annotated bibliography

Annotated Bibliography – Research Essay #2
Due Sunday by 11:00pm Points 25 Submitting a file upload
Your primary job this week is to find eight sources (two of them peer-reviewed journal articles) that will help you answer your research question. Like anything else, this is a process. I’ve tried my best to anticipate your questions and answer them here.

Why do this?

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Joan Didion once said: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” If I may piggyback off Ms. Didion, I’ll add: we research to find out what is true, what is best, what caused the problem, and how it might be resolved.”

By this point, you’ve asked a research question—and hopefully in good faith. The best research questions are the ones we legitimately cannot answer yet. “Research” (the act of finding, reading, and cataloging new sources) will help you to begin answering your question.

What kinds of sources will I need?

You’re an artist, friend—and this is your project. You decide which sources are best. But, since I know you love ‘em, here are some guidelines:

Ideally, your eight sources should compose a blend of forms and genres: essays, op-eds, articles, video essays, podcasts, TED Talks, etc—whatever you’d like to work with, just so long as the sources appear credible. The best kinds of 21st-century essays mix high and low, so try experimenting here. Put a really in-depth profile from the New Yorker alongside a well-written rant from Facebook or Twitter. (If you’re confused about what constitutes a credible source, consult the CRAAP test (Links to an external site.). I’ll also do some talking about that in this week’s video.)
Avoid crackpots—and look for truly smart authors (those people who make you say, “Wow. I wish my brain worked like that.”). If you find sources that are brimming with sharp, argumentative claims—you’ll have ample material for your project. If you respond to those claims in some way (if they offend you or inspire you), then you’ll definitely be able to draw some energy from them.
At least one of your sources should give useful background on the topic. It should You’ll need this to give background, definition, and/or potential cause(s) to your reader. Informing, however, should not be the only thing your sources do. If you wind up saddled with eight sources that define the problem, you won’t have all that much to work with.
That last point brings us over to “argument.” Among your eight sources, we should be able to see the debate that you’ve identified. Make sure that at least two points of view are represented in your sources. (Three points of view = even better.) Find sources that argue differently from one another. It will do you no good if all your sources argue the same thing.
What do I do with the sources once I’ve found them?

You read them closely and compile your reflections in an annotated bibliography.

What’s an annotated bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. An annotation is a note or explanation. Put ‘em together and you’ve got the annotated bibliography: a list of sources that you plan to use in your future essay and an explanation of what they are, what you think, and how they might help.

How do I make an annotated bibliography?

Well, you’ll do it like this. First, the bibliography part—gather your sources together. Then, consult the MLA Guide at Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (Links to an external site.) for an idea of how to properly cite them.

For example, if you were citing a podcast, it might look like this:

“Best of Not My Job Musicians.” Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! from NPR, 4 June 2016, (Links to an external site.).

If you were citing an article from the New York Times, it might look like this:

Dean, Cornelia. “Executive on a Mission: Saving the Planet.” The New York Times, 22 May

2007, Accessed 29 May


Once you have your citations, I’d like you to annotate each one—that is, you’ll be writing a note about them. To accomplish this, you’ll need to do three things: (1) summarize/describe the content of the source, (2) respond/describe your intellectual reactions to the source, and (3) describe the usefulness of the source.

If it helps you, consider answering some of these questions:

What is the purpose of this source? What is its central claim/argument? What kinds of examples/evidence are used to support and advance the claims?
Does the argument seem valid to you? Does the author neglect to consider anything? Can you add any additional knowledge or support to the claim? Can you contradict the claims in any way? Are there any alternatives to this argument that might be preferable or worth considering? Might there be any consequences to believing (or doubting) the author’s claim?
How do you imagine this source will help your project along? What’s provided here that you can use to help answer your research question?
How long should my annotations be?

I think 200 words is a fair word count (not including the citation itself). With eight sources, this means you’ll be writing about 1600 words, total.

If you’d like to see a sample annotated bibliography (with proper MLA formatting and one complete entry), click here.

If you’d like a worksheet that lays out the formatting, click here.

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