of research" on one topic during that time - look for recent review articles on your topic.

Literature reviews can be individual articles in journals, or collected in book series, for example, the Annual Reviews (e.g., Annual Review of Animal Biosciences, ... of Astronomy and Astrophysics)  (Note: link goes to the library catalog record for the series).  Also, the Annual Reviews site allows you to search across all their titles for every year they cover. A potential gold mine!

You can find literature reviews in many research databases as a type of article/document. Contact me (or any librarian) for help. 

Smart researchers use literature reviews to stay current on the literature in their field, or to learn about new areas.

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