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Writing an Annotated Bibliography

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Annotated Bibliography: Why You Should Prepare One

Posted on July 4, 2012 by gkarakey


I started using a type of annotated bibliography well before I even knew what they were.

In the early stages of research, I would often show up to a meeting with my adviser having e-mailed him a list of all of the works I had read for that time period.

Next to each work, I would often comment on the main argument of the article, book or resource and try to make some connection back to my thesis.  This allowed us to have a more fruitful discussion regarding the progress of my work.

What is an annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography is an entry of a particular reference, but with additional details included under the reference.

I don’t know if formal rules exists for what to include in the comments section.  I would include at least the following information:

  1. The central thesis of the resource
  2. Summary of the main argument (s) of the resource in question
  3. Relevance of this work to your topic or a section of your topic

Other folks evaluate the author’s authority or background and compare or contrast this work with other relevant literature pertaining to the subject matter.

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

Advantages to an Annotated Bibliography

When you create an annotated bibliography you are sharpening some very important writing skills along the way.  Among these:

1) The ability to concisely summarize the main or central argument in someone’s writing

Check out my post: Writing a Mini-Review for more details on this skill.

I would venture to say that a great deal of your dissertation success depends on this one skill alone. Whether you summarize for a footnote, your literature review or to refute or substantiate a point somewhere in your work, the point is you’ll be doing this quite a bit in your thesis.

2) It forces you to make connections to other literature

This is the practice of synthesis, which allows you to place each work within a larger academic discussion. This in turn helps clarify your topic’s position vis-a-vis the secondary literature.

3) It keeps you engaged on the relevance of your topic to the literature you are reading and vice versa

Trying to tie a resource back to your own topic forces you to make decisions on the relevance of an author’s work.

Two additional benefits of using an annotated bibliography

1) A great resource for your adviser

Let’s face it! Most advisers are super busy. Few have the time to keep up with the relevant literature on a particular niche topic.

By providing an annotated bibliography to your supervisor prior to your meetings, you help provide a frame of reference for the literature as well as your topic.

This can lead to more fruitful dialogue during your scheduled sessions, help stimulate conversation in a new direction or allow your supervisor to see gaps in your resources.

(P.S. I was spoiled in that I met with my supervisor once per month for the first two years of my part-time research)

2) A great resource to kick-start your memory of different resources

Writing a dissertation is a long and drawn out process. Literature that you review in one year, may get buried or forgotten in another.

With your annotated bibliography, you’ll always be able to see at a glance the secondary literature that you’ve read and analyzed to this point.

Who knows? A stroll down your annotated list may prompt your thinking in a certain direction, or remind you of that salient point that you wanted to make way back when you started to write.

Some Samples of Annotated Entries

Lövestam, Evald. “Paul’s Address at Miletus.” Studia Theologica 41, no. 1 (1987): 1-10.

Central Thesis: Ezekiel 33 & 34 (with the concept of the watchman and the motif of the shepherds over God’s people) form the background to Paul’s Miletus Speech to the Ephesian Elders (Acts 20:18-38). 

 Lövestam argues that Paul’s self-defense stresses evangelism and conversion.  This, factor coupled with his reference that he is “innocent of the blood of all” links the Miletus Speech to the Watchman in Ezek 33:1-9 (cf. 3:16-21).  The watchman has been charged with warning God’s people about their pending destruction. If he fails to warn the people, God will require their blood from the watchman.

This leads to the next chapter in Ezekiel which deals with the abject failure of the shepherds (leaders) of God’s people to care for God’s flock.  This theme is also picked up in the next section of the Miletus Speech when Paul exhorts the elders to “shepherd the flock” and to beware of the “savage wolves” which will come and try to destroy the flock.

Lovestam’s work is important on two fronts.  First, he seeks to identify a source for the Miletus Speech (something I am trying to determine in my thesis). Secondly he highlights the shepherd image as a controlling feature of the Miletus Speech, a point I will argue for as well based on Aubert’s thesis.

Burthchaell, James Tunstead. From Synagogue to Church: Public Services and Offices in the Earliest Christian Communities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Central Thesis: The leadership of the early church was patterned on the synagogue model; thus, “officeholders” presided over the church from the beginning.

Burtchaell surveys the history of the understanding of the office from the Reformers to the present.  He reviews the establishment, challenge and restatement of the consensus view of church order, which is that from charisma (1st century), to formal office, to mono-episcopate (2nd century) in a downward spiral of ecclesiastical authority.

Within this framework he suggests that the early Jewish-Christian church always had officeholders who claimed their functions and responsibilities from the synagogue. This pattern of leadership laid the groundwork for the Gentile churches as well.

Burtchaell directly contradicts Campbell’s thesis that elders were not office holders but rather positions of honor that were imprecise and collective.  Both Burtchaell and Campbell’s work will serve as important background to the concept of elders in my passage.


Well, there you have it.  My apologies for the length of this article, but I wanted to make sure that I got all my points across.

Using an annotated bibliography provides several benefits to you in your analytical and writing and skills as well as providing a valuable resource for your discussions with your supervisor.

Happy researching!



This entry was posted in Bibliography , Organization , Writing . Bookmark the permalink .

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An annotated bibliography of the benefits of parks: stage 1: technical report


Brent D. Moyle, Southern Cross University Follow
Betty Weiler, Southern Cross University Follow
J Schielphack

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Moyle, BD, Weiler, B & Schielphack, J 2012, An annotated bibliography of the benefits of parks: stage 1: technical report, report to Parks Victoria, the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Parks Forum, Southern Cross University, Gold Coast, Qld.


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