When researchers begin to think about a topic to study, they spend some time finding out what has already been studied in their area of interest. They search for articles and reports that provide information on the history, background, key findings, related issues, and knowledge gaps related to their research.
Understanding what information is already out there on a topic helps the researchers focus their own study while placing it in the proper context of current and past research. This process is the literature review. The researchers are going over what has already been written on their topic.
Usually, when they are publishing the results of their own study in a journal article, the researchers begin with a short literature review which now provides background and context for the readers, helping them to understand the relevance and importance of the current study.
Watch these videos for further explanations:
Example of a Literature Review from a Journal Article
"For each of the articles and other material list the source using the JAND (AMA) format. In the first paragraph provide a summary of the research question or paper topic, methods of analysis (if appropriate), results, conclusions and recommendations. In the second paragraph, provide an assessment of this paper or source for your research project, i.e., is it useful. Include any particularly useful definitions or key ideas in quotes with the page number specified. You could also include how it compares with other sources in your bibliography and how it changed how you are thinking about your topic."
Working on the annotated bibliography assignment will require you to read your sources carefully, summarize them, evaluate them, and explain how they will fit into your research paper.
"What's an annotated bibliograpy?" Video from Brock University Library (St. Catharine's, Ontario) 1:42
Annotated Bibliography from the Purdue Online Writing Lab http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/01/
A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, websites, 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.
- 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?
- 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.
Sample Annotation With Book in AMA Style
Ehrenreich B. Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting by in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company; 2001.
In this book of nonfiction based on the journalist's experiential research, Ehrenreich attempts to ascertain whether it is currently possible for an individual to live on a minimum-wage in America. Taking jobs as a waitress, a maid in a cleaning service, and a Wal-Mart sales employee, the author summarizes and reflects on her work, her relationships with fellow workers, and her financial struggles in each situation.
An experienced journalist, Ehrenreich is aware of the limitations of her experiment and the ethical implications of her experiential research tactics and reflects on these issues in the text. The author is forthcoming about her methods and supplements her experiences with scholarly research on her places of employment, the economy, and the rising cost of living in America. Ehrenreich’s project is timely, descriptive, and well-researched.
The annotation above both summarizes and assesses the book in the citation. The first paragraph provides a brief summary of the author's project in the book, covering the main points of the work. The second paragraph points out the project’s strengths and evaluates its methods and presentation. This particular annotation does not reflect on the source’s potential importance or usefulness for this person’s own research.
Full Requirements for Research Project: