5g- Building an Annotated Bibliography

As stat­ed above, a par­tic­u­lar instruc­tor may or may not require an anno­tat­ed bib­li­og­ra­phy as a sep­a­rate writ­ing assign­ment.  Even so, this text can often be help­ful to a larg­er research project.  An anno­tat­ed bib­li­og­ra­phy is essen­tial­ly a list of the sources you find rel­e­vant, with all of the nec­es­sary bib­li­o­graph­ic infor­ma­tion (i.e. author, title, pub­lish­er, year, etc.), fol­lowed by infor­ma­tion about the con­tent of the source. Anno­tat­ed bib­li­ogra­phies can be used for a vari­ety of pur­pos­es.  They may demon­strate the qual­i­ty of your research, or pro­vide read­ers addi­tion­al back­ground infor­ma­tion.  An anno­tat­ed bib­li­og­ra­phy often accom­pa­nies a research pro­pos­al and jus­ti­fies both the rel­e­vance and need for such research.  In short, an anno­tat­ed bib­li­og­ra­phy pro­vides a larg­er frame of ref­er­ence for a spe­cif­ic research project.

While it may seem incred­i­bly obvi­ous, in order to write an anno­tat­ed bib­li­og­ra­phy, you need to pay atten­tion to both the form and con­tent of the doc­u­ment.  The form is fair­ly straight­for­ward:  a list of cita­tions, each one in alpha­bet­i­cal order, fol­lowed by a short para­graph of summary—the anno­ta­tion.  In terms of for­mat­ting the bib­li­o­graph­ic cita­tions, you will use the doc­u­men­ta­tion style your teacher prefers you to use.  Dif­fer­ent styles include APA, MLA, and Chica­go Style. Basic guide­lines for MLA and APA doc­u­men­ta­tion strate­gies are dis­cussed lat­er in this chap­ter, but most writ­ers, if not all, use a style man­u­al when for­mat­ting their bib­li­ogra­phies or works cit­ed pages. This is not the kind of infor­ma­tion that most peo­ple car­ry around in their heads. The styles also evolve and change, so your best bet is to keep your style man­u­al or hand­book close at hand, or to check web style sources, such as http://www.apa.org  or http://www.mla.org for updat­ed infor­ma­tion, or vis­it an online resource like www.easybib.com  for inter­ac­tive, online for­mat­ting help. This is also why you need to keep care­ful track of the details of your sources and, as you type this infor­ma­tion into your com­put­er, take the time from the out­set to order this infor­ma­tion in terms of the required style man­u­al for your class.

The con­tent of the document—the sum­ma­ry paragraphs—sounds straight­for­ward enough, but because this doc­u­ment is more for­mal than your own note tak­ing and sum­ma­riz­ing for your­self, there are aspects to keep in mind.  Fol­low­ing the basic bib­li­o­graph­ic infor­ma­tion, you will write a ful­ly-devel­oped para­graph that sum­ma­rizes the con­tent of the source and pro­vides an eval­u­a­tion of how you see it con­nect­ed to your research and your site.  The sum­ma­ry should pro­vide infor­ma­tive, descrip­tive, and eval­u­a­tive infor­ma­tion. In oth­er words, you will write about the main ideas or argu­ments pre­sent­ed by the author/authors in the source, what is includ­ed in the source, what you think of or how you respond to the source, and how it relates to your own ideas and project.

Each anno­tat­ed bib­li­o­graph­ic entry should work to pro­vide sub­stan­tial answers to the fol­low­ing four questions:

  • What is the larg­er, gen­er­al focus of this book or article?
  • What is the more spe­cif­ic, par­tic­u­lar idea pre­sent­ed by the author/authors in this work that seems rel­e­vant to your research?
  • How does this idea con­nect with your research?
  • Where do you think this con­nec­tion could lead your activ­i­ty in the site and/or writ­ing as you pro­ceed dur­ing the course of this semester?

The first two ques­tions per­tain to the act of sum­ma­riz­ing the work and the sec­ond two ques­tions help push you toward mak­ing a spe­cif­ic con­nec­tion between this source and your research.  To ful­ly address these ques­tions, your anno­tat­ed bib­li­og­ra­phy entries should be at least 6–8 sen­tences in length.

Documenting Secondary Source Material (MLA and APA)

Dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines, dif­fer­ent schol­ar­ly jour­nals, and most impor­tant­ly for you, dif­fer­ent class­es and instruc­tors may require dif­fer­ent styles. It is very impor­tant that you check with your instruc­tor in each class to find out which style /format you are expect­ed to use in your writing.

Typ­i­cal­ly, the Mod­ern Lan­guage Asso­ci­a­tion (MLA) style is used through­out the human­i­ties, though Chica­go style is wide­ly used in his­to­ry and human­i­ties for those who favor foot­notes.  The Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion (APA) is used through­out the social sci­ences while the Coun­cil of Sci­ence Edi­tors (CSE, for­mer­ly CBE) is expect­ed in the nat­ur­al sci­ences. Each of these styles varies in the for­mat for in-text (your quotes and para­phras­es) and bib­li­og­ra­phy or works cit­ed entries. Online bib­li­o­graph­ic for­mat help is also wide­ly avail­able. One of the best places to con­sult is the  Pur­due Online Writ­ing Lab (OWL): http://owl.english.purdue.edu/.  Here you will find links to the MLA and APA style sheets, as well as many oth­er resources for help­ing you with your writing.