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How to Write Annotations. For your Final Project. What is an Annotated Bibliography? . An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents.  Each citation is followed by a brief (usually less than 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph: the annotation.

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How to write annotations l.jpg

How to Write Annotations

For your Final Project


What is an annotated bibliography l.jpg
What is an Annotated Bibliography?

  • An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. 

  • Each citation is followed by a brief (usually less than 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph: the annotation.

  • The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.


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Annotations vs. Abstracts:  the Differences

  • Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes.

  • Annotations are descriptive and critical; they expose the author's point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority.


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The Process

  • First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic.

  • Examine and review the actual items, then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.

  • Please note: you don’t need to read every source word for word as you write your annotations for this class- practice scanning the contents.

  • Cite each book, article or document using the appropriate MLA or APA style.

  • Write a concise annotation following each citation, summarizing the central theme and scope of the book, article or document.


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How to Scan a Source

  • Look at the table of contents

  • Review the index

  • Scan through each chapter reading headings and captions

  • Look for tables, graphs, charts and other graphics

  • Read the first few sentences and last few sentences of each chapter

  • Read through the introductory chapter


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Annotation “Do's”

  • Focus on the big picture, the main point or purpose

  • Put it into your own words

  • Give the ideas of the source objectively

  • Keep it concise: 2-3 sentences


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Annotation “Don’ts”

  • Don’t focus on specific details or examples.

  • Don’t copy the original wording.

  • Don’t add new data or any of your own ideas.

  • Don’t include quotes from the source material.


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Start Your Annotation with a Summary

  • A summary briefly describes the contents of a source. Scan or read the information quickly to determine its main idea, argument or purpose. Then write a few sentences of what it is about in your own words.

  • Here is an easy way to begin a summary:

  • In "[name of article]" [author] states . . . . [State the main point of the article first.]

  • For example: In “Computer Chess” Hans Berliner states that the CYBER 170 series computer can perform well in a chess tournament. (Example from the University of Idaho Tech Writing Tutorial)


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Evaluation Criteria: General Guidelines

Each annotation should include as many of the following criteria as possible:

  • Evaluate the authority or background of the author

  • Comment on the intended audience

  • Explain how this work illuminates your research topic

  • Mention bibliographies, charts, graphs, statistics or illustrations that are pertinent

  • Discuss the writing style of the author

  • Comment on any bias or point of view shown in the work


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Specific Points for Evaluating Credibility and Reliability

An evaluation of credibility focuses on the trustworthiness of the source. Locating background about the author and/or publisher of the information is a good place to start. Write a few sentences that express your judgment and opinions of the author/publisher's background and the reliability of the source. Use these criteria for reliability:

  • Author / Publisher

  • What are the credentials of the author? Are they experts in their field/ subject area?

  • Who is the publisher (may be an institution, company or organization) the author is affiliated with?

  • Content Analysis

  • Purpose: Why was the author writing this?

  • Is there any bias in the information?

  • Is the information up to date? Does currency matter?

  • What audience is the information written for: lay person, scholarly, or a technical audience?

  • Is it a broad overview or an in-depth examination of a topic?

  • How does the accuracy of the information compare to other sources?


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Evaluate the Relevance of the Source

As you find information on your topic you need to review that information in the context of your project and explain how it supports your topic. Also consider the source in the context of the research you have done and discuss how it compares to other sources.

  • How is the information is relevant to your project?

  • Does it give you an overview or background about your topic?

  • Are there statistics that help you prove a point?

  • Does the source support your argument or oppose it?

  • Is it written for the level of your audience?

  • Does it offer the right amount of detail?

  • After you have scanned and evaluated the information you must decide if it is suitable for your needs.


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Writing Tips

  • Do not fill the space with generalizations

  • Avoid such vague adjectives as "excellent" and "good." Instead, use adjectives that communicate something specific about the source.

  • Your summary should be brief… there is no need to restate all of the information in the source.

  • Avoid beginning each annotation with "This book..." or "This article..."


Examples of good and bad annotations with thanks to phyllis usina l.jpg

The Good:

The main points of this article were about the basics of fire fighting in the modern world. It discusses how fire fighters are dispatched to a call and how they execute the steps for extinguishing the fire. Encyclopedia Britannica has been published for many years and is used world wide to find information on research projects. This article helps me discuss the basics of fire fighting today and how the basics of fire fighting have stayed the same throughout the generations. The basics of fire fighting can be broken down into four categories. The four steps are protection, confinement, ventilation, and extinguishment. The fire fighting is a systematic process which involves responding, accessing and executing a call for a fire.

The Bad:

I used this book to get the basic information about firefighting, it was very informative.

Examples of Good and Bad Annotations(With thanks to Phyllis Usina)


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The Good:

This article shows that children of alcoholics and substance abuse parents are associated with significant medical and psychosocial problems. Children of alcoholics (COAs) are much more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs, and have higher rates of anxiety, depression, poor academic function, and antisocial personality traits. I judged the credibility of this source based on the fact that the article was published in a scholarly journal (the American Academy of Pediatrics), and it contained a bibliography of the sources used. The information validates some of the social and physiological factors that influences children to alcohol abuse.

The Bad:

The article told me about children of alcoholics. It was good.

More Examples of Good and Bad Annotations


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The Good:

This web site has various links that provide such things as the history of Buddhism and the values and beliefs in the Buddhism religion. The great thing about the information provided in this web site is that it is compiled by a professor and the information is geared toward someone with little or no knowledge of the Buddhism Culture and Religion. The information is from a professor who also provides citations from where he got his information. The information is historical. This is a great introductory to Buddhism website. It has simple explanations to complex ideas. I will be presenting this information in class and the students will have very little or no previous knowledge on the topic. I think this information will help me organize the information in a logical way and that makes sense.

The Bad:

I got all the facts I needed about Buddhism and the different beliefs.

More Examples of Good and Bad Annotations


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Degrees of Formality in Annotations

  • Annotations can vary in style and have different degrees of formality.

  • More formal annotations avoid the first person singular ("I"). When writing a formal annotation, be especially careful not to begin each annotation with "This book..." or

    "This article..."

  • For this class, you will be writing annotations in a relatively informal style. First person singular is acceptable. The previous examples show an informal style of annotation. This is the style you should aim for in your final project.


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Example of a Formal Annotation

Goldschneider, F. K., L. J. Waite, and C. Witsberger. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." AmericanSociological Review 51(1986): 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that non-family living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families.


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