Sometimes, the value of scholarship is in the documents you create to prove it. Every scholar wishes not to get bogged down by paperwork. But look at it this way — the academic document advertises your credibility and the thoroughness of your research. It is also the Kevlar against plagiarism (and sometimes the cause of it).
Every academic document has its own nuts and bolts. Today, let’s talk about an important one — the annotated bibliography.
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to journals, books, articles, and other documents followed by a brief paragraph. The paragraph(s) is a description of the source and how it supports your paper.
It is the one document that can make your and your professor’s life easier as you end your research paper with a flourish. Just how we go about using Microsoft Word for this kind of research writingGoogle Docs vs. Microsoft Word: The Death Match for Research WritingGoogle Docs vs. Microsoft Word: The Death Match for Research WritingOnline solutions are becoming the norm. We decided to see how Microsoft Word stacks up against Google Docs. Which one will do the better research paper?Read More is what the lines below are for.
The Annotated Bibliography: Let’s Define It
It’s important not to confuse an annotated bibliography with a regular bibliography or works cited.
A regular bibliography is simply a list of source citations. Nothing more. The screen below is an example of a regular bibliography. As you can see, it doesn’t go into deeper detail about the books or sources mentioned.
An annotated bibliography has a few more parts to it. It is easy to get the idea from the meaning of the word “annotation”. According to Merriam-Webster, an annotation is:
A note added to a text, book, drawing, etc., as a comment or explanation.
Here’s what a common annotated bibliography looks like. I am sure you can instantly make out the extra parts that go into framing it.
As you can see, the sample above starts with the usual bibliographic citation. Then, it includes a summary and a clear evaluation of the source you used for researching your topic. The intent behind adding your own summary and analysis after the primary or secondary source is to define the topic area and how it applies to your research. You have to add an annotation each time that you create a new source.
It is a lot of work. But this effort from you helps the reader find useful information at a glance. It tells the reader how each borrowed information has helped the progress of the paper. And, it offers everyone a window into your thinking behind the topic you have selected.
Using Word to Create an Annotated Bibliography
The easiest way to create an annotated bibliography in Microsoft Word? Use a template to save time.
But it is always better to create one from scratch and sharpen your research writing skills in the process. It is not difficult, so don’t hold yourself back. You have to keep in mind the style of the documentation required for your research. There are distinguishing differences between the APA, AMA, and MLA Style.
I am going to follow the MLA (Modern Language Association) Style and show how to create a well-formatted document in Microsoft Word in five basic steps.
1. Set Up Your Word Document. Go to Ribbon > Layout > Margins > Normal (1-inch margins on all sides).
2. Set the font. MLA recommends a serif font (e.g. Times New Roman). Go to Home > Font and choose Times New Roman and 12 pt. Also, go to the Paragraph group and choose 2.0 for double-spaced line settings.
Start the Annotated Bibliography
3. Choose the location. An annotated bibliography begins on a new page that follows the end of your research sections. Type “Annotated Bibliography” at the top and center-align it on the page. It should be capitalized and centered—not bolded or underlined.
4. Choose your sources. Research and record the information that pertains to your topic. A properly-formatted citationMake Writing Papers Easier - 4 Websites That Help You Cite SourcesMake Writing Papers Easier - 4 Websites That Help You Cite SourcesWhen the time comes to write a paper, one of the biggest pains can be citing your sources. You've spent hours and hours slaving away over your computer, perfectly crafting every word. You're cruising for...Read More comes first and you have to cite your source according to the MLA Style.
The MLA citation style for a book follows this sample sequence:
Author, A.A. Write the Title of Work in Italics. Publisher City, State: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium.
Example: Smith, J. Just a Good Book That You Can Cite. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Print.
The citation is the most important part — so do follow the format religiously by following the style format guide. There are many online sources which cover the popular citation styles in more detail.
5. Indent the second line. The second line of the citation uses a hanging indent to offset half-an-inch from the left margin. Just hit enter at the end of the first line and then press the Tab key to create the hanging indent. You can also adjust it with the hanging indent marker on the ruler. So, your citation will look like this:
As you can see above, each individual citation will start flush from the 1-inch margin. But everything from the second line will be offset 0.5 inches to the right.
To set the hanging indents, you can also go to Ribbon > Paragraph > Click on the Paragraph settings arrow to display the dialog box. Under Indentation, click on Special > Hanging. By default, the hanging indent is set to 0.5 inches.
Microsoft Word does not always like to space things properly. So, you might have to tweak by hand and indent everything from the second line onward.
Use Microsoft Word’s Bibliography Tool
Microsoft Word has a built-in bibliography tool you can use to manage your citations. On the Ribbon, go to the References tab.
In the Citations & Bibliography group, click the arrow next to Style.
Click the style that you want to use for the citation and source, e.g. MLA.
Select the location where you want to start the citation. Then, click Insert Citation.
Two options are available in the dropdown menu.
- You can add the source information for the citation.
- You can also add a placeholder, so that you can create a citation and fill in the source information later
If you choose Add New Source, enter all the citation details in the Create Source box. Click OK.
You can preview the citation in the Manage Sources dialog box.
Microsoft Word also helps you manage your long list of sources. Get proficient with this underused Microsoft word feature7 Underused Microsoft Word Features and How to Use Them7 Underused Microsoft Word Features and How to Use ThemAre you overlooking some of Microsoft Word's most useful features? This application features a surprising number of underused tools and options. We have unearthed seven and will show you how to use them.Read More and save yourself some time. The Office Support page also explains the nitty-gritty of bibliographies.
You can also use online citation generators, though there is more value in doing it yourself.
Write the Annotation
Just to remind you again: the annotation begins below the citation. The annotated text is also indented below the citation. The first line of the citation that begins with the author’s last name is the only text that is flush left in the entire bibliography.
The paragraphs you include will depend on the aim of your bibliography. Some annotations may summarize, some may analyze a source, while some may offer an opinion on the ideas cited. Some annotations may include all three paragraphs. In brief: it can be descriptive, analytical, or critical. But it follows a specific order…
- The first paragraph is a summary of the source.
- The second paragraph is an evaluation of the source.
- The last paragraph can look into the relevance of the source material for the research.
In the MLA Style, annotated bibliographies have to be arranged alphabetically according to the last names of the first author mentioned in each of the citations. So, just copy-paste each annotation in the proper order.
A Few Resources for the MLA Style
One of the best videos I could find on YouTube that explains the entire process in detail comes from “mistersato411”:
It’s also useful to keep these two official documentation sites bookmarked.
The Purdue Online Writing Lab is a useful resource for understanding style formats quickly.
Is Writing an Annotated Bibliography Hard?
The research is the hard part. Don’t make turning your research into the desired format harder than it should be. It really isn’t. Academicians have turned it into something mystical!
Just pay attention to the little details. If you are used to the APA Style, a move to MLA Style can spark mistakes. That could be the difference between a pat on the back or a red mark.
So, as in everything practice makes perfect. And the right digital tool is an asset for organizing your researchConquer Your Next Research Project The Easy Way With These ToolsConquer Your Next Research Project The Easy Way With These ToolsWhether you’re in school or you have a job, you likely have or will have to research at one point or another. And if you’re like most people, you will have to do it several...Read More. If you are a Word newbie, take time to learn all the tricks9 Tips to Learn All About Office 20169 Tips to Learn All About Office 2016Microsoft Office 2016 is among us. How are you mastering the latest version for the sake of your productivity? We tip you off to the best links for Office learning. Steal a march with these...Read More the Office suite has up its sleeve.
Do you think writing annotated bibliographies is a tough task? Offer your best tips in the comments — it just might make life easier for a student who reads it!
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This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.
Contributors: Geoff Stacks, Erin Karper, Dana Bisignani, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 12:16:22
A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).
An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation. Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following.
- Summarize: Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say? The length of your annotations will determine how detailed your summary is.
For more help, see our handout on paraphrasing sources.
- Assess: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
For more help, see our handouts on evaluating resources.
- Reflect: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?
Your annotated bibliography may include some of these, all of these, or even others. If you're doing this for a class, you should get specific guidelines from your instructor.
Why should I write an annotated bibliography?
To learn about your topic: Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information. At the professional level, annotated bibliographies allow you to see what has been done in the literature and where your own research or scholarship can fit. To help you formulate a thesis: Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So, a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.
To help other researchers: Extensive and scholarly annotated bibliographies are sometimes published. They provide a comprehensive overview of everything important that has been and is being said about that topic. You may not ever get your annotated bibliography published, but as a researcher, you might want to look for one that has been published about your topic.
The format of an annotated bibliography can vary, so if you're doing one for a class, it's important to ask for specific guidelines.
The bibliographic information: Generally, though, the bibliographic information of the source (the title, author, publisher, date, etc.) is written in either MLA or APA format. For more help with formatting, see our MLA handout. For APA, go here: APA handout.
The annotations: The annotations for each source are written in paragraph form. The lengths of the annotations can vary significantly from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages. The length will depend on the purpose. If you're just writing summaries of your sources, the annotations may not be very long. However, if you are writing an extensive analysis of each source, you'll need more space.
You can focus your annotations for your own needs. A few sentences of general summary followed by several sentences of how you can fit the work into your larger paper or project can serve you well when you go to draft.