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COM 3928: Communication Research Methods (All Sections): TIPS: Annotated Bibliography & Literature Reviews

Literature Review


The “literature” of a literature review refers to any collection of materials on a topic, not necessarily the great literary texts of the world. “Literature” could be anything from a set of government pamphlets on British colonial methods in Africa to scholarly articles on the treatment of a torn ACL. And a review does not necessarily mean that your reader wants you to give your personal opinion on whether or not you liked these sources.

What is a Literature Review

A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period.

A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant.

What researchers need to know to successfully complete a literature review

  • Its purpose - To establish a base of information on a subject to allow the researcher to enter a scholarly conversation from an informed perspective.
  • Its organization -  A literature review can be a summary or a synopsis of relevant information.
    • Summary – reviews the major assertions, themes, and conclusions presented by a source. 
    • Synthesis – reorganizes the summary of the sources, either by theme or time frame. For example, a synthesis might trace the evolution of a field through the years, referencing important debates or findings; alternatively, it might categorize and prioritize major themes that surround a subject for effective consumption by the reader.
  • Components
    • An overview of the subject in question 
    • Acknowledgement of the social, political, and economic context of the time period and how that context affects the relevance of the sources
    • Proper citations that are consistent with the writing conventions within the researcher’s discipline
  • Its intention o To provide background information on the subject in question and lend credibility and authority to the researcher so he/she can enter into the discourse concerning the subject.

University Writing Center ASU, (2015 August 30). Literature Review ]web]. Retrieved
The Writing Center UNC Chapel Hill. (2015, August 30). Literature Reviews.[web].


Annotated Bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography provides an account of the research that has been done on a given topic. 

Like a bibliography, an annotated bibliography includes an alphabetical list of information resources. However, in addition to the citation information (i.e. author, title, etc.), the annotated bibliography also includes a concise commentary on the scope, approach, and merit of each source and a brief assessment of its value and relevance.

What does the annotation include?

An annotation may include the following elements
NOTE: reference your particular assignment instructions for the criteria your professor has outlined.

  • Complete citation information in an appropriate style format (i.e. APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) 
  • Main focus or purpose of the source
  • Information on the scope of the work
  • Details on what kind of information can be found in the source
  • Information on the qualifications and authority of the writer/author
  • Usefulness of the source based on the coverage of the topic
  • Additional notable aspects of the source

Selecting the sources:

The quality and usefulness of your annotated bibliography will depend on selection of resources you include. Define the scope of your research carefully so that you make good judgments about what to include and what to exclude in the annotated bibliography.

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