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Annotated Bibliography : Getting Started

The purpose of this guide is to introduce students to the process of writing an annotated bibliography.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Selecting Sources for Your Annotated Bibliography

An important first step to starting your annotated bibliography is selecting your sources. You will need to define the scope of your project or research, so that you can decide what to include an exclude during this process. Consider these questions to help you find a reasonable scope for your assignment and to select sources:

  • What problem are you investigating? What questions are you trying to answer? What is your topic?
  • What kind of materials are you looking for? Books, journal articles, government reports, articles from the popular press, primary sources?
  • Where might you find these sources?
  • How recent does the information need to be? 

A good place to start your search for online journal articles, news articles, and other types of electronic sources is by using our A-Z Databases list. You can find databases by subject coverage and material type. You can also find electronic and physical materials using our library catalog. Once you have selected your sources, then you can begin evaluating them and creating your annotated bibliography.

It is recommended that you consult with your instructor if you are unsure of your project scope, topic, or any of the requirements of the assignment. 

Why Should I Write an Annotated Bibliography?

Most of the time, you write an annotated bibliography for a class assignment. There are a lot of benefits to writing an annotated bibliography, including:

  • To learn more about a topic
    • When you write an annotated bibliography, you usually read the sources more carefully and interact with the content and ideas more critically. This helps you learn more about a given topic or subject. 
  • To help you develop a thesis
    • Writing an annotated bibliography can help you see multiple perspectives on a subject. By reading a variety of sources from a variety of perspectives and thinking critically about each source, you'll be able to develop your own perspective on the same topic. 
  • To get a sense of the larger conversations on your topic
    • By reviewing a number of sources on the same topic, you will be able to see the major conversations and ideas on that topic or in that subject area, which can give you a sense of where your ideas fit into the larger conversation. 
  • To help you recall information about the sources you have previously consulted
    • Annotated bibliographies can help you keep track of the research you have done and the sources you have consulted, which is especially useful for a long-term project. You can refer back to an annotated bibliography to help you remember why you consulted the source and what information it provided you with.