Tips for writing annotated bibliographies

Annotated bibliographies are lists of references used in a paper. These may include articles, books, and various documents, with each one annotated in the form a short paragraph of around 150 words explaining and describing the source i.e. what it is and how it is used. An annotation serves the purpose of informing readers of the quality, accuracy, and relevance of a cited source.

Generally speaking, annotated bibliographies are prepared in advance of any important writing project, e.g., a dissertation or thesis. They show what works the student chose to use to support the claims, theories, and statements in their written work.

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Important annotated bibliography tips to bear in mind

  • Annotated bibliographies are valuable and important lists prepared by students before they write an important assignment, e.g., thesis or dissertation.
  • Annotated bibliographies should present sufficient information about a source in the shortest possible manner.
  • Accuracy and correctness are essential in annotated bibliographies.
  • It is extremely important that information is relevant in terms of content, context, author authority, and publication date; this should be carefully considered when choosing sources.
  • All language should be free of error and the tone should be scholarly
  • Since meaning is affected by punctuation, syntax, grammar, and word choices, these should be chosen carefully to showcase the student’s knowledge and skills and to impress examiners.
  • A suitable style of citation will need to be selected and applied throughout.
  • The writer needs a particular set of skills. For instance, they need to be able to write in a clear and concise way, demonstrate points clearly, analyze information succinctly, and show they are capable of undertaking library-based research.
  • Look for and make a note of the titles of different works, their authors, publication dates, and any other relevant details, e.g., name of publisher and the location of articles, books, documents, journals, websites, and any other topic-related materials.
  • Any materials found need to be read and reviewed. Choose pieces that provide a detailed overview of different angles of your chosen topic. Scan, copy, or mark materials to make it easy to refer to again. Store information in a folder so that all work is well organized.
  • List all the information you have selected alphabetically and cite this in a suitable style. For example, popular citation styles are APA, Chicago, MLA, and Turabian.
  • Each bibliography entry should be accompanied by a short paragraph, which is known as annotation. This sums up the scope and theme of the reference i.e. from an article, book, document, thesis, or similar. It is essential to include a short passage that evaluates the source and the author’s authority or area of specialization, acknowledges the project’s intended readers or audience, and that compares and/or contrasts each piece of work with other selected works. Lastly, you should outline the source’s context, or say how each individual work is designed to explain, clarify, explain, or support the topic.

The steps or process for creating an annotated bibliography

Tips on choosing good supporting materials

Clearly, it helps to fully understand your chosen topic because this will enable you to select those support materials that are most relevant to expand and describe the subject matter. If, for instance, art is your chosen subject, and the topic is “Byzantine Artworks from Turkey and Russia,” you should look for keywords in the subject’s title. Doing so will take you forward when writing annotations for your bibliography.

In the above case, some keywords could include Byzantine, artworks, Russia, and Turkey. Start searching for articles, books, and other materials that might emerge under these keywords. Examine every document you find to establish if it is useful. The following are some questions you could ask of yourself:

  1. Does this article or book provide the explanations you need?
  2. Is there a sufficient amount of illustrations and/or examples in it?
  3. Is the publication popular or sufficiently scholarly?
  4. Is the author a respected authority in this field?
  5. Have you heard your tutor speak about this author?
  6. Is the piece sufficiently detailed?
  7. How old is the publication or is it sufficiently new to be useful to your project?
  8. Will it support the points you intend to make?

A good source helps to fully demonstrate and get a point across. Do not forget that every work you choose for your annotated bibliography should be of a scholarly nature rather than coming from websites or popular reading material, which are often considered to be more suitable for entertainment purposes or too lightweight for an academic text.

How to organize your materials

It is essential to maintain a card indexing system, particularly when working on a thesis or dissertation. Databases and spreadsheets are also suitable. However, whichever system you choose, bear in mind that you will have more control over your project by being neat and methodical.

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Tips on writing paragraphs for annotated bibliography

  • The writing style and tone in an annotated bibliography should always be academic. It is a good idea to adhere to the style of the work you are using.
  • Keep your annotation brief at all times. Avoid using extra adjectives and verbs for decoration or emphasis. Long sentences should also be avoided since short ones that are clear and succinctly-written are more accurate  
  • Try not to stray from your project’s main point.
  • A good tip is to write everything you feel is important at the beginning. Each entry can then be edited to a 150-word paragraph. Keep additional material with the rest of the materials from your research because you might be able to use these later when writing your main document.
  • Select the correct citation style and adhere strictly to this format.

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