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Difference Between a Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography


As students enter the research writing world, they have to learn a whole new language about theses, bibliographies, secondary sources, and other new terms. Some students may not understand the difference between an abstract, an annotated bibliography entry, and a literature review.

The confusion is understandable as there are many similarities in these aspects of report writing. First of all, abstracts, annotations and literature reviews all present summaries of sources. Secondly, each summary of a source is short and concise. The main differences are the purpose and the way each are presented to the reader.

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What Is a Literature Review?

Literature reviews can be full papers, in their own right, or they can be incorporated into a school paper. Their purpose is to review and tie together previously published research to bolster a writer’s own thesis. Also, the literature review then suggests ways to move research forward or identifies gaps in existing literature.

Preparing a Literature Review

Preparing a literature review is an excellent way for students to learn how to find and critically evaluate sources. Students need to make sure they find the most current research on a subject, as well.

As you find sources, you will see the same authors writing on a particular topic. This helps you in your research. That’s because you can start searching by author name. Databases, such as ProQuest and Science Direct, have tools to help you find current information. Look for the original research that sparked the current thread of research.

Find ways to tie your sources together as you prepare your literature review. Consider using in-text citations to back up your points.

What Is  an Annotated Bibliography?

Students Discussing Difference Between Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography, like a literature review, can be a section of a research report or stand alone. Teachers will sometimes assign annotated bibliographies so students can develop their research and critical evaluation skills.

Unlike a literature review, however, you should format annotations as a list. Evaluate each source on its own, although you may compare and contrast sources in the annotations, as well.

Annotation simply means a note or comment on an item. When you annotate a source, you are making a note or comment on it. Of course, there is more to it than that. Annotations are either a brief summary or an evaluation of the source.

Annotated Bibliography Entry Example

Doerr, John. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs. New York: Portfolio/Penguin. 2018.

This book is written by Doerr, who is the chair of a venture capitalist group. The book describes how business organizations can use OKRs to drive the focus of a company through agility, which leads to explosive growth. There are first-person, behind the scenes case studies narrated by leaders like Bill Gates and Bono. This book helps guide understanding of business and management strategies that drive the success of large companies.

Writing With Purpose

Although there are many similarities among literature reviews, abstracts and annotated bibliographies, each work has its own purpose within the research paper. And, while this article focuses on literature reviews and annotated bibliographies, you’ll also find similarities between abstracts and annotated bibliographies, too.

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