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Annotated Bibliography

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When doing research or defending an argument it is important to cite sources. An annotated bibliography is a summary of sources used to research a topic. It 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. 1 You may have wondered why it is so important to cite sources when defending and argument. Here are a few reasons why.

To learn about your topic

Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information.

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To help you formulate a thesis

Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.

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To help other researchers

Extensive and scholarly annotated bibliographies are sometimes published. They provide a comprehensive overview of everything that has been and is being said about that topic. You may not ever get your annotated bibliography published, but as a researcher, you might want to look for one that has been published about your topic. 2

When compiling annotated bibliographies it is important to decide the proper citation format to use for your research. Annotated bibliographies can be cited using the following formats.

MLA (Modern Language Association)
MLA documentation is generally used for disciplines in the humanities, such as English, languages, film, and cultural studies or other theoretical studies. These annotations are often summary or analytical annotations.

APA (American Physiological Association)
Natural and social sciences, such as psychology, nursing, sociology, and social work use APA documentation. It is also used in economics, business, and criminology. These annotations are often succinct summaries.

CBE (Council of Biology Editors)
CBE documentation is used by the plant sciences, zoology, microbiology, and the medical sciences. 3

Sample Annotated Bibliography Entry For a Journal Article

MLA format for the journal citation. NOTE: Standard MLA practice requires double spacing within citations.

   Waite, Linda J., Frances Kobrin Goldscheider, and Christina Witsberger. "Nonfamily Living
          and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American
           Sociological Review 51 (1986): 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living. 1

APA format for the journal citation. NOTE: APA requires double spacing within citations.

   Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and
          the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological
           Review, 51, 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living. 1

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Sources

  1. How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography
    Reference Department;
    Instruction, Research, and Information Services (IRIS);
    Cornell University Library
    Ithaca, NY, USA
  2. Annotated Bibliographies
  3. Annotated Bibliography Examples

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Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . factcouraud. (2007, May 22). Annotated Bibliography. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: http://ocw.usu.edu/English/introduction-to-writing-academic-prose/annotated-bibliography.html. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License