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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography: Tactics for Successful Writing

An annotated bibliography refers to a type of academic writing that is structured in the form of an organized list of sources alongside with source entries. Annotated bibliographies may be written on different sources, such as books, articles, websites, videos, journals, and others. Apart from a properly formatted citation of the source (name of the source along with the author’s name, year of publication, etc.), the citation should be accompanies by a paragraph containing summation, analysis, and evaluation of the given source. The source should be critiqued in relation to its relevance and adherence to the given topic.

What Is the Aim of Writing an Annotated Bibliography?

First of all, an annotated bibliography provides a brief and comprehensive review of a specific source. Particularly, you can find information what the source is about, who wrote it, what topic it discusses, etc. Further, an annotated bibliography can highlight significance and role of a specific source within a scope of research or a specific subject realm. Moreover, it can emphasize the overall quality of research provided. Additionally, when writing an annotated bibliography, one can provide examples of the available sources that can be found on a specific topic.

How to Structure and Write a Bibliography Properly?

Normally, strict requirements to annotated bibliography writing may be given to your by your professor. However, sometimes, you are not given any details apart from the topic to compose and annotated bibliography for. In such instances, you need to be aware of the possible options of bibliography organization.

You can organize your annotated bibliography sources in such ways:

  • According to the chronological order;
  • According to the alphabetical order;
  • According to the medium of publication (books, articles, websites);
  • According to the topic/ subtopic;
  • According to the source language (if you use sources written in various languages).

Constituents of a Properly Written Annotated Bibliography:

  1. Information about the author’s title and his/ her qualifications. When summarizing the source, you may mention what experience the author has, what his/ her degrees are, what he studies, how many years he/ she has worked, etc. This information will add up credibility and reliability to the choice of sources analyzed in the annotated bibliography.
  2. The scope of research/ purpose of the source. Here, mention some background information on how and why the author decided to write a particular book/ article.
  3. Information about the target audience. This information should also shed light on the complexity of the reading, its level, the overall comprehension, and who may find the reading useful.
  4. Information about the author’s position/ possible bias or prejudice. Pinpoint to how objective or subjective the source is.
  5. Emphasize on the relation of the source with the adjacent sources within the same research field. Pinpoint why your chosen source proved to be most significant among the others.
  6. Highlight the main conclusions, insights, findings, and results obtained in the analyzed source.
  7. Mention specifics about the format and citation (if any).

Requirements for a Successful Annotation

  • Maintain proper length.

As a rule, an average annotation is one paragraph long, especially if the annotation is not a separate assignment but a part of a research paper, coursework or essay. That is why, be ready to devote some 150-200 words for one annotation entry. Each annotation should be brief, concise, and logical. Do not try to cram too much information in one annotation or provide some unnecessary background or generally irrelevant data.

  • Use third-person pronouns.

Prefer writing in third person. Only in rare cases will you use first-person pronouns. Writing in first person is applicable only to specific kinds of annotated bibliography.

  • Word choice and sentence structures.

To convey the main message or idea of a specific source, try to use vocabulary used in the very book or article. In case you need to cite some information, make sure to format the citations or direct quotes properly.

  • Formatting.

Write in full and concise sentences but at the same time avoid excessive descriptions. As an option, you may use lists or bullet points to convey the main ideas or messages of the analyzed source.

When it comes to the overall organization of annotation entries, each of them should be one paragraph long. You need to include the thesis of the source, the main idea, and sufficient background information.

When working on your annotated bibliography, make sure you decide on the style and adhere to it consistently throughout the whole paper. As a rule, MLA or APA styles are the most preferred ones. Normally, you need to write in double space and maintain one-inch margins.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography in Modern Language Association (MLA) Style?

You are required to adhere to the principles of MLA style when you write an annotated bibliography in languages, literature, cultural studies, and other disciplines in humanities. Only the first line of the annotation text should be indented. Write the full citation of the source and start your annotation in the next line without any blank lines after the citation.

Writing an Annotated Bibliography in American Psychological Association (APA) Style

Normally, you need to format your annotation in APA style when you write on the topic of sociology, social sciences, social work, and psychology among other disciplines. Moreover, APA is also used for papers in economics, criminology, business, and management. Just like in MLA style, you need to indent all the lines but for the first one.

Writing an Annotation in Council of Biology Editors (CBE) Style and Council of Science Editors (CSE) Style

CBE/ CSE styles should be followed when you prepare an annotation in biology, microbiology, zoology, medical science, etc. You are not required any specific title when writing in this format. You can provide any title for the annotation, such as “Cited Literature,” “References Cited,” “References,” etc. According to CBE/ CSE style, the bibliography is written in a smaller font than the main text of the paper.

Annotated Bibliography Types

There is a range of annotated bibliography types depending on the core purpose. As such, one annotated bibliography cannot correspond to different purposes and requirements. Particularly, some annotations are summative in content; some are critical and analytical, while the others are evaluative.

  • Summative annotations

There are two subcategories within this group – indicative and informative. The main purpose is to summarize the content of the source that looks similar to a book report. Such annotations mainly provide an overview of the source and provide general information on what the source is about. There is no evaluation, critique or judgment of the work. Sometimes, they may focus on the author’s approach or methodology.

In an indicative annotation, you do not normally provide the information from the argument. What you do is give information about the types of issues, problems or questions that were discussed in the annotated work.

In an informative annotation, you need to provide a concise summary of the material addressed in the literary work with a focus on relevant information about the author as well and the motifs of writing.

  • Evaluative/critical annotation

Such annotation types presuppose that you do not provide a mere summary of the work but also analyze it critically and provide your personal evaluation. You need to pay attention to evidence used in the source (or the lack of it), whether the source provides information objectively or not, whether it contains bias and prejudice, whether it is useful for a specific scope of research or a subject area.

  • Combination annotation

This type is a universal one as it contains elements and features of all annotation types. This type may be longer as it contains a summary, a critical part, and an evaluative part.

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Writing Style of Annotated Bibliographies

Sometimes you are required to submit an annotated bibliography. Apart from the difference in content and organization of the paper, there might be a difference in format and the very writing style. When working on an annotation bibliography, you need to decide first what you will write about and then how you will write and structure the information. As such, there exist a few possible options how you can structure your annotation.

There is a telescopic kind where you need to succinctly cover each work. The main feature of this annotation type is clarity and conciseness. When writing a telescopic annotation, you do not have to focus on sentence structures and write in lengthy or flowery structures – you should rather focus on presenting the information in the most concise way possible, for example, by introducing lists or bullet points. Despite the fact that it sounds quite easy to write this annotation type, it may be harder than you think.

Another way of structuring and organizing an annotation is in paragraph-like form. For example, if your annotation is a separate piece of writing or if it should be long, be sure to devote a paragraph for summary, critique, and evaluation.

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