Library:Library Research Skills For Biologists/Module 5/Page 03

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Why are Annotated Bibliographies useful?

Annotated bibliographies are very important research tools for both scholarly researchers and people who are just interested in knowing more about a particular topic. Annotated bibliographies exist on almost any topic and, like reference sources, are great places to start if you are new to an area of research and would like to locate and read descriptions of the key sources in a field.

Compiling an Annotated Bibliography Steps One to Three

Step One: Know Your Assignment and Find Sources

Refer to your course project guide or lab manual for specific requirements about:
  • The length of the annotations.
  • What questions to address in the annotations.
  • The citation style you should use.
  • The number of sources to include.

Then search for sources on your topic (for a review of how to search for scholarly literature, see modules 2 and 3).

Step Two: Summarizing Your Sources

After you have decided which sources you want to include in your annotated bibliography, you must write an annotation for each source.

Writing annotations requires that you draw on your summarizing and analysis skills (For more information on summarizing, take a look at the "Citing the Literature" module).

First, in the annotation of each source you must summarize the source. Answer questions such as:

  • What is the focus of the source?
  • Is the source directed at a particular audience(s)? (e.g., students, researchers, the general public)
  • What research method(s) did the authors use in their investigation?
  • What, if any, conclusion(s) did the author(s) reach?

Step Three: Evaluating Your Sources

After you have summarized the source, you must evaluate the source. You may wish to evaluate your source by answering the following questions: (Remember that this is not an exhaustive list!)
  • Determine if the source is reliable (for help answering this question, you may wish to consult the "Evaluating literature" module).
    • For example, briefly discuss the author's background. Is she/he an expert in the field? What are the author's credentials for writing about the topic? Is the author affiliated with an organization?
  • Evaluate the author's research methods and/or conclusions.
  • Consider questions such as: Was this source useful? How does this source help your investigation? Is the information too detailed? Or, was the information too simple?
  • Reflect on the source: how does this source help you shape your argument? How can it help you in your research project?

Consult your project guide or lab manual for specific questions that your instructor may want you to address.