After deciding on a topic for your report and reading your classmates’ feedback, the next step toward writing your report is research. You will need to spend some time narrowing your focus and determining what information in out there about your topic. Sometimes, there’s a wealth of current information; sometimes there is very little. Sometimes, there is information, but you, the researcher, can’t figure out how to find it, or it is so technical that you can’t readily use it.
Consequently, creating an annotated list of these different sources, called an Annotated Bibliography, will allow you to organize your findings and will allow me to see how you are doing. Each entry on your list will include the citation of the source you are considering, a useful annotation of the article’s contents, and a thoughtful evaluation of the quality of the article.
Be sure to select the most helpful sources you can locate here. This step in the process can provide a strong foundation for the rest of your semester’s work. If, after you do your best, you cannot find good material on your topic, you may want to change to another topic that is easier to work with.
I will encourage you to consider a variety of sources for your research. Some should be reliable websites related to your topic, some might be books, but most of your research should be scholarly in nature (like those articles you can find through our library’s databases.
Step 1| Prepare a list of at least ten different search terms to use as you begin to search your topic. A search term is a word or phrase describing your topic that you type into the search box to find material on your topic. Some search terms work very well; others do not. You may need to experiment with different related words until you find some that lead you to the material you are looking for. It is assumed at this point, you have experience conducting this type of research. If you have any questions, it will be your responsibility to touch base with me or seek out other assistance.
Step 2| Look for at least ten different sources for your Annotated Bibliography. As I noted above, the school’s databases are a great place to start. And, it is acceptable to consider traditional websites for sources as well, particularly if you are researching a certain product related to your field.
A few things to keep in mind:
- While sources like Wikipedia are a great place to get an idea of places to work, information included there is not necessarily reliable to document in your paper.
- You need to find materials that are current.
- The goal is to gather a range of ideas and opinions, so do not include more than two articles by the same person, or more than two articles from the same web site.
Step 3| After you have gathered your articles, return to this page. Now you are ready to begin organizing your Annotated Bibliography. Each entry will contain:
a bibliographical entry or citation;
an evaluation; and
an explanation of use.
Citation: A bibliographical entry or citation is the publication information about the article that will enable the reader to find the source you’ve cited. This is the information that would traditionally appear on your Reference list.
An annotation: This should be enough to tell your reader what the article is about and briefly mention the main ideas and major supporting examples. Do not select articles that you do not think will be useful. You will need to read each article before you can annotate it, so stick to material that you can get to read, whether online or in the library.
An evaluation: In a separate paragraph, evaluate each article. Why do you think it is reliable? Does it come from a professional source? Is the author well qualified? Is the information presented supported by facts and studies?
An explanation of use: In a separate paragraph, explain your reason for selecting the article for your research project bibliography. How will the article be useful for your research report? Does it confirm or contradict your ideas about the topic so far? Does it contain statistics that you will use? And so on. Do not include items in your annotated bibliography that you evaluate as not of value to your report.
Alphabetize the list by the last names of the authors or editors. If an article does not have an author or editor, alphabetize it under the first word of the title (ignore articles “a, “an,” or “the” when you alphabetize) . Number your entries, to be sure you get at least ten of them.
If you have selected your topic wisely, and located relevant, reliable sources, you should now have a beginning Reference list for your research report, or you may now know that your original idea won’t work easily as a research project and you will need to turn to something else. As you develop your ideas for your essays, you will find that you need more sources on particular issues. Add these to your bibliography as you locate them; some of them will become part of your final list of works cited.
Step 4 | When you have collected your sources and organized your Annotated Bibliography, format your document as a memo. Include a quick introduction that explains to your audience what they will find in your document. And, also include a proposed statement of the purpose for your report. This will help your instructor ensure you are on the right track with your report.