Sequence: Writing Annotated Bibliographies

Sequence Information
Sequence: Writing Annotated Bibliographies
Writing Annotated Bibliographies

This is a TBL learning design that we use in a “Studying Policy and Practice” course, which is the first course on a BA(Hons) Early Childhood Studies programme. This course introduces students to study skills appropriate in higher education. The course is taught once a week over a period of 8 weeks to about 20 undergraduate mature students in a community college serving a disadvantaged and underserved student demographic. The students on the course are returning to education after a long break in learning with a view to becoming primary school teachers, and currently work with children in schools and early-childhood settings. All are newcomers to higher education. This is one of 24 modules in a one-semester course.


By the end of this lesson, students should:

    Identify the purpose of an annotated bibliography.
    Correctly order the components of an annotated bibliography.
    Identify the features of a research study to include in an annotated bibliography.
    Establish which component of an annotated bibliography sample extracts represent.
    Analyse a range of model annotated bibliographies.


Target Audience:

Undergraduate, Community

Pre-Module Assignment

    Study Guide
     Handout: Writing an annotated bibliography (RMIT University):
    Two short extracts from a previously submitted annotated bibliography. Permission to share the extracts has been granted by the student. 
    Two complete annotated bibliographies. Permission to share the extracts has been granted by the student. 


Facilitator Guide


I have been teaching how to write annotated bibliographies for almost ten years and this experience tells me that most non-traditional students struggle with this task. Their summary sections are often descriptive rather than analytical, and they find it difficult to understand how and what to critique in the readings. As a result, average grades for this assignment are around the 50-58% (C-C+).


For the first time in 2020, I delivered this as an online module and students’ grades increased by 39%. 85% of the cohort also achieved grades of B+ and above. A first for this task! Some students also said that they "liked" writing annotated bibliographies and that they "made sense" to them. Another first, as students usually come to detest this task.

This year, I delivered this module face-to-face and with comparable results. I tend to decide whether to use two or four ABs depending on the cohort, as often there are many students who need more time to read and understand longer pieces of text. Providing just two AB samples has worked well so far, as teams vote for different samples, providing different justifications. For instance, students justified choosing an ineffective AB because “the writer has described the reading well” or because “the writer has explained how it is useful to her practice in school”. I address such comments by firstly drawing the students’ attention to the marking rubric and asking them to identify what it says about ‘descriptive writing’ and where it sits in the rubric. This helps to develop their assessment literacy. With the second comment, I re-direct them to the study guide and the guidance on the ‘usefulness’ section, asking them to identify what it says about one’s practice. When they realise that it is irrelevant, I then ask them to look at the rubric again and to decide how they would then mark that AB.


Some questions I ask when inviting students to justify their choices are:

    Why did you think this AB was more effective?
    Could you give an example of that?
    Why was sample X less effective?
    What reasons did this author provide for her thesis?
    What is the problem identified in the reading?

It is also helpful to focus the students’ attention on what makes a summary section or a critical evaluation section effective. For instance, we can direct the students to identify the language in the extracts that provide clues to their purpose, e.g., ‘the findings...’, ‘the evidence...’, ‘a key strength is....’, ‘a limitation of the paper is...’, 'the author concludes by...'.
To help students develop an understanding of the difference between describing and summarising, I ask them if the ABs’ summary section has told them ‘why’ the reading’s author is exploring the topic in question. I then draw their attention to the title of the reading, as this usually gives a clue as to its contents and ask them to identify the topic and to think of questions they would want to ask of the reading, e.g., why is the author writing about this? What is s/he trying to persuade me of? What reasons do they provide? Am I persuaded or not? Why? Essentially repeating some of the information from the study guide.


Anna Colgan

Principal Lecturer and Programme Leader for the Foundation Degree in Early Years 
Abingdon & Witney College, UK

Co-Authors: Karla Kubitz 

This lesson is for educational purposes only.

All content in this lesson is owned by author(s). This lesson is based on the Elements module in TBLC Resource Bank.

Keywords: Writing, bibliographies

Author view:

Audience: Further education Adult education College - University
Subjects: Literature
Language: English
LAMS Version: 4.5
License: Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike
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Authored By:   Chelsea Bullock
Date: 11 August 2022 07:02 PM
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