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Module 9b: Am I Writing an Annotated Bibliography or a Literature Review?

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Differences Between an Annotated Bibliography and a Literature Review


The biggest challenge that you can encounter when you are writing a Literature Review is how to present the relevant studies.  You have spent hours researching and reviewing journal articles about research studies that are relevant to your topic. You want to share them and the easiest way is to describe each of the studies in a paragraph or two.  This is a logical process, but it can get confusing to your readers if you just bombard them with study after study without any additional narrative that ties them together.  This sort of content presentation is called an Annotated Bibliography.

Annotated Bibliography


When the emphasis of a written document is individual articles, then is it called an Annotated Bibliography.
An Annotated Bibliography is defined as a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 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. (Engle, 2016)

Annotated Bibliography Example:


A Literature Review

Galvin defines a Literature Review as “a well-written analytical narrative that brings readers up-to-date on what is known about a given topic.” (p.11)   Helen Mongan-Rallis (2006) states that a literature review “goes well beyond merely summarizing professional literature.  It focuses on a specific topic of interest to you and includes a critical analysis of the relationship between different works, and relating this research to your work.“

We are writing an Integrative Review which “reviews, critiques, and synthesizes the representative literature on a topic in an integrated way that new frameworks . . . are generated.”  This type of review includes all of the studies that the author can find that are relevant to a specific topic or theme in the research. The studies are organized using the topics/themes as the framework, not the articles. (USC Libraries, 2005)

Buttram, MacMillan, and Koch (2012) created a table that compares Annotated Bibliographies with Literature Reviews.  This graphic contrasts the purpose, structure, and components found in each of this genre.


Furthermore, they created a figure that describes how an annotated bibliography can feed into a literature review.  This is especially useful because it depicts how appropriate studies are compared and contrasted throughout a literature review.  The review is driven by the topics/themes, not the research.  The research is just used to provide the necessary foundation for discussing each topic/theme.


An annotated bibliography might be a valuable way to organize your research, but ultimately you will want to use your findings to share and substantiate your interpretation of how studies have explored the various themes and subthemes of your selected research topic.

Is it clearer now?  What are the realizations that you experienced?  Are you still confused about the structure or intent of a literature review? 

Please answer these questions and provide any other resources that you may deem useful for you colleagues by placing them in the comments section of this RWLD.

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