An annotation is more than just a brief summary of an article, book, web site or other type of publication. An annotation should give enough information to make a reader decide whether to read the complete work.
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.
While an abstract also summarizes an article, book, web site or other type of publication, it is purely descriptive. Although annotations can be descriptive, they also include distinctive features about an item. Annotations can be evaluative and critical and the two major types of annotations included here demonstrate the difference.
An annotated bibliography gives an account of the research that has been done on a given topic. Like any bibliography, an annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of research sources. In addition to bibliographic data, an annotated bibliography provides a concise summary of each source and some assessment of its value or relevance.
Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.
There are two major types of annotated bibliographies:
Descriptive or informative
Analytical or critical
The quality and usefulness of your bibliography will depend on your selection of sources. Define the scope of your research carefully so that you can make good judgments about what to include and exclude.
First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.
A descriptive or informative annotated bibliography describes or summarizes a source as does an abstract; it describes why the source is useful for researching a particular topic or question and its distinctive features.
An analytical or critical annotation not only summarizes the material, it analyzes what is being said. It examines the strengths and weaknesses of what is presented as well as describing the applicability of the author’s conclusions to the research being conducted.
If your bibliography is an independent project on a general topic (e.g. aboriginal women and Canadian law), try formulating your topic as a question or a series of questions in order to define your search more precisely.
An annotation briefly restates the main argument of a source. Keep in mind that identifying the argument of a source is a different task than describing or listing its contents. Rather than listing contents, an annotation should account for why the contents are there.
To write an annotated bibliography here are the steps:
Choose your sources – Before writing your annotated bibliography, you must choose your sources. This involves doing research much like for any other project. Locate records to materials that may apply to your topic.
Review the items – Then review the actual items and choose those that provide a wide variety of perspectives on your topic. Article abstracts are helpful in this process.
Write the citation and annotation – When writing your annotation, the complete citation should always come first and the annotation follows.
Depending on the type of annotated bibliography you are writing, you will want to include:
The purpose of the work
A summary of its content
For what type of audience the work is written
Its relevance to the topic
Any special or unique features about the material
The strengths, weaknesses or biases in the material
Remember, the citations themselves must be formatted properly.