Annotated Bibliography Topic Proposal Argumentative Essay
This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.
Contributors: Geoff Stacks, Erin Karper, Dana Bisignani, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 12:16:22
A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).
An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation. Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following.
- Summarize: Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say? The length of your annotations will determine how detailed your summary is.
For more help, see our handout on paraphrasing sources.
- Assess: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
For more help, see our handouts on evaluating resources.
- Reflect: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?
Your annotated bibliography may include some of these, all of these, or even others. If you're doing this for a class, you should get specific guidelines from your instructor.
Why should I write an annotated bibliography?
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. At the professional level, annotated bibliographies allow you to see what has been done in the literature and where your own research or scholarship can fit. 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.
To help other researchers: Extensive and scholarly annotated bibliographies are sometimes published. They provide a comprehensive overview of everything important 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.
The format of an annotated bibliography can vary, so if you're doing one for a class, it's important to ask for specific guidelines.
The bibliographic information: Generally, though, the bibliographic information of the source (the title, author, publisher, date, etc.) is written in either MLA or APA format. For more help with formatting, see our MLA handout. For APA, go here: APA handout.
The annotations: The annotations for each source are written in paragraph form. The lengths of the annotations can vary significantly from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages. The length will depend on the purpose. If you're just writing summaries of your sources, the annotations may not be very long. However, if you are writing an extensive analysis of each source, you'll need more space.
You can focus your annotations for your own needs. A few sentences of general summary followed by several sentences of how you can fit the work into your larger paper or project can serve you well when you go to draft.
You gather sources for an Annotated Bibliography in order to get ready to write a research paper. Here are the steps to get started:
1. Decide on your topic idea by thinking about topics you are interested in researching, then narrow that topic by finding a specific question that your paper will answer. For examples of good questions see 100 Argument or Position Essay Topics with Sample Essays.
2. Choose on Search Terms which will help you. Consider search terms which will help both in proving ideas about your question, and your answer to that question. Ask a librarian for help if you can't find search terms. Google can actually help you too. Type your search term ideas into Google and see what suggestions they have of similar searches. Try Google Scholar for peer-reviewed sources you can use in your essay.
3. Gather sources for your topic from the Internet and library that you think will help you answer the question. Since not all the sources may actually work out for your topic, you either need to skim over them as you go or pick more than you will need, so you can choose the best.
4. Read your sources carefully and annotate them, which means that you take notes and underline so that you:
- Know the main points of the paper.
- Analyze whether the arguments and evidence is strong or weak.
- Decide what ideas in the source could be useful in your own paper.
5. Make a correct Bibliographical Entry for your article. Hint: Many online sources may have a Bibliographical citation for you at the end of the paper. If they don't, see my steps for writing an MLA Bibliography for help in writing your own and links to some online reference tools that can make the Bibliography for you.
6. Write out your own summary of each article. Remember that your summary should not include quotes and that the words you use should be your own and not the author you are quoting.
7. Write a response to the article which indicates what you think about the ideas and arguments.
8. Write how you will use this article in your Research paper. Thinking about how you can put this source into your paper is the most important part of this process. Deciding how you will use this information can help you write your outline and also help you to figure out which part of your essay needs more information and research.
9. Put Your Bibliography together. The Annotated Bibliography is a single document with the sources put together in alphabetical order based on the last name of the author (or the title of the source if there is no author). The format of each source is:
- Bibliographical Citation
- Your response, or what you think about this source.
- How you can use this source in your paper.
Note: Check the instructions for your paper. Not all assignments will include writing a response and how you will use in your paper although you might want to make these notes to help you remember what you thought when you begin to write.