798 – Annotated Bibliography

The goals

For this assignment, I would like you to pick a research question where you discover the “State of the Art,” of a research subject germane to organizational writing in professional and technical communication. You can see from my example that I choose “How are technical writing programs assessed?” (be kind, I wrote it in grad school).

Getting to know the literature of a particular field means more than reading the articles and book chapters, it also means learning to follow conversations and understand the controversies that have driven knowledge-making in that field over time. For this project you will compile a comprehensive list of sources on computational rhetoric and/or information architecture that allows a reader to trace its development over time from inception to present-day. You can frame those issues in whatever way is meaningful to you but those two ideas should be at the core of your questions. By the end, you should give a full citation and a brief but detailed annotation for each source that helps to explain the way it fits into the overall thread you are tracing.

I’d recommend working on it just gathering articles for a couple hours and see before committing to your question. Just pulling mind you, do this before you start writing anything up. Wait till you are sure you have enough “stuff”. That is the only way you are going to know if you have enough. Narrow or expand your question accordingly. How do you know you have enough stuff? Ask yourself this question:

Am I being comprehensive?

Be as comprehensive as you can.
This really isn’t a check box kind of assignment. The research you do here helps you with your career as a researcher so just having a number doesn’t help you with the rest of the course. The quality of analysis and content does. If you are having a hard time finding sources I encourage you to broaden the question/topic.

  • Audience: academics
  • Content: professional writing topic germane to your profession
  • Deliverable: annotated bibliography

The point of annotated bibliography research is for you to become familiar with a research question, without having to argue for a thesis and to create a document that helps other scholars interested in the same question. You should have a specific question that you have developed from your research preferably one that you are actually curious about to work on. Your work should be written in a scholarly style where claims are supported by specific observed evidence from the articles you have read. Key moves here are the sorts of moves you will be making your whole life as researchers: summary, synthesis, and analysis.

Annotated bibliographies are intensely user-friendly documents. Readers come to them expecting to find a large, thoughtful collection of commentaries on texts that they might use for their own research. They’ll need to know what is contained–and where it is contained–in the bibliography. They will expect you to have made careful decisions and considered evaluations, and they will appreciate straightforward presentation of material (appeal to their rhetorical purposes: are they teachers? Researchers? Specialists in an area? how would they use the material?)  Having a clear audience profile will help you make all sorts of decisions about what to include and how to arrange what you include.

how to get started

First, develop a question about computational rhetoric or information architecture based on our readings. You will be looking for research articles that could help you answer that question. Annotated bibliographies rely heavily on forms of arrangement to work so start thinking of your research in the following arrangement patterns:

an introduction

Your introduction of approximately two – three pages should do following work:

  • frame your audience as to who, specifically, would find this work useful? What work would this research help people with?
  • expresses your guiding research question
  • discusses what criteria went into the selection of each article
  • discusses how you will analyze each article.

a body

Each article should have a body of work which should include brief annotations.

Here is where you talk about the research you have discovered and how it relates to your frame (your approach to the question you are asking).

The citation should include the following information:

  • A small paragraph of summary of the source’s main argument.
  • A small paragraph of synthesis and analysis where you put how the article discuses a concept in dialogue with other academic conversations about the same topic. How well does it fit your criteria? What is its overall usefulness to your question?
  • Any other strengths and weaknesses you see in author’s argument or approach?

assessment criteria

  • Quality of Introduction/Establishment of Criteria: How well do you talk about what criteria you used to pick these articles? How useful would this introduction be to someone who was looking for similar information?
  • Quality and Diversity of Sources: Have you done just the minimum? Do all the sources come from only one place? How reliable would these sources be for an academic audience?
  • Value of Individual Article AnalysisHow coherently do you judge the worth of the articles? How consistent are you with your criteria of assessment? How well do you explain what might be useful to a fellow researcher or yourself?
  • Value of Article SummationHow well do you do you get at the heart of the article you are annotating? How well do you describe the article? How do you make the language of the article accessible to the reader? Have you spent more than three articles summarizing.
  • CraftThoughtfulness in writing. Grammar/Spelling/Citations.


This project should be comprehensive of the subject … around 20 to 30 pages.