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Annotated Bibliography How-to: What is it?

A quick guide for the most common assignment in the Communication Department


The following example uses APA style (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition, 2010) for the journal citation:

Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51, 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

Courtesy of: Research & Learning Services, Olin Library, Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY, USA

An Annotated Bibliography is typically the first product of your research efforts.  It literally translates to "a list of books" and is the preliminary list of sources that you hope to use in your final research paper.  While this list is not meant to be exhaustive or complete, the more work you do at this stage, the less work you have to do at the Literature Review and First Draft stage.

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Topic Proposal: At this stage, you submit a short proposal to your professor, typically a paragraph at most in length, outlining the question your research hopes to answer.  It is at this stage that you will make decisions about perception versus representation, for example. A good topic proposal is not "Racism in the 2016 Election," but instead something like "How did Representations of Immigrants in the Media Affect the Public's Perceptions of Candidates in the 2016 Election."

Annotated Bibliography: See this guide.

Literature Review: At this stage, you synthesize the list of sources contained in your Annotated Bibliography and turn them into a narrative format. Looking back at your sources and your notes on their usefulness to your topic as contained in your Annotated Bibb, you perhaps include some sources, exclude a few, and add a few where applicable.  This is a report of the literature that you have found about your topic/the theories you plan to use for your topic and is organized thematically and in paragraph form. See the Literature Review Guide for more detailed information. 

Data Collection: At this stage you are moving away from your review and synthesis of the existing literature and generating new data. In conjunction with your professor and the guidelines of the assignment, you will decide between possible methods such as surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews.  Once you have performed this step, you will analyze your data for key findings. 

First Draft: At this stage, you will compose your paper with your review of the literature, your own data and key findings, and a complete list of references at the end, using the Citation Style assigned to you by your professor. In the Communication Department, this is typically either APA or Chicago Author-Date.

Final Draft: After completing your draft, and having either the Tutoring & Writing Center, Your Librarianyour professor, or a peer review, you adopt the changes and submit. Congrats, you're done! <3