An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to sources, such as books and articles. Each citation is followed by an annotation, a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph about 150 words long, that analyzes the source. An annotated bibliography usually looks like any other bibliography with alphabetized citations of sources, except that here each source is followed by an explanatory paragraph. The purpose of the annotation is to inform on the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited, and this work can form the basis of a literature review later in the writing process.
Your topic should be neither too broad nor too narrow, but engage with a specific research question. You may not have a thesis but will form one in the course of reading sources. Consider some strategies for selecting and refining a topic.
This is a time-consuming process when writing an annotated bibliography. You are looking for sources that work together to support or refute your research question, not just the first few sources available. You should also consider a variety of sources, including books, articles, primary sources, and reference materials. Check the Research Guide in your discipline for suggestions.
Evaluating a source is about more than reading the abstract. As part of the annotation, you should provide the following information: a summary of the source, the intended audience, a critical evaluation of the argument, and a contextual analysis of how it fits in your own research.
The citation is the first piece of information a reader will see, and should conform to one of the major citation style guides. Most guides require a "hanging first line," whereby the first line of the citation sits further to the right on the page with subsequent lines indented. This is a special indentation feature offered in the paragraph formatting section of Word (or other word-processing software). Don't try to indent by just adding spaces.
Each annotation immediately follows the citation, and consists of a short, evaluative paragraph. It can include a very brief summary of the source, along with information about the author(s) and intended audience, followed by a critical analysis of the source in relation to your topic and research question.
Ask yourself: Does it cover my topic? Is it a good representation of the sources available on the topic? An annotated bibliography isn't only a list of sources; the annotations should indicate some relationship between the sources and how they work together in the context of your research.
As a final check, be sure all the citations are formatted in accordance with your chosen style guide. Also make sure the overall organization of the bibliography makes sense in the context of the research question.
Most of the major citation styles call for a hanging first line on annotated bibliographies. This means the first line of the citation will align with the left margin of the page, and all subsequent lines of the citation and annotation will indent to the right.
Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.
From the same publisher as the Chicago Manual of Style, this guide offers practical advice on developing a research practice. This includes engaging with a variety of sources, choosing a topic, refining a research question, considering an audience, creating a well-developed argument, drafting and revising content, and communicating effectively in writing. This book is an excellent handbook for undergraduate and graduate researchers, and can be used as a teaching text or general guide to advance the research and writing process.