How to Write a Qualitative Annotated Bibliography
If you’ve ever written a research paper before, then you’re already well-versed in producing reference lists or bibliographies which showcase the extent of your research. A standard bibliography is an essential component of your publication to credit your sources. However, an annotated bibliography goes several steps further and rather than simply crediting other papers with nuggets of knowledge or an opinionated quote, it includes a critical analysis and assessment of the relevance, quality and usefulness of that paper to your research.
Getting Started: Locating Relevant Sources
The first step in compiling any qualitative annotated bibliography is finding your sources; no sources, no bibliography. In order to consistently locate relevant sources, you must ensure that the scope of your project is precisely defined. You need to understand exactly what problem you are investigating as well as consider the type of resource which is most pertinent to your research field. Once you’ve done a bit of legwork and nailed down a collection of potentially useful sources, it’s time to sit down and thoroughly read, consider and analyze the lot of them.
Finding and Summarizing The Argument
Annotations are what separates the boys from the men, or at the very least they separate the great bibliographies from the bad. This is where you take your analysis and subjective, qualified opinion and critically expose the relevance and usefulness of the source overall, reiterate its main argument and evaluate the authority of the author.
- The main argument can be evaluated by identifying its fundamental research question, or thesis, commenting on the major methods of research used by this author and any primary conclusions. Identifying the argument of your source can be a complex challenge and requires intellectual analysis to get right.
- Authority of the author is an important part of an annotation, because it acts as an indicator of the relevance of the work. If the author has 30 years’ experience in a niche field, their perspective may carry more weight than a non-expert, for instance.
- The overall usefulness or relevance of a source cannot be quantified without exceptional analysis. How limited is the research? Do they use sensible and comprehensive methods of research? Were you particularly interested in the author’s approach? All of these factors – and more – must be considered and weighed up in the context of your own specific project before being written up.
Various Kinds Of Annotated Bibliography
Depending on why you are creating your own annotated bibliography, you could have slightly different requirements than someone else, particularly if yours is a standalone academic assessment at university. For instance, you may be required (or at least encouraged) to comment on concurrent themes or dissimilarities between your sources, or to limit your analysis to more of a “summary”. For particularly long bibliographies, it could be worthwhile sorting into sub-sections; the benefits here are two-fold:
- The work is neater and more easily read by anyone interested in perusing or reviewing it.
- By categorizing your findings, you may clarify your understanding of your own research thesis.
Irrespective of your own requirements, the process of reading, analyzing and concisely description the source and its relevance is fundamental to each annotation and the success of your efforts overall.
A Word On Language
A qualitative annotated bibliography is not a conversation or blog-style recap; it is a highly professional tool that requires proper academic writing in around 150 words or less. Use a broad vocabulary and try to avoid excessive repetition of common verbs or descriptive terms, or risk having your bibliography read quite poorly. In addition to being a valuable tool for anyone reading your work, it can also be very useful for sharpening your own understanding on a subject and is certainly worth the time and effort required to build one.