Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography assessment task provides an alternative to a conventional essay. For a list of sources that are either provided by the lecturer or researched by the student, the standard format comprises a source reference, followed by a summary and evaluation of the content for each source.

This type of task can be used in an open-book exam if the resources for review are provided. It can be used as a final assessment task or as a component of a larger project.

An annotated bibliography can be delivered in the following ways during the COVID-19 situation as an alternative to a paper-based final examination:

  1. Non-time limited final assessment—often known as a ‘take-home’, the task is not performed under ‘exam-like’ time constraints and is provided to students at least several days before the due date. A common platform for submission of such a task is EASTS.
  2. Time limited, non-invigilated online exam—the task is undertaken online under ‘exam-like’ time constraints (typically 1-3 hours) but is open book, allowing students to refer to any material they can access. DSA can assist with the scheduling of this task.

Pros and cons of an annotated bibliography as an assessment task

Some advantages:

  • Promotes reading, research and understanding.
  • Promotes deeper learning on topics analysed for the bibliography.
  • Completed assignments can provide useful learning resources for future cohorts in the subject.
  • Collaboration and collusion can be readily identified.
  • Use of specified sources as the basis of the task can streamline marking.
  • Demonstrates referencing skills.
  • Develops professional practice skills that are readily transferable to the work context.
  • Aligns with learning outcomes and cognitive processes related to interpreting sources, review and analysis, critical thinking, comparing and contrasting, evaluation, judgement, reflection and academic writing.

Some limitations:

  • Students require information literacy skills.
  • Use of excessive numbers of sources limits student ability to demonstrate depth of thinking.
  • Unfamiliarity with this assessment type may indicate the need for in-class practice.
  • Delivering feedback about choice of sources can be challenging.
  • This is one of the many recognised forms of assessment that are targeted by contract cheating services

Some considerations when developing an annotated bibliography as an assessment task

Ref: Race, P. (2020). The Lecturer’s Toolkit (5th ed.), pp. 86-89. Routledge: Abingdon.

  • Ensure the topic is aligned with learning outcomes and subject content.
  • Set limits on the word count and the number of sources to be included.
  • Be clear about the types and balance sources that are permissible, e.g. journal articles, books, blogs and other web sources, magazines.
  • Specify some of the sources to be reviewed and provide free choice about other sources.
  • Be clear about the prioritising of the resources.
  • Choose appropriate word limits for the level of study.
  • Can limit the range of content that can be assessed and the number of assessment items that can be used.

Additional resources

Sample annotated bibliographies:

    Annotated Bibliography IKC100 – see DLT Example Rubrics webpage.
  • International Relations; Environmental Science sample annotations – Australian National University.
  • This sample is from Race, P. (2020). The Lecturer’s Toolkit (5th ed.), pp. 88. Routledge: Abingdon. Available online through Charles Sturt University library.
    The Lecturer’s Toolkit
  • Understanding Historiography through an Annotated Bibliography - Duncan, J., & Lundstrom, K. (2014). Understanding Historiography through an Annotated Bibliography: Scaffolded Learning for a Capstone Research Project. Utah State University. Retrieved from on April 14, 2020.

The following resources are for students and are useful as instructional resources. They also provide guidance in terms of designing a literature review assessment:

  • Annotated Bibliography – Australian National University. Retrieved from on April 14, 2020.
  • Annotated Bibliography – University of New South Wales. Retrieved from on April 14, 2020.
  • Annotated Bibliography – Western Sydney University. Retrieved from on April 14, 2020.
  • Writing an annotated bibliography – Monash University. Retrieved from on April 14, 2020.
  • Writing an annotated bibliography – University of New England. Retrieved from on April 14, 2020.