The Writing Center Directed Learning Activities Annotated Bibliography



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The Writing Center

Directed Learning Activities




Annotated Bibliography
Student Name: Date:

Instructor: Course:



IMPORTANT NOTE: All the activities (4) in this DLA must be completed in their entirety before meeting with a tutor and receiving credit. Where indicated, complete your work on this sheet.
Objectives: Through computer and other independent activities, this activity will explain what an annotated bibliography is and will help you learn how to develop one.
What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is, essentially, a works cited or reference page with an annotation (summary and evaluation) of each source under each entry. There are many different types of annotations that your professor may ask for—always make sure to carefully review your professor’s assignment for the type of annotations required and the format (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.):



  • Descriptive annotations typically answer the question, “What is the main point of this source?” They are generally very short and simply describe a source’s main argument.



  • Summary annotations usually answer the questions, “What is the main point, and what are the supporting points of this source?” These annotations give a more detailed summary of the source compared to the descriptive annotation. They typically include a summary of the main and supporting points of a source.



  • Evaluative annotations often answer the questions, “How can I use this source in my research, and is this source reliable?” These annotations discuss your thoughts on the source and how you may use the source in your essay.



  • A mixed approach annotation combines two or three annotation approaches above.

*If your professor has not specified which type of annotation is required, just remember these three key elements: bibliographic entry, summary, and evaluation.

MLA Annotation Sample—Summary and Evaluation
Landau, Elizabeth. “3 New Planets Could Host Life.” CNN. Cable News Network, 21 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 May 2013. In this article, Landau discusses the recent planetary discoveries by NASA's Kepler telescope. There are three new planets in total, with the most likely candidate for habitability being Kepler 62f. Kepler scientists also offer their educated opinions on what each planet may be like. Since this news is recent and demonstrates NASA's ability to “expand our knowledge” effectively, I used it to support my argument that NASA funding should not be cut in 2014.

Why am I being asked to write an annotated bibliography?
Many professors will ask their students to include an annotated bibliography with a research paper. Why is this? The purpose of an annotated bibliography is to learn more about the topic being researched and to help readers or other researchers find more information about the topic. Also, an annotated bibliography helps students have a deeper understanding of the sources used in their essays. As you learned above, since an annotated bibliography requires you to summarize the main points of a source and determine how the source fits into your paper, it requires a more complete understanding of sources and the topic of the essay.
How do I write an annotated bibliography?
There are a few simple steps you can follow to write an annotated bibliography painlessly:


  1. Determine your purpose and audience.

    1. Should your annotations describe, summarize, and/or evaluate sources?

    2. Is your bibliography for you, your professor, experts, or newcomers?

  2. Prepare some questions before you read.

    1. Is this source credible?

    2. What is this source saying? What is its main point? What are its supporting points?

    3. How can I use this source in my paper?

  3. Conduct research.

    1. Find several sources* that discuss your topic.

*If you are having a hard time finding sources, consider speaking with a librarian or coming to the Writing Center’s Starting Your Research Workshop.

    1. Create a citation for each source.

    2. Under each citation, answer the questions from the step above.

  1. Prepare your entries.

    1. Working from your notes in the step above, draft a few sentences or paragraph on each source.

    2. Make sure to follow any guidelines on formatting (e.g. MLA, APA, or Chicago) for your annotated bibliography. Check with your professor regarding the required citation style.

    3. Revise and edit your entries for clarity, tone, and length. Remember that an annotation is a short summary and analysis of the source.

    4. Make sure that your annotated bibliography follows all requirements from your instructor.


Activities (approximately 1 hour): Follow the steps below and be prepared to explain your answers when you meet with a tutor. Check off each box once you have completed the activity.
 1. Please review the Purdue OWL online handout on annotated bibliographies: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/01/
 2. What is an annotated bibliography?

Why do professors assign annotated bibliographies?

What are the three major elements of an annotated bibliography?
 3. Look at the following MLA entry for an annotated bibliography. After reading it carefully, identify the following: the bibliographic entry, summary, and evaluation.
Bennett, William J. “U.S. Lag in Science, Math a Disaster in the Making.” CNN. Cable News Network, 9 Feb. 2012. Web. 15 May 2013. William Bennett describes America's dire educational state of math and science, citing statistics that compare our overall rank in these categories to other industrialized nations unfavorably. He then proposes five ideas to fix this, ranging from changing how classes are taught in preschool to requiring supplemental training for teachers in math and science. This article supports the idea that the engineering and science inspiration that only NASA can provide—with its ambitious and public missions using state-of-the-art technology, easily appealing to children and adults alike—is in fact an answer to a problem that necessarily needs to be solved to continue moving forward.

 4a. Take out a current annotated bibliography you’re working on for class. Identify the bibliographic entry, summary, and evaluation. Then make any necessary corrections. Bring this revised work with you to the DLA tutoring session (Step 5 below).


If you do not have your own annotation to work with, please complete the supplemental activity below (4b).

4b. Read the following article “White House Budget Would Trim NASA Funding Slightly:” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2013/04/10/white-house-budget-would-slightly-trim-nasa-funding/

Then create an MLA format bibliographic entry with annotation, including a summary and evaluation. If you need help with the bibliographic entry, please see one of our handouts on MLA format.



 5. Review: Sign-up to see a tutor on the “DLA Walk-in” list. During your session with a tutor, explain the different parts of an entry for an annotated bibliography. Refer to your own graded writing (or the completed activity) and explain to the tutor strategies that you used to identify these various elements and how knowledge of this can help improve your writing style.
Student’s signature: Date:

Tutor’s signature: Date:



IMPORTANT NOTE: All the activities (4) in this DLA must be completed in their entirety before meeting with a tutor and receiving credit. If your instructor wants evidence of this completed DLA, return this form to him or her with the tutor’s signature included.
“Annotated Bibliography.” OWL: Purdue Online Writing Lab. Purdue University, 2012. Web. 22 Oct. 2012.


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