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ACMB01: Find Resources for your Final Essay

A library guide to assist you in finding the resources you need to complete your ACMB01 assignments

Annotated Bibliography - What and Why?

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and other resources. It also includes an annotation: a summary and evaluation of each source. The annotation informs the reader of the relevance, quality, and accuracy of the source. 

Why write an annotated bibliography?

There are two main reasons to create a bibliography:

1. To learn about your topic: Reading through numerous sources more closely allows you to see how the existing literature can support or detract from your own research questions. It can also allow you to identify a gap: to see what areas have not yet been explored, This process can also help you formulate a thesis that is well formed, current, and interesting. It helps you to identify the various issues related to your topic. 

2. To help other researchers: Although not completely relevant in the context of this class, it is good to keep in mind that annotated bibliographies are sometimes published, and they can help other researchers with a comprehensive overview of what has been published on a topic, and what is being said about it. 

Adapted from Purdue University's Online Writing Lab - Annotated Bibliographies

Annotated Bibliographies - More Tips

Selecting the sources:

The quality and usefulness of your bibliography will depend on your selection of sources. Define the scope of your research carefully so that you can make good judgments about what to include and exclude. Your research should attempt to be reasonably comprehensive within well-defined boundaries. Consider these questions to help you find appropriate limits for your research:

  • What problem am I investigating? What question(s) am I trying to pursue? If your bibliography is part of a research project, this project will probably be governed by a research question. If your bibliography is an independent project on a general topic (e.g. aboriginal women and Canadian law), try formulating your topic as a question or a series of questions in order to define your search more precisely ( e.g. How has Canadian law affecting aboriginal women changed as a result of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? How have these changes affected aboriginal women? How have aboriginal women influenced and responded to these legal developments?).

  • What kind of material am I looking for? (academic books and journal articles? government reports or policy statements? articles from the popular press? primary historical sources? etc.)

  • Am I finding essential studies on my topic? (Read footnotes in useful articles carefully to see what sources they use and why. Keep an eye out for studies that are referred to by several of your sources.)

Summarizing the argument of a source:

An annotation briefly restates the main argument of a source. An annotation of an academic source, for example, typically identifies its thesis (or research question, or hypothesis), its major methods of investigation, and its main conclusions. Keep in mind that identifying the argument of a source is a different task than describing or listing its contents. Rather than listing contents (see Example 1 below), an annotation should account for why the contents are there (see Example 2 below).

Example 1: Only lists contents:

McIvor, S. D. (1995). Aboriginal women's rights as "existing rights." Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 2/3, 34-38.

This article discusses recent constitutional legislation as it affects the human rights of aboriginal women in Canada: theConstitution Act (1982), its amendment in 1983, and amendments to the Indian Act (1985). It also discusses the implications for aboriginal women of the Supreme Court of Canada's interpretation of the Constitution Act in R. v. Sparrow (1991).

Example 2: Identifies the argument:

McIvor, S. D. (1995). Aboriginal women's rights as "existing rights." Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 2/3, 34-38.

This article seeks to define the extent of the civil and political rights returned to aboriginal women in the Constitution Act(1982), in its amendment in 1983, and in amendments to the Indian Act (1985).* This legislation reverses prior laws that denied Indian status to aboriginal women who married non-aboriginal men. On the basis of the Supreme Court of Canada's interpretation of the Constitution Act in R. v. Sparrow (1991), McIvor argues that the Act recognizes fundamental human rights and existing aboriginal rights, granting to aboriginal women full participation in the aboriginal right to self-government.**

*research question
**method & main conclusions