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Writing Tips

Writing for Academia, Literary Criticism & Analysis, Literature Reviews, and Annotated Bibliographies

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography provides specific information about each source you have used. Annotations can serve a variety of functions, such as explaining the content of your sources, assessing their usefulness, and sharing this information with others who may be less familiar with them. In short, the annotated bibliography allows readers to determine what might be worth checking out in some situations, as well as what might not be worth spending the time on. 

In Depth

An "abstract" is just descriptive; an "annotation" is descriptive and critical. Many periodical indexes include a summary with most citations. This summary is labeled "annotation", but it is not critical.
A bibliography is a full reference list to all the sources which an author has used or referred to in preparing a particular piece of work. Under the Harvard system the bibliography should be arranged alphabetically by author. A bibliography is judged by its content and form: it is also the basis upon which a work is substantiated. Bibliographies used to be lists of written resources, but today they may also include interviews, video and audio tapes, computer resources, speeches and more.

A bibliographic work usually includes information such as the following:

  • Author
  • Title
  • Place of publication or interview
  • Name of publisher, resource, repository
  • Date
Abstracts (as contrasted with Annotated Bibliographies)
A concise summary of the purpose, methods, main findings, and conclusions of your paper.  Abstracts are important as they provide a complete overview of the paper, letting readers know whether the paper’s topic and/or content is relevant to their information needs.
Citation Formats
A citation is a way of giving credit to individuals for their creative and intellectual works that you utilized to support your research. It can also be used to locate particular sources and combat plagiarism. Typically, a citation can include the author's name, date, location of the publishing company, journal title, or DOI (Digital Object Identifer). There are many different ways of citing resources from your research. The citation style sometimes depends on the academic discipline involved. For example:
APA (American Psychological Association) is used by Education, Psychology, and Sciences
MLA (Modern Language Association) style is used by the Humanities
Chicago/Turabian style is generally used by Business, History, and the Fine Arts

*You will need to consult with your professor to determine what is required in your specific course. You can also check out our Citation Refworks LibGuide for more information.

Adapted from Ashland University 

Selecting Your Sources

The quality and usefulness of your bibliography will depend on your selection of sources. Define the scope of your research carefully so that you can make good judgments about what to include and exclude. Your research should attempt to be reasonably comprehensive within well-defined boundaries. Consider these questions to help you find appropriate limits for your research:

- What problem am I investigating? What question(s) am I trying to pursue? If your bibliography is part of a research project, this project will probably be governed by a research question. If your bibliography is an independent project on a general topic (e.g. intersectional feminism), try formulating your topic as a question or a series of questions in order to define your search more precisely ( e.g. Historically, feminism has been a movement led primarily by and for white and upper-class women. Why is that? What have been the consequences? How have current feminist movements tried to fix this issue?).

- What kind of material am I looking for? (academic books and journal articles? government reports or policy statements? articles from the popular press? primary historical sources? etc.)

- Am I finding essential studies on my topic? (Read footnotes in useful articles carefully to see what sources they use and why. Keep an eye out for studies that are referred to by several of your sources.)

Adapted from the University of Toronto