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Honors Project | Federal Government (Plank): Research Tools

Fall 2018 | GOVTH 2305 | Prof. Plank

MLA: Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief description of the source in which you basically justify why that source is one of your sources.

You will summarize the relevant information you're getting from that source (but remember, this isn't your paper -- you are summarizing, not presenting all the information itself) as well as how this well help you in your research (by providing background information, by exploring a certain angle, by presenting a contrary idea...).

Creating an annotated bibliography is not simply an academic exercise. An annotated bibliography is a tool to help you summarize your source content and evaluate its place within your research. If a source satisfies your "usefulness" criteria, that source belongs on your annotated bibliography. This process begins the transition from reading sources to incorporating content (ideas, quotes, paraphrasing) into your work. It is time to "make sense" of the knowledge you have gained from your research. This knowledge is the foundation on which to build your own voice, explain your methodology, discuss your conclusions, make and report on your new knowledge. 

Of course, evaluation of sources goes beyond "usefulness" to the other elements of authority, credibility, currency, and purpose.

Consulted Saylor Academy's open access course on research concepts and the writing process:  Research Writing in The Academic Disciplines. Annotated bibliographies have additional purposes that depend on the intent of the writer/researcher and the specific discipline.  
  1. Citation
  2. Annotation is a brief and concise statement about the source. Think in terms of a "note" consisting of 5-6 sentences.
  • A few sentences to summarize the content of the source 
  • Explain how the source is to be used in your project.
  • Explain how this source is useful in advancing your thesis.  


How to Write an Abstract

It is a short and powerful statement that describes the research. If done well, it makes the reader want to learn more about your research.

Use Tabs above to learn about the parts and function of an abstract, writing tips and additional resources.

  • Title (Consider engaging your audience)
  • Introduction (Statement of problem. Why do we care about the problem?)
  • Methods (What did you do?)
  • Results (What did you create/invent/create?)
  • Conclusion (Implications of your findings?) 

The weight given to the specific components (and the actual components) may vary depending on the academic discipline. Hypothesis may be an appropriate component to a scientific research paper. 


  • Attract attention to your work. Motivate readers to engage with topic.
  • Gives succinct information to convince others to read your paper (think of an elevator pitch).
  • Enables readers to quickly evaluate the relevance of an article to their own work.
  • May serve as a writing tool to measure the progress of each component of your paper.



  • Typically brief. 150-250 words in length. Write and re-write to accomplish this goal.
  • Write about the research, not the paper. Avoid phrases such as: "this paper" or "this report". 
  • Avoid trade names, acronyms, abbreviations, or symbols. 
  • Write with the 4 C's  
    • Clear
    • Concise 
    • Complete
    • Cohesive


  • Use ellipticals or incomplete sentences.
  • Use jargon, abbreviations or terms that may be confusing to the reader.
  • Repeat or rephrase the title
  • Begin sentences with "it is suggested that…” "it is believed that…", or similar. This type of phrase can be omitted without damaging the essential message. 
  • Refer to information that is not in the document.