Posts Tagged ‘dissertation writing tips’

Annotated Bibliography: Strategy to Move Faster in Writing Your Dissertation

Good morning colleagues

There seems to be a challenge regarding the definition of an annotated bibliography and the strategy to use an annotated bibliography.  Let’s see if I can help.

An Annotated Bibliography is simply a summary of a source you consulted.   In previous posts, we made the distinction between a Bibliography (sources you consulted) vs. a References (sources you used (at least one in text citation per source listed).  APA format uses a References list.

With me so far?  An annotated bibliography is simply an abstract like summary of this source you consult to evaluate whether or not you will use in your dissertation (5 chapter) or doc study (3 Sections) writing.  Here’s where things get a bit tricky and confusion sets in.

Many universities will require students to write Annotated Bibliographies as part of class assignments in an effort to help students (a) learn this technique AND (b) learn HOW to use this technique to move faster within their writing.

(a) The technique, as definition, is simply a way for a student to evaluate a source.  Think creating a research system here. As the student reviews sources, the student will have to create a system to remember what the source was about and whether or not this source will be used within the dissertation/doc study in some way.  The student often reviews the date of the source (most universities require 85% of research to be within 3 to 5 years of graduation), the method and design used by the source, as well as how this source fits with the student’s study, particularly the Literature Review.  IF you were to look in the APA Manual (6th version, 7th printing), there is no listing in the index for a definition. There is no listing for a definition on either.

(b) The technique as a writing strategy is also NOT listed in the APA Manual, but valid nonetheless.  The goal here is the ability to work smarter not harder, combining several steps into one to avoid potential future rework and move faster through the study.

For example, if the reference looked like this:

Cain, F. (2012, January 5). Why Pluto is no longer a planet? Retrieved from

The generic annotated bibliography would look like this:

According to the author, Pluto was reclassified as a planet as a result of the discovery of new scientific information. Additional sentences here would be provide to include details about the source.

A strategic annotated bibliography would look like this:

According to Cain (2012), Pluto included reclassification as a planet as a result of the discovery of new scientific information. Additional sentences here would be provide to include details about the source.

Consequently, think about the HOW this information could be used.  IF a student copied the first paragraph directly into their dissertation or doc study, rework would be necessary.  Why?  A literature review is NOT a one source/one paragraph book report.  Instead, synthesis requires a multi-source analysis, typically of at least 3 to 5 sources.  Thus, by using the strategic annotated bibliography, the student has already prepared their work with citations as direct integration in which to begin building synthesis for their literature review.

The goal for our discussion here is to examine the HOW one can find strategies such as the annotated bibliography to ensure faster progress when building the literature review as one example.  Think systems, think strategically.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Dr. Cheryl Lentz
The Academic Entrepreneur

February 18th, 2016 by admin