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BIOL 350: Cell Biology: Annotated Bibliography How-To

Making Your Annotated Bibliography

The Process

Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

  1. Understand the rules that your instructor has provided.
  2. Locate and note down the citation information for  journal articles that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose the articles that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.
  3. Cite your journal articles using whatever journal style you chose.
  4. Write an annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope your journal article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.
  5. Repeat until you have reviewed/annotated all of your journal articles.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of high-quality sources that you have found about your topic. The list contains sources such as books, articles, and documents. Each source is cited using a specific citation style (for example MLA, APA, Chicago, etc). Each cited source in the list is followed by a brief "annotation" (usually about 150 words) that is a descriptive and evaluative/critical paragraph. Write annotations with your audience in mind; remember, the purpose of the annotation is partly to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited. Another purpose is to remind the researcher (you) how you might use the source to support your thesis in a larger, related research project.

Why Make an Annotated Bibliography at all?

The act of research involves taking a very close look at a topic of interest.

Creating an annotated bibliography involves gathering the most important sources of information about one's topic. These sources can be used later as evidence to support an argument or analysis in a larger research project, like a research essay. An annotated bibliography requires you to carefully and critically look at each source, asking questions about how you will use it in your paper/project, and if it is the best source you could be using to make your point. Often times we do not think so critically about the sources we are using, and the end product can all too often reflect that. Creating an annotated bibliography first results in a better end product!

Annotations are not Abstracts

 Annotations are descriptive and critical; they expose the author's point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority.

Abstracts are purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotated bibliographies contain annotations - complete with descriptions and criticisms - not abstracts.  

Guide Attribution

This guide was adapted by SU Libraries with permission from  Research & Learning Services, Olin Library, Cornell University Library. Thanks library folks!