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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

While completing various college and university assignments, you’ll surely have to write at least one annotated bibliography. This writing task differs from other academic papers. It’s a detailed analysis of the various sources you used for your essay. Moreover, it offers a critical analysis of each source. An annotated bibliography is a perfect way to state the quality of the cited sources, as well as to evaluate their accuracy and significance.

The key idea of this type of document is to provide a complete list of citations and references. Each listed source is followed by a paragraph of annotation that is normally 100-200 words long. Basically, the paragraph contains information about the author, and a description of one or two leading concepts from the article, book, or other resource.

In other words, an annotated bibliography helps the reader understand if it's worthwhile to read the whole source.

Types of annotated bibliographies

There are two types of annotated bibliographies: descriptive and critical/analytical. To complete a descriptive bibliography you have to make a list of citations then write a short summary stating why the source is useful for a particular argument or essay.

It’s generally no problem for students to create a descriptive bibliography. They only need to list the citations and present general information about each of the sources.

However, things get a bit more complicated when it comes to working on a critical bibliography. Here students must use analytical and critical thinking skills. This time, you’re not only instructed to provide a summary of each source, but also to evaluate the information as well. You’re actually supposed to express your personal point of view and state if the source is of use regarding the topic at hand. This way you show that you can select the most appropriate sources for objective research on a given subject.

To make your academic writing easier, we offer the following guidelines. Their purpose is to provide more information about the types of annotated bibliographies, as well as to suggest a couple of useful tips.

Select relevant sources

Before you start writing your bibliography, define and narrow the boundaries of your research. Choose a list of books and articles that refer closely to your topic and study them.

Next, choose the most significant sources.

Scan each source one more time and write out those citations which relate to your topic the most effectively and persuasively.

During the following stage, you may begin writing out citations and annotations. Make sure that you present the annotation first and then followed it with an annotating paragraph.

Break the annotated bibliography into such consecutive parts.

Stick to a definite structure and follow your assignment. This way your writing task will appear logically built and increase your chances of receiving a high grade.

  • Mention the purpose of the work. In other words, state what the article or a book is about.
  • Summarize the content. Write briefly about all the main ideas of the source. Provide enough information to show the reader that the source is worth using. Avoid making the information too general or adding too many details.
  • State how the content corresponds to your topic. This information helps readers understand immediately whether or not the resource is important.
  • Identify the source’s target audience. This is another important piece of information for readers.
  • Specify any peculiar features of the source. It can be information about the structure or the writing style. It can be built on the principle of contrastive analysis, ordinary description or reference statistics.
  • Analyze the strong and weak points of the source.
  • Highlight the general relevance of the topic. Express your personal point of view. Feel free to demonstrate your critical skills and present feedback directly.

Ensure that your annotated bibliography is written in the correct format. The usual type of formatting are: APA, MLA or Chicago. Consult other formatting styles in special online guides or reference books.

Pay attention to the preceding guidelines. Start using them and results will happen fast.

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