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Biology 195J - Life of a Forest

Understanding an Annotated Bibliography

Generally speaking, what is an annotated bibliography? 

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. This work can form the basis of a literature review later in the writing process. The purpose of the annotation is to inform on the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

What isn't an annotated bibliography? 

An annotation is not only a summary of the source in question. It should be a short but critical analysis as to why and how the source fits into the larger research question. An abstract functions as a summary, an annotation should be contextual to the specific topic at hand. It should be both descriptive and evaluative. 

Types of annotations: 

  • Descriptive: states the topic of the source only
  • Evaluative: evaluates the source, which may include placing the work in context of other research or evaluating its usefulness. This is the type expected for most research assignments. 
  • Summary: summarizes the source but does not take a stance or make an argument about the source.

Annotated Bibliographies For Bio 195J

Your Annotated Bibliographies will contain two parts

  1. A bibliographic citation using either the "Author-Date" or the Nature Journal format
  2. An annotation for the sources that completely addresses each of the following questions (adapted from Hofmann, p.182):

a. Title of paper and authors.
b. What is the overall purpose of the research?
c. How does the research or content fit into the context of its field?
d. What was the general experiment/study approach?
e. What are the key findings or suggestions?
f. How are the reported findings different or better?
g. What are the major conclusions drawn from the findings?
h. If stated by the authors, what is the overall importance of the research?

An Example of an Annotated Citation in the Nature Journal Style

Bobcat, A. A., Goldthwait, B. & Lynx, D. E.. Cataloging deciduous trees on Bates College Campus: Decadal changes. Journal of Urban Forestry 220, 995-1007 (2023).

Cataloging deciduous trees on Bates College Campus: Decadal changes by Bobcat, Goldthwait, and Lynx reports a detailed survey and cataloging of the deciduous tree composition of Bates College campus in Lewiston, Maine annually over a 20 year period.  Changes in tree number, composition, and general health are reported and analyzed with the purpose of investigating how changes in land use and climate have affected these three variables.  This paper represents one of a growing number (> 10 in the past 5 years) of similar studies of small, established northern urban deciduous tree stands.  General methodology included an initial land survey of the Bates Campus and inventory of the entire deciduous tree population.  The location of each tree was identified and each tree was given a unique identification number.  Each year over a 20 year period (2003-2023) each tree was scored in 5 areas related to overall tree health.  Trees that had died or been removed during the previous year were noted.  Newly introduced trees were given a unique identification number and were included in the study moving forward.  Key findings show that the number of Ulmus × hollandica (aka Dutch Elm) trees have decreased from nearly 200 to 0, while relative numbers of Quercus rubra (aka Red Oak) have remained essentially constant.  In contrast, numbers of Betula papyrifera (aka Paper Birch) have increased significantly.  This paper represents the first peer reviewed quantitative longitudinal study of the composition and health of deciduous trees on Bates Campus. Major conclusions include the statement "things look really bleak for the Dutch Elm.  It looks like a rapidly acting external or newly introduced factor lead to a 100% failure in this population."  The authors neglected to indicate their opinion regarding the overall importance of the study.

Hofmann, A. H. Writing in the biological sciences : a comprehensive resource for scientific communication. Fourth edition edn,  (Oxford University Press, 2022).

Look for Examples of Nature Journal Bibliographic Citations

You can navigate to the January 2024 Issue of Nature From This Link:

Volume 625 Issue 7995, 18 January 2024

By looking at the articles in this issue, you can see examples of bibliography citations in the Nature journal style.

For example: