An annotated bibliography is a type of academic paper that constitutes a list of sources used in the process of researching a specific topic. They are all formatted according to the guidelines of a chosen formatting style and followed by a brief summary, as well as evaluation, which is called annotation. This short description of a source is what makes the annotated bibliography different from a usual bibliography. As a rule, the annotation contains:
- The author's credentials to certify his/her qualification to write about a given subject.
- The objective of the source.
- Major findings and conclusions of the author.
- Explanation of how the source may be useful in your research.
- Comparison of the source with other relevant pieces of writing.
Citing and Annotating Sources
Referencing sources in accordance to a certain formatting style is unlikely to be a big problem as long as you have APA or MLA guide at hand. You may access them in your school's library or online. Guides have details about all sorts of sources, including books, e-books, newspapers, journal articles, reports, videos, dissertations, etc. Still, there is a couple of things that you should mind regardless of the style that you have to deal with:
- Look for a citation of the source in a database from which you retrieve it.
- Regardless of whether you have copied the citation or created it by yourself, make sure its font is consistent with the rest of the paper.
- Do not forget to set an indentation at 0.5".
- Indentation should be hanging.
- Spacing should be consistent with the rest of the paper.
Writing an annotation is a bit more complicated task; however, it can be fairly easy if to know where to look for the necessary data:
- Author's background and credentials. If you limit your literature to peer-reviewed journal articles, which are the most reliable and credible sources to be used in academic papers, you will not have troubles finding the author's qualification. Look for degrees and affiliation to a university near the name.
- Objective of the source. This information is indicated either in the abstract accompanying the paper or in the introduction to the article. No need to go any further!
- Main conclusions. These are dispersed throughout the article and should be detected in the process of reading. Mind that different sections can have different key points. So, you are highly advised to have a notebook and a pen nearby to take notes.
- Usefulness of the source. This data may be detected only though the analysis of what you read. You should ask yourself a couple of questions to do it well. Did the author offer a new perspective on a topic? Was the research innovative at all? Are claims supported with evidence? Did I learn anything from the article? Was the original research conducted? The more lessons are learned from the article, the more useful it is for your own study.
- Comparison. Of course, it is impossible to decide what to write concerning this aspect before you have read all the articles chosen for an annotated bibliography. Once you do, you may again ask yourself a few questions. Do some authors share an opinion regarding the subject? Do some articles contradict one another? Are all articles equally thorough?