So, you need to write an annotated bibliography…

Today’s students are commonly tasked with composing an annotated bibliography. What is an annotated bibliography? And, why would you want to write one (besides for a grade)? As a natural product of reading with intent, you probably uncover most of the information included in an annotation as you conduct research.

Ink Jar and Quills by studentofrhythm (Chales Stanford)

Ink Jar and Quills by studentofrhythm (Charles Stanford)

According to the University of Maryland – University College library (UMUC), an annotation is both descriptive and evaluative – noting a source’s usefulness or distinctiveness. More specifically, it discerns an author’s argument, and assesses the source’s applicability.

According to University of California – Santa Cruz, annotations serve several purposes:

  • Demonstrating the scope and quality of one’s research
  • Reviewing published literature on a topic
  • Recording supplementary, illustrative or alternative sources
  • Allowing a reader to identify sources consulted
  • Illustrating the types of resources available
  • Placing original research in an historical context

Generally, annotations include the following information (UMUC):

  • Purpose of the work
  • Summary of its contents
  • Intended audience of the work
  • Relevance to your topic
  • Strengths, weaknesses or biases in the content

Your instructor may indicate other purposes as well, so clarify expected content.

Quill Array with Knife and Test Paper by studentofrhythm (Charles Stanford)

Quill Array with Knife and Test Paper by studentofrhythm (Charles Stanford)

Annotations usually run between 100 and 200 words. Cornell University library presents a brief annotation (111 words), while Purdue University offers more lengthy examples (199 words). Again, consult with your instructor to define length.

Finally, if you are using Zotero, record an annotation under the “Notes” tab. Notes will print along with other information when you right click and select “Generate report from selected items….” From there copy and paste into your bibliography.

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One Comment on “So, you need to write an annotated bibliography…”

  1. Nathan Mills Says:

    Man I wish I would have read this a week ago.


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