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Writing Annotated Bibliographies

14 November 2011

“An annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following:
Summarize: Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say? The length of your annotations will determine how detailed your summary is.
Assess: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
Reflect: Once you’ve summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?
Your annotated bibliography may include some of these, all of these, or even others. If you’re doing this for a class, you should get specific guidelines from your instructor.”
FromPurdue Owl http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/01/

WHAT ELEMENTS MIGHT AN ANNOTATION INCLUDE?
1.  Bibliography according to the appropriate citation style (MLA, APA, CBE/CSE, etc.).
2. Explanation of main points and/or purpose of the work—basically, its thesis—which shows among other things that you have read and thoroughly understand the source.
3. Verification or critique of the authority or qualifications of the author.
4. Comments on the worth, effectiveness, and usefulness of the work in terms of both the topic being researched and/or your own research project.
5. The point of view or perspective from which the work was written. For instance, you may note whether the author seemed to have particular biases or was trying to reach a particular audience.
6. Relevant links to other work done in the area, like related sources, possibly including a comparison with some of those already on your list. You may want to establish connections to other aspects of the same argument or opposing views.

The first four elements above are usually a necessary part of the annotated bibliography. Points 5 and 6 may involve a little more analysis of the source, but you may include them in other kinds of annotations besides evaluative ones. Depending on the type of annotation you use, which this handout will address in the next section, there may be additional kinds of information that you will need to include.

Types of annotations
One annotation does not fit all purposes!  There are different kinds of annotations, depending on what might be most important for your reader to learn about a source. Your assignments will usually make it clear which citation format you need to use, but they may not always specify which type of annotation to employ. In that case, you’ll either need to pick your instructor’s brain a little to see what s/he wants or use clue words from the assignment itself to make a decision.

Summary annotations
There are two kinds of summarizing annotations, informative and indicative.
Summarizing annotations in general have a couple of defining features: They sum up the content of the source, as a book report might. They give an overview of the arguments and proofs/evidence addressed in the work and note the resulting conclusion.
They do not judge the work they are discussing. Leave that to the critical/evaluative annotations.
Informative annotation
Informative annotations sometimes read like straight summaries of the source material, but they often spend a little more time summarizing relevant information about the author or the work itself.
Indicative annotation
Indicative annotation is the second type of summary annotation, but it does not attempt to include actual information from the argument itself. Instead, it gives general information about what kinds of questions or issues are addressed by the work. This sometimes includes the use of chapter titles.

Critical/evaluative
Evaluative annotations don’t just summarize. In addition to tackling the points addressed in summary annotations,
evaluative annotations:
evaluate the source or author critically (biases, lack of evidence, objective, etc.). show how the work may or may not be useful for a particular field of study or audience. explain how researching this material assisted your own project.
Combination
An annotated bibliography may combine elements of all the types.  In fact, most of them fall into this category: a little summarizing and describing, a little evaluation.
From: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill http://writingcenter.unc.edu/resources/handouts-demos/specific-writing-assignments/annotated-bibliographies

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