An annotation is evaluative. It is a judgment about the value of the resource as it pertains to the researcher’s inquiry. It describes the researcher’s personal experience using this resource to answer a specific question, and provide evidence that supports a thesis statement. An annotation is typically 150 words or less. The following is a list of things to consider when writing an annotation. It is recommended that only 3-4 items from the list below be discussed in any one annotation.
1. Authority: Authority, experience, or qualifications of the author
2. Purpose: Why did the author write this?
3. Scope: Breadth or depth of coverage (Is this work very in-depth? Does it cover a wide range of topics?), topics included, etc.
4. Audience: For whom was it written (general public, subject specialists, students…)?
5. Viewpoint: What is the author’s perspective or approach (school of thought, etc.)? Do you detect an unacknowledged bias, or find any undefended assumptions?
6. Sources: Does the author cite other sources? Is it based on the author’s own research? Is it personal opinion? …
7. Conclusion: What does the author conclude. Is the conclusion justified by the work?
8. Features: Any significant extras, e.g. visual aids (charts, maps, etc.), reprints of source documents, an annotated bibliography
9. Comparison: How does it relate to other works on the topic: does it agree or disagree with another author or a particular school of thought; are there other works which would support or dispute it? (How to Write)
10. Reliability: How do you know it is reliable source? Is it straight-up news reporting or is it an opinion piece (blog, column, OP-ED)?
11. Currency: How up-to-date is the resource?
12. Relevance: To what extent does the resource meet your research needs?
This is not as easy as it seems, because straight-up news reporting by journalists is becoming increasingly proprietary – subscription based. The Wall Street Journal keeps almost all of its journalistic content restricted. Only blogs, columns, and opinions are accessible to the public. The New York Times allows non-subscribers to access up to ten news articles per month for free. After that, a subscription is required to access more content. Consequently, students are using opinion pieces, blogs, and columns as objective articles without realizing that they are imbued with subjectivity – point-of-view, bias, and slant. This is something to be aware of when writing annotations.