Writing a college paper is never an easy thing to do because you have to fulfill strict requirements related to the quality of research and technical specifications. An annotated bibliography is one of the features that make many students confused, so it is necessary to pay special attention to this concept before writing.
By definition, an annotated bibliography represents a full list of materials used to create an academic paper along with brief descriptions of each resource. As such, annotated bibliographies are much more complex than simple citations, so keep reading our post to learn the peculiarities of this system.
Annotated Bibliographies Explained
We already defined the concept of annotated bibliographies, but there is much more explaining to do here. First of all, you should know how they differ from traditional citations.
Citations are factual elements that have the purpose to list all of the sources you used while writing a thesis or research paper. A citation includes the name of the author, book title, the publisher, the year of the release, and the place of publishing. In practice, a citation looks like this:
Bruce D. Sales. Family Mediation: Facts, Myths, and Future Prospects. Washington: APA, 2001.
On the other hand, an annotated bibliography takes a leap forward by adding a brief description of each textbook or document used throughout your work. Such an annotation gives additional information to the reader and helps him/her understand the nature of the document. In general, annotations don’t go beyond 150 to 200 words per entry.
As a more complex form of citation, an annotated bibliography can play different roles:
- It gives an overview of the source you consulted while writing a research paper.
- Annotated bibliographies help you to find a way through numerous learning sources.
- They make it easier to formulate a research question.
- Such bibliographies help other scholars to discover new studying materials.
Types of Annotated Bibliographies
There are only two types of annotated bibliographies, but they are completely different and demand a contrasting approach.
A descriptive annotated bibliography (also known as informative) is basically an abstract of a textbook or some other source you used while researching the topic. It’s a non-biased and objective description which reveals the main ideas and conclusions of the resource. You don’t give your opinion about the document but only factual details.
On the other side, a critical annotated bibliography (also known as analytical) summarizes the main points of the source and also provides a brief evaluation of the document. It gives you the opportunity to take a stand and present your opinion about the author’s viewpoints.
If this sounds too complex, we found a couple of good examples to help you understand both types of annotated bibliographies:
- A descriptive annotated bibliography
Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: "seeing is believing"; "a picture is worth a thousand words"; and "satisfaction is its own reward." London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He doesn't refer to any previous works on the topic. London's style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader.
- A critical annotated bibliography
Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: "seeing is believing"; "a picture is worth a thousand words"; and "satisfaction is its own reward." London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He doesn't refer to any previous works on the topic; however, for a different point of view, one should refer to Joseph Patterson's, "Television is Truth" (The Journal of Television 45 (6) November/December 1995: 120-135). London's style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly illustrates London's points, but does not explore their implications, leaving the reader with many unanswered questions.
How to Write an Annotated Bibliography
Writing an annotated bibliography is a three-step process. Here’s how you can get it started:
1. Select your sources: The first thing you should do is gather all the sources used throughout your paper writing work. Make sure not to leave out anything because you don’t want to face plagiarism issues after publishing the paper.
2. Review each item: Now you need to analyze each document and choose the most suitable type of annotation. Do you want to take an analytical approach or simply describe the sources? The answer to this question depends on your style of writing and the nature of your topic.
3. Write annotations: You are now ready to write annotations, but don’t forget to write a citation before the actual annotation. Keep it brief and concise, making sure not to breach the 200-word limit.
Does an Annotated Bibliography Need a Reference Page?
A lot of students ask us this question: Does an annotated bibliography need a reference page? In order to answer this question, first we need to define a reference page. This is the last page of an essay or research paper that lists all the sources you’ve used in your project.
But do annotated bibliographies need a reference page? There is no general rule here, but we strongly recommend you to respect the following pattern:
- Informative annotations don’t require a reference page because you simply give an overview of the source.
- Analytical annotations need a reference page, particularly if you are relying on someone else’s viewpoints here. In this case, you should also mention the sources of inspiration for your analysis.
Making an annotated bibliography is not exactly rocket science, but you do need to follow the rules of academic writing. We showed you how to do it most effectively, so make sure to remember our tips and stick to them throughout the work.