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Annotated bibliographies

Beginner guide and suggested resources for writing an annotated bibliography

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What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources (i.e. books, journal articles, etc...) that includes a brief explanation or note accompanying each source describing the scope or content and critical analysis of a particular work. 

Think of an annotated bibliography as an extended reference or Works Cited list. Your citations should be formatted using the conventions of your chosen style (ex. APA, MLA), but a short annotation will follow each citation. Your sources will be listed in the same order they would be in a reference list (ex. alphabetical by author for APA and MLA).

Abstracts differ from annotations.  Abstracts are descriptive summaries or overviews found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in an article database.  Annotated bibliographies may be descriptive (like an abstract), but are more often critical, analytical, or evaluative.  Check the requirements of your assignment, as specifications for annotated bibliographies will differ.

Analyzing a source

In addition to evaluating the source (See: Evaluating Sources), you will want to analyze the content of the article as well. Consider the following when evaluating your source for your annotation:

Explanation of the main purpose and scope of the cited work
If your source is a book, try reading the preface to determine the author's intention or purpose for the book. Look over the table of contents and the index to get an overview of the materials and concepts that it covers.

Brief description of the work's format and content
Is the publication organized logically? Were you able to determine the main thesis of the work?  Are the main and supporting points clearly presented and not in a repetitive or circular fashion? Do you find the text easy to read, or is it awkward, stilted or choppy?

Theoretical basis and currency of the author's argument
Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched (supported by data), or is it questionable or wildly out of line with what other researchers are reporting and unsupported by evidence? The more radically an author departs from the views of others in the same field, the more carefully and critically you should scrutinize their ideas. Assumptions should be reasonable. Make note of any errors or omissions that you detect.

Author's intellectual/academic credentials
Are the author(s) credentials related to the subject matter of the article?  Are the author(s) associated with credible organizations?

Work's intended audience
Who is the author writing for? Is the work geared for specialists or other researchers or for a general audience? Is this source too basic, too technical, too advanced, or did you find the information "just right" for your needs?

Value and significance of the work as a contribution to the subject under consideration
Does this source further your understanding of the topic?

Any significant special features of the work?
Does the work have a particularly good glossary, appendices, charts, or good index?

Your own brief impression of the work
How do the source's conclusions bear on your own research or thought process?

Sample Annotation

Trevor, C.O., Lansford, B. and Black, J.W. (2004). "Employee turnover and job performance: monitoring the influences of salary growth and promotion". Journal of Armchair Psychology. Vol 113, no.1, pp. 56-64.

In this article Trevor et al. review the influences of pay and job opportunities in respect to job performance, turnover rates and employee motivation. The authors use data gained through organisational surveys of blue-chip companies in Vancouver, Canada to try to identify the main causes of employee turnover and whether it is linked to salary growth. Their research focuses on assessing a range of pay structures such as pay for performance and organisational reward schemes. The article is useful to my research topic, as Trevor et al. suggest that there are numerous reasons for employee turnover and variances in employee motivation and performance. The main limitation of the article is that the survey sample was restricted to mid-level management, thus the authors indicate that further, more extensive, research needs to be undertaken to develop a more in-depth understanding of employee turnover and job performance. This article will not form the basis of my research; however it will be useful supplementary information for my research on pay structures.


Source:  “Annotated Bibliography.” The Learning Centre: Academic Skills Resources. 07 Aug. 2007. University of New South Wales. 07 Jan. 2010. . < >