Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

SSI2-196: Postmodernism and the Challenge of Belief

Annotated Bibliography: Definition & Purpose

For your research assignment in this class, you'll need to compile an annotated bibliography that surveys the scholarly literature on your topic. An annotated bibliography is a document that provides a summary and evaluation of the sources you have used. It may also include works you consulted during the research process but did not use.

Keep in mind that an abstract is not an annotation. An abstract is a summary of the source.

Why write an annotated bibliography?

  • Keeps track of source materials consulted
  • Lets the reader know what you have found
  • Demonstrates your ability to critically evaluate sources within the context of a topic

Anatomy of an Annotated Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography consists of these parts:

  • Complete citation
  • Summary
    • Briefly summarize the purpose and scope of the source in a few sentences. What are the main arguments? Review not just what scholars are saying, but how are they saying it. How have other scholars organized their ideas? What methods or theories have been used to understand your topic? 
  • Evaluation
    • Evaluate the overall quality of the source. How do you plan to use it in your project and how does it relate to other sources in your bibliography?
  • Reflection
    • ‚ÄčAssess the usefulness of the source for your research. Did it provide you with new insights about your topic?

Write the annotation in complete sentences. If you quote text from the source, you must cite it. The average length of an annotation is about 100-150 words (about 7-10 sentences).

The Research Process

Types of Sources

In academic research, it's important to be able to distinguish between different types of sources. These differences often are contextual, meaning that a single source might fit in different categories depending on how you are using it and in what academic discipline you are writing.

Primary sources are the raw materials of scholarship.

Secondary sources report on or interpret primary sources.

Tertiary sources synthesize and present overviews of primary and secondary sources.

Scholarly sources present sophisticated, researched arguments using both primary and secondary sources and are written by experts.

Popular sources aim to inform or entertain and are intended for a general, non-specialized audience. In academic writing, popular sources most often are analyzed as primary sources.

The BEAM Framework

BEAM is a framework for thinking about the various ways in which a resource might be used to make a researched argument. Joseph Bizup, an English professor at Boston University, outlined the framework in a 2008 article. The idea has since been refined and adapted by many others.

Beam Model

BEAM Handout