In its most simplistic understanding, an annotated bibliography seeks to give an account of the work that has been accomplished, usually in the form of a research on a given topic. Being aware of the fact that a bibliography is an alphabetical list of sources of information accessed in the research process, annotation adds more depth in the bibliography because it gives an assessment of the value or relevance of a particular information source in a summarized manner.
Bibliographies usually follow a prescribed style. The major styles in use today are such as the APA, MLA, Chicago-Turabian, among others. An annotated bibliography would ideally be written to serve two purposes:
1. To provide an informative or descriptive annotation
2. To provide a critical annotation.
An informative or descriptive annotation is one that only seeks to point out descriptive features of the information that is to be found in the research sources listed. It never attempts to postulate a judgment as to the kind of information in a particular information source since this method is predominantly concerned with availing the key features that make this information source worth its weight in the overall research project. This kind of annotated bibliography has often been confused with an abstract. This is because abstracts are also descriptive summaries jus like the annotated bibliography. However r the major difference is that abstracts are to be found at the beginnings of articles while annotated bibliographies are to be found describing the research sources at the end of an article. Some abstracts are also known to appear as indexes in a list of periodicals, this does not change the fact that they function differently from annotated bibliographies since a annotated bibliographies usually make use of a variety of intellectual skills which enable them deliver a sort of a succinct appraisal of an authors’ viewpoint.
The procedure of creating descriptive annotations is very simple; begin by putting together the books and articles that have the materials needed in the research. Choose the articles or books that contain the most relevant information and begin making citations being careful to utilize the appropriate style such as the APA, MLA and Chicago-Turabian. Finally review the bibliography with a view to coming up with a concise annotation that captures the main theme and scope of the book.
In a critical annotation, the idea here is to refrain from generalizations that might be the case in a descriptive annotation by being more critical in the evaluation process. In an annotated bibliography, critical annotations will basically analyze how an authors’ writing relates and compares to those writings of other authors in the same field of study. A critical annotation will equally seek to establish the usefulness of the authors work to researchers seeking to explore the topic further. In this regard, the critical annotation will comment on the intended audience and explain how that particular author’s ideas illuminate the bibliography that has been created. With this in mind, a critical annotation will usually take the same design as the descriptive annotation.