An annotated bibliography gives a brief account of the available research on a given topic. It is a list of research sources – such as book chapters, journal articles, and website material – that includes a summary and evaluation of each source.
Essentially, it is a list of sources (a bibliography) with notes (annotation).
Annotated bibliographies have several functions. They can be used to:
- Review the literature on a particular topic. The key consideration is the text’s relevance to your area of concern.
- Demonstrate the quality and depth of your research.
- Provide an accessible record of your academic readings to draw on at a later stage, including:
- the bibliographic details of the source you intend to use in your text,
- a summary of the reading, so that you don’t have to re-read the entire source again, and
- your evaluation of the reading.
The structure and expression
Each entry in an annotated bibliography begins with the bibliographic details of the source (the citation), followed by a brief annotation which is broken up into two additional parts that summarises and evaluates the resource.
- The summary section reports the authors’ ideas and research objectively and uses terms such as: Trevor et al, The authors, Their research.
- The evaluation section details how and why the resource is useful and uses subjective opinion and evaluative language, such as: The article, The main limitation of the article, This article.
Annotations also incorporate reporting verbs. These verbs are used to describe and summarise the information found in the literature. For example:
Finally, annotations use words and phrases that show logical relationships (logical connectors) between the ideas. For example:
|1. and – signals additional idea
2. such as – signals exemplification
3. as – signals reasons
|4. however – signals contrasting idea
5. thus – signals (authors’) conclusion
Note: See page 4 for a more complete list of logical connectors.
|The citation||Must include the full bibliographic details of the source including the author, date, title and publisher.|
|The annotation||Needs to be concise – about 200 words. Each annotation addresses the following elements or questions:
1. Main argument and research address the following questions:
a. What is the author’s thesis or main argument?
b. What is the aim of the research and what methodology was used?
c. What were the conclusion and any limitations?
2. Usefulness and reflection address the following questions:
a. How does it help us address the question?
b. How will you use the resource?
There are a number of different types of research. These include survey research, action research, experimental research, evaluation and performance measurement, ethnography, and case studies just to name a few. Listed are the most common research methodologies that you will encounter when conducting your research.
|Case study||A methodology which focuses on understanding the dynamics present within a single setting; often used in the exploratory stages of research.
Limitation: It incapable of providing a generalizing conclusion
|Descriptive research||A study which aims to describe phenomena as they exist; it identifies and obtains information on the characteristics of a particular problem or issue.
Limitation: Cannot draw conclusions that show cause and effect.
|Discourse analysis||A study that uses secondary research to support its thesis. Secondary research could include someone else’s statistical data, definitions, or analysis.
Limitation: Does not provide definite answers but provides an insight/knowledge based on continuous debate and argumentation.
|Experimental research||A methodology that is used to investigate the relationship between two variables. The independent variable is deliberately manipulated in order to observe the effect on the dependent variable.
Limitation: the sample may not be representative of a population – limited to one location, limited in number, studied under constrained conditions and for too short a time.
|Focus groups||A method of collecting data whereby selected participants discuss their reactions and feelings about a product, service, type of situation or concept under the guidance of a group leader.
Limitation: Results cannot be generalized. Because focus group participants do not represent a big enough sample size, the information gathered cannot be used to make statements about any larger population.
|Interviews||A method of collecting data in which selected participants are asked questions to find out what they do, think or feel.
Limitation: Having the interviewer present may influence the answers given; the samples are too small to be representative and too much detailed information can be difficult to analyse and interpret.
|Observation||A method for collecting data used in the laboratory or in the field to observe and record people’s actions and behaviour.
Limitation: Subjects may modify their behaviour when they know they are being watched.
|Questionnaires||A method for collecting data in which a selected group of participants are asked to complete a written set of structured questions to find out what they do, think or feel.
Limitation: Answers tend to be limited in information which can result in low validity due to limited depth in answers; question ambiguity; or response ambiguity.
|Survey||A methodology whereby a sample of subjects is drawn from a population and studied to make inferences about the population.
Limitation: Structured surveys may have low validity due to the respondents’ motivation, honesty, memory, and ability to respond.