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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What is the annotated bibliography?
An annotated bibliography is simply a list of sources written using a specific formatting style with an accompanied annotation for each source. This type of bibliography is sometimes requested by instructors to accompany a student's research or term paper; it varies considerably with regards to writing style and citation format. One of the key features of an annotated bibliography is that it is not an abstract and should therefore be more than just a descriptive summary of a source. In addition to summarizing the author's major points, the annotation also provides critical evaluations of the text being referenced.
Some functions of an annotated bibliography
Since the structure and requirements of annotated bibliographies vary from professor to professor or department to department, there may be a bit of confusion as to what exactly the purpose of an annotated bibliography is.
Annotated bibliographies serve to...
- demonstrate that you've studied and understand a topic (similar to a literature review)
- help jumpstart your research project
- be used as a referencing guide for other students and researchers
- put a particular title in context with other similar works that have been written or developed on the subject matter
Secondly, after understanding the purpose of an annotated bibliography its also important to note the types of sources that generally make up the list.
What sources make up annotated bibliographies?
The sources used in annotated bibliographies are not limited to books and encyclopedias. Just like any other type of reference or work cited page an annotated bibliography still serves its main purpose of supplying an organized list of resources used (or that may be used) in a research project. Therefore the sources can range from books, journal articles, and newspaper archives, to audio as well as manuscripts, artifacts and government documents. *Though when serving the role of a literature review for instance, its likely that most of the sources in the annotated bibliography will be books and journal articles.
Types of annotated bibliographies
As mentioned earlier there are a few common types of annotated bibliographies. Due to the many variations in how they are structured its very important to find out exactly what is expected of you when preparing your annotated bibliography.
The following list provides some different types of annotated bibliographies though instructors will generally request a combination of all of them rather than just one. Likewise, if you are able to browse through some examples of annotated bibliographies you may also find that those samples do not exactly fall under the four categories either. Usually you will find that the author will combine at least two or more types into one bibliography.
The descriptive annotation is simply done by describing a work with regards to its basic components, such as chapter headings, key features, or any notable sections such as glossaries or appendices. A descriptive annotation does not thoroughly summarize the work (as far as the author's argument) nor does it evaluate it.
Informative (also known as the summary)
This form is commonly associated with the annotation and serves the general function of a summarizing the title. It highlights the main points of the work while summarizing the author's main argument, objective, and points of discussion. This type of annotation is very important for those seeking to obtain a general idea of a topic and basic understanding of the main issues addressed.
This last type is often included in annotations as well as it provides a critical analysis of the work being referenced to (similar to a book critique in some respects). The major issue examined is the relevance of the work to the research project as well as where the particular title fits in as compared to other works of a similar type. *For instance, an article or book may be fully developed and well-written but if it doesn't fit the topic then it will likely be criticized for this.
Organization & Format
Your annotated bibliography can be organized a few different ways depending on your own personal preference or the format required by your instructor. Some common choices are alphabetical, chronological, or by subject (meaning the subcategories of your topic). Likewise, it's also helpful to think of your annotated bibliography as two basic parts to better organize your information.
Part 1: Bibliographic citation
The bibliographic citation will follow the format of whichever styling guide you chose to incorporate. The way in which your particular source is presented is based on how references or sources for that particular styling guide are presented
Common styling guides
MLA (Modern Language Association): When using the MLA format for your bibliographic citation in most cases you will find that the date of publication will be placed after most of the information such as title, author, and publisher. For example if you're citing a journal article using the MLA format your bibliographic citation would be similar to this;
Honest, Abe. "The Deconstruction of Society." The Social Science Journal 10 (2010): 3-6. Print.
APA (American Psychological Association): With APA formatting the date of the publication is generally written near the front of the citation with the author's first name not being spelled out. An example of an APA citation for a book is as follows;
Graham, S. (2010). Hardship and Happiness. Boston: Waltman Press.
*When formatting your bibliographic citation the first line of the citation is usually not indented while the second one is (by about 2/4 of an inch). The annotation itself usually appears in a 'blockquote' style format and is usually indented about five spaces to the right.
Part 2: The annotation
The annotation itself should be written using complete sentences whenever possible but may be constructed using phrases and word descriptions as well. Much of the specifics should be discussed with your professor or governing body to ensure that the formatting and style is up to par. The format for the actual annotation as discussed earlier may fall under the three categories; descriptive, informative, and critical.
A word about word counts
Lastly, the word count of each annotation in an annotated bibliography may range anywhere from about 50 words to 300 words-or in more concrete terms-a few lines to several paragraphs or a page in length. Again, much of this will depend on the type of annotations you are constructing and the end goal for your bibliography. If crafting an analytical annotation then its likely that your annotation will go for at least a page if double-spaced due to the amount of information and evaluative efforts that go into that sort of writing. Likewise, if merely writing a descriptive piece you may very well find your annotation on the lower end of the word count and only offer a few sentences or a small paragraph at best (which is not a problem).