Getting an Overview of the Curriculum
Sometimes it can be challenging to get an overview of the curriculum or keep track of the texts you have read when working on a project. Maybe you find it difficult to remember what you have read, where you found a certain piece of information or keep track of which article said what. To help you remember the things you read, it can be a good idea to keep an annotated bibliography, where you summarize the information you read.
An annotated bibliography is a document where you collect all the references to texts you have read, accompanied with summaries and assessments of each text.
An annotated bibliography can help you
- remember which information comes from which source
- remember what you read
- revise information you have read
- get an overview of the course material
- revisit texts you read for past courses and projects (for example when writing your bachelor’s or master’s thesis)
- collaborate with others on covering course material
- create an outline for a theory chapter
Writing an annotated bibliography might seem like a lot of extra work, especially if you have a lot of material to read. However, most people take notes when reading anyway, and an annotated bibliography is just a structured way of taking notes. If you take regular notes, keeping an annotated bibliography in addition to these can help you summarize your notes. Taking notes makes it easier to remember what you learned, and by spending a few minutes summarizing what you read, you can save yourself a lot of time later.
The structure of an annotated bibliography
An annotated bibliography consists of different entries (different sources). Each entry usually consists of four elements:
- A full reference to the source
- A summary of the text
- A critique
- A reflection on how/why this text is relevant to your work
The reference should be formatted exactly like you would when making the literature list (bibliography) at the end of a regular paper. Including a full reference midway in a document might seem strange if you are not used to it, but this makes it easier for you to find the original source later.
The summary should be brief and concise, and you may use the IMRAD model to structure its contents. Briefly explain what the objective of the study/text is, which methods were used, what results were generated and what implications the findings have. You should aim to be specific in your summary in order to better remember the details later.
The critique is an assessment of the text. This can be something positive, something negative or both. For example, you can assess whether or not you think the reader is expected to have prior knowledge in order to understand the text, whether you think the text is difficult or easy to understand, or if there is something you are missing from the text.
Finally, you should include a short reflection on how this text is relevant to your work. A sentence or two will usually suffice. If you are using the text to write an assignment or thesis, you can state what part of your paper the text will be used for, for example. If you reading course material (studying for an exam, for example), you can state whether you think the text gives an overview of a topic or if it presents more detailed information about a specific term or case.
Example of a short annotated bibliography
Mead, M. & Metraux, R. (1957). Image of the Scientist Among High-School Students. In Science, Vol. 126. Pp. 384-390.
In this research article, the authors present the results of a study where American high school students were asked to describe a scientist. They present excerpts from the students’ descriptions and ask how these interpretations could influence the students’ decision to embark on a career in scientific research. The authors conclude that students’ stereotypical views of scientists potentially could influence students who want to focus on a career in science.
Since this article is rather old, some of the results may be outdated, and this should be kept in mind when using it. The article does not give a very concise summary of what the students actually think constitutes a scientist. Still, the article creates a good starting point if you want to understand young people’s stereotypical images of scientists.
I will not use this article directly in my analysis, as it does not offer specific findings about the stereotypes, and because it is a bit outdated. Instead, I will use this article for background knowledge when trying to learn more about the later developed Draw-A-Scientist test.
Chambers, D. W. (1983). Stereotypic Images of the Scientist: The Draw-A-Scientist-Test. In Science Education, Vol. 67(2). Pp. 255-265.
This research article is to some extent based on the article by Mead & Metraux (1957), and takes a closer look at the stereotypical images children have of science. The aim of the study is to describe the most common features drawn by 4807 children participating in a Draw-A-Scientist test. The most common features seen in the drawings were lab coats, spectacles, facial hair growth, symbols of research, symbols of knowledge, technology and relevant captions.
The article is well written and easy to understand. No prior knowledge is necessary in order to understand the article. Chambers also includes several tables and figures, which make the findings easier to interpret.
This article is especially relevant for my thesis because it presents specific, quantitative data that can easily be used to back up the findings in my analysis.
Some tips for writing annotated bibliographies
- If you are reading a book, it might be a good idea to dedicate one entry to each chapter. That way, you can be more specific and detailed without writing a very long summary, which makes it easier to find the exact place in the source information is located.
- In the summary, mention what type of text it is. Is it a research article or a book chapter?
- Adhere to the same structure for each entry. This makes it easier for you to read and navigate your own entries when looking for information.
- If you have many entries, it might be a good idea to organize them alphabetically. You can also organize your entries by topic or chronologically, based on when you read them.
- If you plan on sharing your annotated bibliography with others, or if you think you might use it at some point in the future, it might be a good idea to write a short introduction and conclusion. In these sections, you can state why you chose to use this selection of texts (for example because they were on the curriculum or because they were sources you used on a specific project).