Learning Objectives

  • Gain an awareness and understanding of various contexts for their chosen field of study and its associated professions
  • Evaluate relevant information based on selected validity criteria

An annotated bibliography is a list of resources for a particular subject (the bibliography) that includes descriptive and evaluative information (the annotations). Each bibliographic entry provides the information needed for someone to locate the resource. The annotation briefly explains the purpose of the resource, for whom it would be useful, and how valid it is. In other words, some nice person has compiled a list of resources around a particular topic and applied validity criteria to them to save other people time. Now, just imagine that you’re in the position of needing to find resources with relevant, credible information in order to move forward on a project. You reach out to your resident expert for help, and he e-mails you a list of links. That’s it–just a list of links. Wouldn’t you rather have a list of resources that explains what they are and evaluates their usefulness?

The following reading provides a good overview of annotated bibliographies: Annotated Bibliographies.

The Annotated Bibliography in CRIT 602

The purpose of your annotated bibliography will be to provide related resources to others with the same critical inquiry question that you are pursuing. It will evaluate three different types of sources: Professional Organizations, Social Media, and Information Resources. In other words, these three different types of sources are three different contexts in which you find information about your field of study.

If you need help formatting your bibliography or how to evaluate your sources, the University of Maryland Library has a useful website.

First, you will perform a search using appropriate search terms for your critical inquiry question in each context (organization, social media, information resources).  Second, you will evaluate your sources.  To help with this, ask yourself the following questions: How relevant to the question at hand are these resources? Are they current? Are they credible enough for you to base important decisions on? Do these websites you’ve found pass the test for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose? Is the information credible, and does it contribute to your understanding of the larger context for your field of study and its associated professions? Answers to these questions should be included in your annotated bibliography for each source.

The Purpose of Writing an Annotated Bibliography

You may ask: what is the point if I’m never going to actually write one in a job situation?

The annotated bibliography has many academic uses- primarily as a way for the instructor to gauge your ability to locate and evaluate sources, write objectively about information, use information legally and ethically, and think critically about your topic and evidence needed. Here is a excerpt from Lumen Learning which explains the purpose of an annotated bibliography in greater detail:

When teachers ask students to write annotated bibliographies, they are doing it for different reasons:

  1. Having students write an annotated bibliography is an efficient way to make sure that a student has done sufficient research on a topic they are going to write about. If a professor receives an annotated bibliography from a student, she can quickly scan the bibliography, check the number of sources the student collected, and see if there are any sources listed that might lack credibility or might not provide the information the student actually needs.
  2. Also, an annotated bibliography helps a professor ascertain whether the student has actually read the sources. It would be relatively easy for a student to collect a list of sources or a pile of articles and show them to the professor. But to write an annotation on each one, the student actually has to read them.
  3. Finally, an annotated bibliography helps to show a professor whether a student has understood and appropriately evaluated each of the sources, which are critical skills for doing effective research.

Why Should I Write an Annotated Bibliography?

You should write the annotated bibliography for a variety of reasons:

  • It helps you evaluate the credibility and authority of your sources so that you can use the highest quality sources in your writing
  • To understand and be fully informed about a topic before making judgments and writing about it
  • To distinguish between your views and biases on a topic and what the research actually shows
  • To assess what research you’ve got so that you can figure out whether you need to go out and find more.

Evaluating Credibility and Being Better Informed

To write about any subject matter, a person needs to be informed about it. But in school, students all too often jump into the writing of their papers before they’ve done research. Then, only after writing whatever it is they can come up with on their own do they eventually add in some stuff from sources they were told to find, merely using those sources to prove or back up what they already wrote. The result of this is that some students write some really weak essays. Moreover, students may only look at sources that convey perspectives they already agree with, never bothering to form a fresh perspective by listening to the voices coming from all sides of an issue. In short, the ideas and opinions they express in their essays end up being uninformed and uneducated.

By writing an annotated bibliography, you are taking time to select sources on their own merits, assessing their relevance and credibility on your topic, before you attempt to make use of them. Moreover, research should be used by students to become more genuinely knowledgeable about the subject matter they research. Not until one is more knowledgeable about their topic should they begin to develop a thesis, a perspective, on that topic to write about. Thus, writing an annotated bibliography is a way to ensure that you have become sufficiently knowledgeable about your topic before you try to write about it; it is a way to make sure you are writing from a stance of expertise on the subject matter, which is a much more authoritative and persuasive stance from which to write.

Distinguishing Between Our Own Opinion and Sources of Knowledge

Other times, students might do their research first, but they never take the time to separate their views and perspectives from those of the sources they are writing about. They may, then, confuse what ideas and information came from other sources and what came from their own experiences. As a result of this, students may distort what the original sources say or, worse, use information from other sources without giving proper credit to those sources (both of these things, if intentional, constitute acts of plagiarism! So, you can see how serious this could be).

By writing an annotation on each source, you grow to understand each source on its own terms, taking stock of and judging what useful information and ideas it provides, and distinguishing the ideas, information, and perspectives expressed in those sources from those of your own. All this helps you to use those sources better and to properly give credit to the ideas, information, and perspectives that are not your own. It also helps you assess what information you may be missing so that you can go out and find more information if you need it.

-From Paschke-Johannes, Jeff. The Purpose of an Annotated Bibliography. Ivy Tech Community College.

Why am I not being asked to use only peer-reviewed sources?

Most academic courses require that you use primarily (or only) peer-reviewed, scholarly sources. For CRIT 602, you have a slightly different goal. You need to perform exploratory research about trends in your field in order to help you make informed decisions related to your academic course of study and any career, professional, or personal interests.  For that reason, it’s important to get a sense of what people are talking about in your field. In order to ensure some aspect of credibility, we are asking that you explore the websites of professional organizations and social media platforms related to your field. You are also performing the CRAAP test on your resources to judge how credible they are. Yes, evidence-based, peer-reviewed sources are best used for most academic and professional writing, however the goal here is know what the key debates and topics are within your field of study.



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CRIT 602 Readings and Resources by Granite State College (USNH) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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