Research Therapy: What’s an Annotated Bibliography?

Oviatt Library’s Research Therapy Session Three: What’s an Annotated Bibliography? Do you need to do an annotated bibliography for class? Not sure exactly what that means? First things first – an annotated bibliography is not a paper. Instead it is a list of citations, which each have a paragraph describing or evaluating the work cited. This paragraph is called an annotation. So, why an annotated bibliography instead of a paper? Sometimes professors assign you an annotated bibliography to get you used to doing research in your subject area or to expand your knowledge of a topic. Other times the annotated bibliography is part of a larger assignment, such as a presentation or a paper that is due later. Now that you know what an annotated bibliography is, let’s talk about how you put one together. First, you’ll need to find the number and type of sources required by your professor. If you have problems finding sources, check out our other tutorials or ask a librarian. Then you’ll need to know what citation style to use, such as MLA or APA. This determines both how you put together your citations, as well as the overall format of the annotated bibliography. If your professor hasn’t specified a style, pick one and stick with it for the entire assignment. The next step is to put together citations for all of the books, articles, and/or websites you are including in your bibliography. You can use the citation guides on the library’s Citing Your Sources page to put together your citations or to double-check citations from a database or a citation generator. Once your citations are correct, place them in alphabetical order by the first author’s last name. Use the first word of the title if there is no author. Then add your annotations, which are typically 4-6 sentences long. Your annotation can describe the work cited, critically evaluate the work, or do both. If your professor provides specific directions on what to include in your annotation or how long it should be, follow those directions instead. However, the annotation must always be your own words, not the abstract provided by the article. In general, your annotated bibliography should be double-spaced, with a hanging indent. In MLA style, your annotations come immediately after the citation, while in APA style the annotations begin on the next line. If your professor provides specific formatting requirements, you should follow those instead. If you have any questions, please click on “Ask a Librarian” from the library’s homepage We’ll see you next session.

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