Image Map Skip to Main Content

Researching and Writing a Paper: Bibliography / Annotated Bibliography

This guide is about how to start, research, write, and format, a paper.

Bibliography / Annotated Bibliography

A Bibliography is a list of sources (books, journal articles, Web sites, periodicals, case reports, witness statements, etc.) used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are also called "References" or "Works Cited", depending on the citation style being used. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic information (author, title, publisher, publication date, etc.).

Bibliographies are required with nearly every academic paper, and the first thing you should always do with every source you read is to record the bibliographic information. Doing so can save you a lot of difficulty later.

There are many citation styles, for your amusement a partial list can be found here.  Almost always, if you write a paper for a class at Renton Technical College you will be using either the American Psychological Association style (APA) or the Modern Language Association style (MLA).  The RTC Library recommends that you use NoodleTools to help prepare your citations. More information about Citations and Citation Styles is linked to in this sentence.

Annotated Bibliography:
Some assignments will have you prepare an annotated bibliography for your paper. In addition to informing the reader about the sources you used to write your paper an annotated bibliography is also an excellent study tool. Preparing an annotated bibliography helps you understand the sources you are using, and helps you to figure out how you will use them in your paper.

An annotated bibliography is a bibliography with a summary of each of the entries. The annotations provide the reader with a summary and evaluation of each source. Each summary is a short explanation of the source's central idea(s) and gives the reader a general idea of the source. The following are the main components of an annotated bibliography. Not all these components are used in every instance; components vary depending on the type of annotated bibliography and the assignment description (re-reading the assignment description again is always a good idea).

Whether or not your assignment requires you to write something about a component you will find it useful to think about each of these components.

  • Full bibliographic citation: the necessary and complete bibliographical information - i.e. author, title, publisher, date, etc.
  • Author's background: name, authority, experience, or qualifications of the author.
  • Purpose of the work: the reasons why the author wrote the work.
  • Scope of the work: the breadth or depth of coverage and topics or sub-topics covered.
  • Main argument: State the main informative points of the work.
  • Audience: For whom was it written (general public, subject specialists, student?).
  • Methodology: What methodology and research methods did the work employ?
  • Viewpoint: What is the author's perspective or approach (school of thought, etc.)? e.g., note any unacknowledged bias or any undefended assumptions.
  • Sources: Does the author cite other sources? If so, what types or sources? Based on the author's own research? Personal opinion?
  • Reliability of the source: How reliable is the source?
  • Conclusion: What does the author conclude? Is the conclusion justified by the information the source provides?
  • Features: Any significant extras the source provides - e.g. visual aids (charts, maps, etc.), reprints of source documents, an annotated bibliography, etc.?
  • Strengths and Weaknesses: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the work?
  • Comparison: How does the source relate to other works done by other writers on the topic: does it agree or disagree with another author or a particular school of thought; are there other works which would support or dispute it?
  • Voice / Personal Conclusion: Provide your opinion of the work or a reaction to the source based on other available works, prior knowledge of the subject matter, or knowledge pools done by other researchers.

The Annotations:

  • The annotations for each source are written in paragraph form.
  • The lengths of the annotations vary from a couple of sentences to multiple paragraphs – generally the annotations average between 100 and 200 words.
  • When writing simple summaries of sources, the annotations may not be very long. When writing an extensive analysis of each source, more space will be needed.
  • A few sentences of general summary followed by several sentences of how the work fits into a larger paper or project can be very useful when you are writing your paper. (And is often what your teacher is wanting you to do when they assign an annotated bibliography.)

*** Questions or confusions about anything on this page, in this LibGuide, or anything else? You can Ask Us Questions! ***