PhD Progress & Thoughts

How To Write An Annotated Bibliography

It should go without saying that when you google the title of this blog post, there will be thousands of results guiding writers towards this particular genre of writing. This post is for those who find themselves here and wanting my advice.

An ABib tends to follow a similar structure regardless of the field you’re in. You start with the full reference, and write a paragraph summarising it. It’s literally meant to be a references list, but with a curated assessment of why you selected each article for its relevance. I’ve seen it used as the foundation for literature reviews in Honours theses, as the ABib provides an outline of what you should be writing, and requires a bit of re-arranging to serve its purpose.

For people who enjoy reading and presenting what they found, an ABib might also be your favourite genre to write. Time-poor researchers are usually happy when they come across a systemic literature review or an ABib because you’ve done a little bit of the work for them – read, selected and curated a list of things worth investigating.

Notice I use the word ‘curated’. An ABib isn’t just ‘everything I found when I googled ‘YAY”. It’s a list of articles that, for a reason you’ve selected, are relevant. ABib tends to be on one topic, field or area, and each article develops understanding on that element. [See linked websites for examples]

Here is a basic outline of a common ABib structure;

Annotated Bibliography 

Word/Page/Article Limit:

This annotated bibliography serves the purpose of addressing [topic]. [X amount] of articles were selected because of their [relevance/scope/perspectives].

Article 1: [full reference]

-What was it about
– What was the scope, the sample, the study type, setting/context and the findings
– Why did you pick this article for the ABib? What was unique/interesting about it?
– What issues/research gaps did this article address? Did it address them well?

Article 2 [repeat]

(cont’d until sufficient)

To summarise, this ABib identified [X articles] as (what), and [Y articles] as (what). Interesting findings to highlight are (what) because (why).
[Here you can also write if any of your selected authors disagree and why, and which perspective you prefer].

The point of this type of writing is to be brief, as the annotations are only meant to add a little to the references; if the reader wanted a literature review they would be searching for one. I consider a Lit Review to be the ‘next step up’ from this exercise as you can build on your work from an ABib to create one.

ABib’s set as assessments or tasks by lecturers and supervisors may differ in what is requested for the ‘annotation’ part, so double-check the requirements of your exercise if it’s being set for you.


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