PROJECT
Intro & topics   |   3 topics
Annotated bibliography   |   Paper

Annotated bibliography

The annotated bibliography is a step along the way to the paper. Read about the paper in preparation for focussing the themes you'll write about in regard to your topic.

You will have already completed the "Summary of 3 resources" assignment.

In this more formal assignment you will:

  • Summarize 4 sources. (You may include the 1 you previously summarized in the "3 Topics" assignment, if your topic now is the same as one from that assignment.)
  • Each summary should include facts from your source and/or arguments your source makes that relate to your topic. A bulleted list is fine.
  • Each summary should also include a paragraph or two of reflection (full sentences!) about this source. Some things to include: Summarize or synthesize the overall point of view; Any questions or discomfort that this source raises?; Thoughts about authority/reliability; What did you learn from this source?; Your evaluation of this source.
  • In the reflection part, show me how your thinking is changing about your topic in light of the source.
  • Write bibliographic information for each source in (your choice) either MLA or APA style.

For more info about source evaluation:

Sources and quality

By 'quality' I roughly mean results or writings which have been judged to be useful or original by others. The "others" might be recognized specialists in an area, the peer reviewers who go over articles submitted to scholarly journals, or editors of journals or publishing houses.

Quality is generally judged to be higher if the publisher of a resource does not have a direct commercial or political interest in the published source. That is, information published by government agencies are likely to be more trustworthy than advertisements paid for by a particular industry.

A rough hierarchy of sources by quality runs something like:

Highest quality, specialized audience

...but also harder to digest, and sometimes addressed to very specific, technical concerns, rather than broader, interdisciplinary issues. These are generally written by researchers, most often funded by government or non-commercial sources. You should find at least one resource in this category. This is the sort of thing that the GC Library's databases can help you find.

  • articles in peer-reviewed journals.
  • books and articles published with the involvement of an editor.
  • articles written by a named, recognized specialist for a collection or encyclopedia.

High quality, general audience

Articles written both by researchers and by professional journalists, accountable to an editor and fact checkers. Most of your resources will probably come from this category. See also these examples (named) of recommended sources.

  • articles written by journalists for an academic journal (e.g. Science, Nature).
  • articles written for the public by scientists working for a government agency. (e.g. agencies such as EPA / DOE (including specific labs like NREL) / EIA (Energy Information...) / NOAA / NASA)
  • articles written by journalists for general purpose publications, whose standards include fact checking and involvement of an editor such as NYTimes / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / The New Yorker / Atlantic
  • articles written by scientists at advocacy organizations. [Though you should check if the organization is supported by political / commercial interests (not as good) or a disinterested foundation or its own members (better).]
  • Publications from colleges and universities, such as Yale e360.
  • Press releases from academic institutions about the research that their faculty is carrying out.
  • preprints or unedited articles by university faculty or published researchers.

Lower quality, but transparent process or authors

You will perhaps have 1 or 2 of these resources. But use them sparingly. Ideally you will use these as a way to find better quality resources. Try to find those higher-quality resources, and cite and rely on those instead.

  • Wikipedia - subject to informal peer review.
  • articles written by unnamed scientists, in the employ of a company which has a financial interest in the content of the article.
  • Writings, blog entries and web postings by named people that relate to their association with a recognized organization.
  • Writings, blog entries, and web postings by named people.

Lowest quality

These might supply you with ideas to investigate further, but should not be the sources that you ultimately rely on.

  • Writings, blog entries, and web postings by people whose identity cannot be ascertained.
  • Comments overheard from other tables at the dining hall.
  • Ravings of the crazier members of your extended family.

Of course, you may use any of these as starting points of your research. But you should work your way back up the hierarchy of quality and eventually read, cite, and base your research on references closer to the middle (and up) of the hierarchy.

It's fine to let a pop-culture reference on the radio pique your interest in something about, for example, biofuels. You might familiarize yourself with bofuels via Wikipedia or a quick Google search. Those articles often contain reference to higher quality resources. Preferentially, look up the higher-quality reference and cite that.

Resources on the web

In general, you should avoid non-edited, and non-peer reviewed articles on the web. However...

Sometimes you will find an article on the web which is a copy made available of a publication that appeared in print. The most important part to cite is the print reference for the article which will allow anyone to look in a library or an online database for the article. This has the *quality* of a print article. It is incidental that you found it via the web.

Sometimes you will find an article which does not have a print reference, but seems to be published by an academic researcher. In this case, see if you can find a non-web reference to the article, or another article by the same researcher on substantially the same topic. You can uncover some of these connections by using Google Scholar. Google Scholar is also useful for finding copies on the web of scholarly articles that appear to be behind a paywall.

You will find articles from respectable journals via the web, in databases such as Academic Search Premier. In this case you should cite the journal reference first in your bibliography, and then include the database in which you found the article (according to either MLA or APA style).


My opinion is that the access date is completely unimportant if you're referring a published article, because the journal reference will not change, and does not depend on when you accessed the article. But, OK, OK, you *may* include it as the last element according to Hacker's guidelines about Work from a database,

Citation generators

  • Any articles you can find via Google Scholar, you can also use their citation generator to get a properly formatted bibliography entry.
  • Easybib.com allows you to type the URL of, for example, an online newspaper article, and it will try to harvest information from the web page and generate a bibliographic citation.

    NEXT: The paper