What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography comprises a list of sources (books, journals, newspapers, websites, etc.) on a specific topic and a brief (as a rule, about 150-200 words) description and evaluation of the piece. In this annotation, students analyze the source to prove the relevance of a particular source to their research.

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The Purpose of the Assignment

An annotated bibliography assignment helps students to:

  • Acquire a deeper understanding of the topic based on the available literature on the matter;
  • Overview any achievements of research and changes in arguments in a particular domain;
  •  Develop analytical and writing skills.

Usually, an annotated bibliography is one of the initial stages of writing an academic project. You are supposed to study the issue comprehensively and understand what has already been researched and which gaps can be addressed. Nevertheless, it might also be a stand-alone task that can boost your knowledge, as well as critical thinking and writing skills.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography Step by Step?

It will be much easier to cope with this assignment if you follow a step by step plan we have developed for you.

  1. Pick up the topic. Carefully look through the list of available topics and choose the one you know and like the most. If you do not like any of them, you can offer your professor an alternative theme. Remember that your alternative topic should be approved.
  2. Develop a list of sources. It is a time-consuming process that will take you quite a while. First, look through references and citations in course readings on your topic. Then, go to the library; it might be both offline or online. Remember, the task is to gather academic sources and exclude any unreliable information.

Most probably, you will find numerous sources on your topic. It is ok to have a long list at this stage. Reviewing the extensive literature will help you narrow down your topic and make it more engaging.

  1. Make the long list short. Now, it is time to choose five the most appropriate pieces of literature. Pick up those sources that directly relate to your topic. To do this quickly, look through abstracts. Select books and articles that present different perspectives and thus can help you analyze the chosen topic comprehensively. Note, with rare exceptions, do not use sources older than five years.
  2. Check up the list with your professor or peers. You can bring a brief explanation of your topic and printed copies of abstracts of the chosen sources to class. Discuss those sources and be ready to make corrections. In this case, you will eliminate sources that do not fit your research or add a new one before you proceed to write.
  3. Now, you should find the full text of the source; read and annotate it carefully.
  4. Finally, you are ready to write your annotated bibliography assignment. In the final paper, you should provide the following information in the given order.
  • A brief explanation of the chosen topic. In about 300 words, explain why you consider this topic interesting and worth studying.
  • A description of the research process that allowed you to come up with the list of literature for your topic. In about 300 words, explain how you searched for the sources, where you found them, and why you selected those five. 
  • The annotated bibliography itself. For each source, first, give the full citation in the required formatting style (APA, MLA, Harvard, etc.) and then write about 200 words of annotation. Note, many professors will ask you to attach abstracts of the sources, as well. Basically, this section of your paper should look like this:
  • source #1 citation
  • source #1 annotation
  • source #2 citation
  • source #2 annotation
  • A detailed discussion of what you have learned. In 300-600 words, describe your experience; refer to the sources extensively to support and illustrate your viewpoint.

Annotated Bibliography Assignment Sample

Herremans, I. M., & Reid, R. E. (2002). Developing awareness of the sustainability concept. The Journal of Environmental Education, 34(1), 16-20.

The article talks about the sustainability, its definition, and how it can be achieved through education and practical perspective. The article stipulates that the idea of sustainability began way back in1970 when there was a need to incorporate the sustainability education in schools and other learning institutions; a practice that was greatly driven by the sustainability leaders and the universities. The article stipulates that the academic institutions have a sole responsibility of educating students to have a clear understanding of the sustainability measures as well as obtain environmental stewardship. The universities therefore have models and procedures that can be applied to link the classroom work and the real world sustainability practices...

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Any annotated bibliography assignment has two basic elements, namely the citation of the source connected with your topic (be it a book, a newspaper, a journal, or a website) and a short comment that summarizes the core points and assesses the value of the source for discussing the chosen topic.

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