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7) Write Your Paper: Annotated Bibliographies

A University of Lethbridge Library guide to common writing assignments.


What is an Annotated Bibliography?

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources (references cited), followed by an annotation or description of each source. Annotations may be descriptive or critical.

What is a descriptive annotation?

A descriptive annotation simply summarizes the book or article. It does not provide analysis or criticism of the work.

What is a critical annotation?

A critical annotation may contain a summary, but it goes beyond basic description to evaluate or criticize the work.

Examples of this type of analysis include:

  • Notes on the quality of the work
  • Analysis of the author's assumptions or biases
  • Discussion of how the work relates to other literature in its field
  • Notes on how the work supports or challenges your own arguments

How to Write A Critical Annotation

What should I include in a critical annotation?

These guidelines are meant to help you systematically evaluate your sources. The questions apply to most types of literature (books, journal articles, or government publications), and to virtually all subjects.

  • Authority: Who is the author? Are they qualified to write on the subject? What is the author's education, occupation, title, experience, etc.? Was the article published in a scholarly journal?
  • Purpose: What is the purpose for writing the article or for doing the research?
  • Audience: What type of audience is the author writing to? (i.e. general public, scholars, policy makers, professionals, teachers, practitioners, etc.)? Is this reflected in the author's style of writing or language?
  • Context: Does the author make any assumption or express any biases which affect the rationale of the publication? Are there specific studies, schools of thought, or philosophies with which this one agrees or disagrees?
  • Design: How was the study designed? What method was used to obtain data or conduct research? (i.e. personal opinion or experience, interviews, questionnaires, library research, laboratory experiments, case studies, etc.)? Is it appropriate? Are the measures used in the study explained? Could someone else repeat the study given the information in the publication?
  • Results: What conclusions does the author arrive at? Is it a clear, appropriate, and reliable analysis of the data? Are unexpected results, reservations, or limitations of the study design discussed?
  • Conclusions: Are the conclusions supported by the data? How does this study compare with similar studies? Does the study offer important practice or theory for the future?
  • Extras: Are there attachments or appendixes such as maps, charts, bibliographies, tests, or questionnaires? If not, should there be?

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