How to write a good annotated bibliography step by step

An annotated bibliography is a piece of writing summarizing your primary sources. It provides a brief description of the purpose, methods, and results of the research through paraphrasing. An annotated bibliography is essentially used by your research supervisor to assess the quality of sources you include in your study. These sources mainly provide information for the literature review section and inform other sections of your research.

The bibliography can mainly be essential for replicating other studies where the researcher mostly adopts the methodology of other studies.

You can write an excellent annotated bibliography in two formats, MLA or APA. At the end of this description of the process of writing a useful bibliography, we will provide an example of annotated bibliography for each of the formats.

NOTE: Annotative bibliography can be an evaluative summary where the source is critically assessed for accuracy, relevance, and quality in order to make a decision on including the source in your study. It can also be a summary annotation where the focus is on describing who wrote the document, what the document discusses, when and where the paper was written, why the document was produced, and how it was provided to the public. 

Seven tips to writing a tremendous evaluative annotated bibliography

Tip 1: Cite the source using MLA or APA styles

Skim through the document you want to include as one of your sources to gauge its relevance. Once you have ascertained that the paper is relevant. Site it as you would in your list of references in either APA or MLA styles depending on your supervisor’s instructions or university formatting.

Tip 2: Describe the main ideas

Identify the document’s central claims, the methodology, sample, and the intended audience and provide a brief description. Identify the strengths of the paper and finish with any weaknesses.

Tip 3: Explain the author’s expertise

Provide a brief description of who the author is and their authority in research and the area of study. This information is essential for the credibility of the source. Find documents written by experts in the area of study because you are not likely to find a lot of flaws with their work. Besides, personalities like lecturers and researchers with years of experience often conduct robust research due to the fact they can acquire enough funding for their projects. So, choose articles written by relevant expertise.

Tip 4: Compare the sources

Do a comparative analysis of similar sources you have identified to find similarities and differences in methodologies and findings. Such information will benefit your research, especially in defining your hypothesis and methodology section.

Tip 5: Validate every source

Provide an explanation of how every source you have reviewed will be necessary for your study and how they relate to your topic. This will ensure that all the sources you provide are actually useful for your study processes.

Tip 6: Evaluate strengths and weakness

Find the strengths and weaknesses in the sources you have identified because that will help adopt the strengths and improve on the flaws in your own study.

Tip 7: Identify the observations or conclusions

This area can particularly be necessary because the author will likely provide the implications of their research and areas of further study, which will benefit your research in establishing the study gap and valuable insights on how you should organize your own study.

Formatting the annotated bibliography

  • Each annotation should be one paragraph, between three to six sentences long (about 150- 200 words). Therefore, do not attempt to rewrite or narrate the work because it will waste valuable space and time for the proper annotation.
  • Start with the same format as a regular Works Cited list. Do this according to your instructor’s instruction on reference style.
  • All lines should be double-spaced. Do not add an extra line between the citations.
  • If your list of citations is exceptionally long, you can organize it by topic.
  • Try to be objective, and give explanations if you state any opinions.
  • Use the third person (e.g., he, she, the author) instead of the first person (e.g., I, my, me)

Examples of APA and MLA Annotations

APA Format Annotation

Greenhow, C., & Lewin, C. (2016). Social media and education: Re-conceptualizing the boundaries of formal and informal learning. Learning, media, and technology41(1), 6-30.

Christine Greenhow is a counseling educational psychologist affiliated to Michigan University USA while Cathy Lewin is a researcher with Education and Social research institute, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. The authors examined the theoretical foundations upon which social media use as a tool for formal and informal education dissemination. They realized that social media in education was mostly under-theorized despite the increasing use of mainly in distance learning. Contrasting two case studies, they came up with social constructivism and connectivism as theoretical lenses that describe the complexities of learning in various settings. They realized that social media provides platforms for formal and informal education, which can be explored to complement mainstream education in different study levels. They concluded that their model could be used to unearth new understandings of the potentiality of social media in teaching where learners have not been active participants but rather consumers of information.

MLA Format Annotation

Zajacova, Anna, and Elizabeth M. Lawrence. “The relationship between education and health: reducing disparities through a contextual approach.” Annual review of public health 39 (2018): 273-289.

Ana Zajacova and Elizabeth Lawrence are lecturers in the sociology department at Western University, Canada, and the University of Nevada, USA, respectively. The authors investigated the role of education on the health outcomes of people. They realized the disparities in health outcomes based on the sample’s educational achievements showed a large gap, which is consistently widening. They employed literature review methodology involving current research on the relationship between education and health in the USA and outlined three directions for further studies including conceptualizing of education beyond attainment to schooling process; education as a driver of opportunity and as a reproducer of inequality and the role of the political environment in which education and health are provided.  They concluded that the new conceptualization of health and education relationships would help inform health and education policies to address health disparities.

Note: Annotated bibliography is similar research abstracts but is not one and the same though they are both summaries of research; they are prepared for different purposes. So, NEVER copy the abstract for your annotated bibliography because that will surmount to plagiarism, which is heavily penalized in most universities.

We have seen how you can prepare an annotated bibliography for your next research assignment. The two main types of annotations are evaluative and descriptive summary. We have also discussed why you need to read and understand your professor’s instructions on your annotation format. We have also included samples for the two widely used formats of annotation in APA and MLA.

We hope this was helpful. Ask for help with your annotation bibliography, and we will deliver it.

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