Return to ENGW 1302 Syllabus

Writing Project 4: Annotated Bibliography

DUE DATE: March 27, 2013


The annotated bibliography asks you to select and really learn your research sources (and gives you the chance to earn credit building that knowledge). The annotated bibliography is also just a list of your sources, cited chronologically and correctly in 2009 MLA format (see the Purdue OWL for advice on that), and followed by a highly structured set of notes (annotations) that help you really understand each source and package it for your purposes.


It’s not enough to just identify and report what a source’s claims or “main ideas” are. Get in the habit of reading sources for research questions, methods, claims, evidence, and rhetorical moves. Again, you’re always remembering that someone is sending a message to someone else for a reason. Sometimes, you may even want to ask, “How are you attempting to address the problem you assume I have?” Without a clear understanding of how and why a source reached his/her conclusions and how s/he is using rhetoric to prepare audiences to accept those conclusions, you won’t be able to engage in true inquiry.

This project builds out of your Research Proposal, giving you a chance to roll around in the ongoing conversation your research question aims to answer before you start writing the Synthesis Essay or Researched Response. This project allows you to master the details of that conversation, not only for content (what is said) but also for nuance and style (how it is said, strategically). Done well, an annotated bibliography is a tremendously useful resource in the later projects.


  • Choose no less than six (6) high quality, relevant sources that will be the core sources that you examine, apply, and use.
  • Answer all of the questions the assignment asks you to answer (see below).
  • Use precise signal verbs. Precise verbs are crucial. Don’t just default to the general “so-and-so says” or “Professor X states” or “Jones writes.” I also want you to move away from the “X thinks / feels / believes / argues.” Can’t think of a precise verb, there’s always someone willing to offer an example: Chose Active, Precise Verbs.
  • Compose the annotated bibliography as a Google Document shared with me.
  • If your source has an abstract, include the abstract with your annotation (copy > paste it into your Google Document and label it clearly). Writing an annotation is not simply an exercise in copying the abstract. Thus, I want to compare the abstract to your annotation.
  • If your source is online, e.g., a video or website, please include a working link.
  • Ask me questions. Lots and lots and lots of question.


Apply IBEAM Criteria, which can help you understand how sources argue (and how you might also want to argue as you start using the sources). (If you want more detailed explanations, here’s a reference from which the explanation below is modified: How to Use Sources Effectively in Expert Writing.)

  • IMPORTANCE. What’s the problem? Why are we reading, writing, and thinking about this issue?
  • BACKGROUND. What are the (relatively) stipulated facts? What are the things that “educated” readers accept quite easily?
  • EXHIBIT. What are we looking at, reading, or studying to make sense of the problem and apply our background knowledge? What is being analyzed for evidence or counter claims?
  • ARGUMENT. What are the key claims of the source? What theories are being used, extended, and/or questioned?
  • METHOD. How is the source trying to find out an answer? What are examples and descriptions that will make this method understandable?


  • Each annotation will be about 300-350 words, 90+% of which must be your own words, not quotes from your sources.
  • If the source has page numbers, use parenthetical citations in answering the annotation questions; in other words, what pages contain the information you used to answer the questions?
  • No more than two quotations per annotation; maximum ten words for quotations.
  • Meticulous proofreading throughout.
  • MLA 2009 format for citations (use Purdue OWL for guidance).
  • Chronological order.


As you draft your annotations, use the following format to guide your thinking.

  1. One or two coherent sentences: Signal phrase describing author, a rhetorically accurate verb (such as “asserts,” “argues,” “suggests,” “claims,” etc.) and a that clause containing the major assertion (thesis statement) of the work.
  2. One or two coherent sentences: An explanation of the problem or knowledge gap the author was addressing (in other words, what’s the big deal?, according to the author), followed by a to phrase indicating the change the author wants to effect in the intended audience. Remember, sometimes the change being sought is about returning to shared values.
  3. One or two coherent sentences: An explanation of how the author develops and supports the thesis, usually the same order used by the source. Use the IBEAM criteria discussed above.
  4. One or two coherent sentences: A description of how this author’s argument fits in with (or works against) the arguments made by others in the overall “conversation” on your question.
  5. One or two coherent sentences: A classification of the type or types of source this is for your project. Use the IBEAM criteria. I want to know how you intended to use this source to answer your question. Importance, Background, Exhibit, Argument, Method
  6. One or two coherent sentences: Your assertion about the text’s primary value for your purposes on your project. So what? How does this get you any closer to answering your question?


Content and Focus (85%)

Is each annotation useful to the student’s research question (as discussed and outlined in the Proposal)? Does each annotation…

  • Explain the source’s major assertion?
  • Use precise signal verbs?
  • Point out the problem or knowledge gap to which the source directed reader’s attention?
  • Describe the intended change the author wished to create in the audience?
  • Explain how the source supported its claims (using IBEAM criteria)?
  • Describe how the sources fits in with or works against other sources’ contributions on student’s question?
  • Classify the type(s) of source (using IBEAM criteria) this is, for student’s purpose?
  • Evaluate the overall so what? of the source for the student’s project and question?

Nuts & Bolts (15%)

Is each annotation following the format discussed above? Is each annotation…

  • About 300 to 400 words (90% of which are the student’s words)?
  • Using parenthetical citations with page numbers (if used by source)?
  • Relying on no more than 2 quotations (< 10 words each)?
  • Proofread meticulously, relying on Standard Edited English?
  • Using MLA 2009 format for each citation?
  • Listed in chronological order (based on creation/publication date)?