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Writing Annotated Bibliographies: Evaluating Sources

This guide will provide information on how to write an annotated bibliography.

To evalutate the quality of your article, answer these questions:

As you begin writing your annotated bibliography, consider the following questions.

Question 1:

What is the author's purpose for writing the work?

Gaining some information about an author's background can often shed some light on the author's motivation for writing a work.

Although sometimes an author may purposely hide his reasons for writing something, usually authors will openly state their purpose. This will generally be presented within the first several paragraphs of an article.

A book's preface or introduction, whether written by the author or not, will usually provide significant information not only on the book's purpose, but also on the author's background, point-of-view and how the book relates to similar works.

Question 3

Does the author have a bias or make assumptions upon which the rationale of the work rests?

Is the information covered fact, opinion, or propaganda?

Familiarity with the subject of a work is especially helpful in detecting an author's viewpoint.

 Understanding the author's purpose in writing the work will commonly suggestthe author's bias on the subject. Particular biases or perspectives should not be thought of as correct or incorrect, but as an important piece of data to be considered when analyzing the work.

It is not always easy to separate fact from opinion.

Facts can usually be verified.

Opinions, though they may be based on factual information, evolve from the interpretation of facts.

Skilled writers can make you think their interpretations are facts. 

Question 2

Who is the intended audience?

Is it intended for the general public, scholars, policy makers, teachers, professionals, etc.?

Is this reflected in the author's style of writing or presentation? How so?

The purpose of a work may suggest a particular audience.

Other evidence may be found in the writing style, use of jargon and footnotes.

Use of a specialized vocabulary can often help determine the intended audience for the work. 

If the work is an article, look at the journal description to determine what type of works are included and the focus. This information can help identify the intended audience.

Question 4

What method of obtaining data or conducting research was employed by the author? Is the material primary or secondary in nature?

Is the work based personal opinion or experience, interviews, library research, questionnaires, laboratory experiments, case studies, etc.?

Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched, or is it questionable and unsupported by evidence?

 More popularly-oriented articles or books may simply be based on an author's personal opinion, first-hand experiences or on a limited amount of interviewing or library research.

More academic works (scholarly resources) generally involve more extensive research. Depending on the discipline, data-collection techniques may include bibliographic research, laboratory experiments, textual analysis, surveys, empirical observation, etc. 

Primary sources are the raw material of the research process.

Secondary sources are based on primary sources.

Choose both primary and secondary sources when you have the opportunity.