Bibliographies (lists of source materials cited or referred to) are standard practice in academia. While the various different referencing systems demand specific types of formatting, to all intents and purposes, most bibliographies are the same – except in the current example.
An annotated bibliography not only provides an alphabetised list of citations (according to the conventions of the stipulated referencing system), it follows each reference with a descriptive paragraph which tersely summarises the source, defines its relevance and assesses its value. It is not merely a reference document, therefore, but uses annotations to expository effect – to explain the core argument of the source document, showing why this is relevant. In consequence, we are here concerned with a research as well as a reference document. Indeed, generally speaking, Annotated Bibliographies are an ancillary component in a larger-scale research project. Annotations will either be evaluative and informative or critical and analytical, with paragraphs usually of around 100 to 200 words that restate the source’s thesis, methods and findings. Depending on the quantity of sources, then, an annotated bibliography requires a substantial prose contribution. For this reason, it is not uncommon for Annotated Bibliographies to be set as individual tasks (and not attached to a corresponding assignment). Hence the principal objective is to give on broad-ranging summary of existing research on a given topic, permitting the reader to gain an overview. Consider that, allowing that this reader is researching the same topic as you are, he or she should be able from your annotations to discern which sources would be useful to them and why.
How to Annotate
Annotations follow a straightforward format, opening with a concise summary of the source, then progressing to outline its strengths and weaknesses; one would certainly relate this to the source’s conclusions. Next you need to establish the relevance of the source to your research, connecting this to methods used and counterpart studies as well. Finally, you would provide some order of brief assessment or critique, depending upon whether one was tasked with a descriptive or an analytical Bibliography. Your tutor will clarify this ahead of time. Necessarily, the various works listed will share a common research orientation. Due to the high specificity of this kind of project, one needs to be highly discriminating with the works included in an Annotated Bibliography. You need to research which sources to use in advance; identify which materials will be most suitable for your purposes. These items would then need to be reviewed. Essentially, one wants to afford a broad range of perspectives on the topic in discussion. In one sense, then, an Annotated Bibliography might be considered a more concise and pragmatic version of a literature review, which gets to the crux of the works it includes. For this reason, even where analyses are required, prose needs to be economical. One’s guiding principal is brevity, transmitting information in the most direct and efficient manner. Unless otherwise guided, annotations are to be composed in standard academic prose; so, hone your sentences to their communicative essence.
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