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NRS160 Research Skills Guide: Writing an annotated bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources or citations with a short summary describing and evaluating each resource. This helps the reader to make an informed decision about whether the reading the full text of the resource will benefit them in their research.

There are four main types of annotation:

  • Descriptive annotations that describe the work
  • Summary annotations that provide a summary of the key points of a particular work
  • Critical annotations which evaluate where the work fits or doesn't fit within your research topic
  • Combined annotations which use all or some of the above styles.

Depending on your assignment you may be asked to reflect, summarise, critique, evaluate or analyse the source. You may be asked to find to search for a specific number of items to include in the annotated bibliography. These items are most commonly refereed or peer reviewed journal articles but can include book chapters, books, conference papers and other information sources.  You may be asked to write an annotated bibliography as a stand alone assignment or as a component of a larger project. 

How do I write an annotated bibliography?

For Assessment 1, you can break the creation of your annotated bibliography down into four main stages:

  1. Research: Search for resources that are relevant to your assessment topic. Use the Identify and Find sections of this guide to help you understand your question and locate relevant information.
  2. Evaluate: Read each resource in full, paying close attention to the quality of the resource and its relevance to your topic. Think about how well the resource allows you to answer the assessment question. Use the Evaluate section of this guide to help you determine the quality of a resource.
  3. Reference: Create an accurate citation for the resource using APA 7th. You'll find more on how to create a citation in the "Helpful resources" box on the right of this page.
  4. Annotate: Use your observations on quality and relevance from step 2 to inform your summary of the resource. You'll find some helpful resources in the box on the right, and you should take a look at the Academic Skill's Team's information on Academic writing, assignments and essays.

Things to consider

While working on your annotated bibliography, try to keep the following questions in mind:

  • What topic/ problem am I investigating? Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the topic you're exploring. Do some background reading to come up with key words and concepts. The Identify section of this guide will help you work through that process.
  • What question(s) am I exploring? Read over the assessment question and marking criteria to make sure you understand what you're being asked to do. Use Boolean operators to combine your search terms in a way that Primo can understand. For more on this, check out the Search strategies page of this guide and our short video on how to Get better search results.
  • What kind of material am I looking at and why? Are you looking for journal articles, reports, policies or books? Use the filters in Primo Search or a journal database to filter out resources that are outside of the scope of the assessment. Watch our short video on Sources of information to make sure you understand the different types of resource available and how best to use them.
  • Am I selecting the right resources? Does each resource relate to my research topic and assessment requirements? Don't be afraid to revise your search strategy and try out new key words if you're at a dead end!

Helpful resources for writing an annotated bibliography

Here are some resources you may find useful while working on your annotated bibliography: