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EDUC X400 - Research Methods in Education (Spring 2024, Simas)

What is an annotated bibliography?

Put simply, an annotated bibliography is a list of citations for resources and materials consulted for a research project. The resource is cited, and the citation is accompanied by a brief description, or annotation, of the resource. The description may also include a very short analysis or evaluation of the resource in question, stating the resource's validity, authority, and quality. As such, annotated bibliographies generally lend a critical or analytical aspect to a research project.

Examples of annotated bibliographies:

The OWL at Purdue: Annotated bibliography examples

EasyBib: Annotated Bibliography Format & Examples


What does a literature review do?

The most important aspects of your literature review are:

  • to make clear to your readers that you are indeed familiar with the existing scholarship and research relevant to your topic. In other words, it establishes that you've done your homework.
  • to demonstrate to your readers how your work builds upon earlier research and offers answers to unanswered questions. In other words, it explains how and why your work adds to intellectual endeavor in your field.

Because your literature review should do all of the above, it should:

  • be organized around and related directly to your topic or research question;
  • offer a clear and concise summary of the knowns and unknowns in your field;
  • point out controversies and areas of uncertainty in the literature; and
  • point out issues and questions needing additional research and answers.


Traditional or narrative literature reviews are typically broad in scope. They cover as much as possible of the existing literature or research on a given topic or subject. Often, this sort of literature review is included in theses and dissertations written for degree credit at universities. They're written as an essential part of the theoretical framework for the thesis or dissertation writer's argument: here's what's known, here's what's not known, here's what my work needs to answer and will answer. Because they describe what's known and not, their focus tends to be descriptive rather than analytical.

Examples of traditional literature reviews

Because a traditional or narrative literature review is so often a part of a thesis or dissertation, it's good to look at dissertations to find examples of literature reviews. The following links will take you to dissertations with literature reviews; check the tables of contents to find the literature reviews within the dissertations. They're usually the second chapter of the dissertation.

Coleman, B. N. (2015). The association between electronic cigarette use and cigarette smoking behavior among young adults in the United States (Publication no. 3712206). University of Maryland, College Park. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.