I wrote an annotated bibliography for the first time back in the fall semester of 2011. For the uninitiated, an annotated bibliography entry includes the book or article’s bibliographic information as well as a content summary and evaluation of the work. Like most academic requirements, the task of writing an annotated bibliography often appears onerous.
Recently though, my opinion of this type of academic paper has altered dramatically. The reason? The evaluation techniques I have learned from writing annotated bibliographies has changed how I approach everything I read from books to articles to Facebook posts.
When writing an annotated bibliography entry, certain criteria must be met. First, before evaluating the work, identify the thesis (the point the author is trying to prove) and how the author supported or proved that thesis. Then, in the evaluation, posit whether the author has proved his thesis. Did his support hold up or did he make leaps in logic? Other questions include the following. How readable is the text? What kind of sources, if any, did he reference?
Gradually, this method for evaluating written material became second nature. Almost every class I have taken for my current Masters degree has required some sort of annotated bibliography. I could no longer casually skim a book and say that I had read it. Performing this kind of evaluation requires attention to detail, something that takes time and effort.
Only recently did I realize that this new “second nature” was the reason that I had a problem with so many posts I read on Facebook. For instance, is it ironic that someone advocating stricter gun control to “save just one life” would also be pro-choice? No Why? Evaluate his premise and you’ll find that he has a different definition of the word “life” than the pro-life person who posed the question.
One more example. Someone posited that banning guns to “save just one life” should also, for argument’s sake, lead to banning swimming pools, airplanes or cars. Proper evaluation of this thesis leads to its fatal flaw. What is the purpose or design of each item? A gun is designed to inflict damage. A swimming pool is designed to provide a means of recreation or athletic training. Cars and airplanes are designed to transport a person from point A to point B. These items are not comparable. Thus, the thesis falls apart.
The purpose of this post is not to discuss gun control. Recent events have simply provided the examples.
The purpose of this post is to express appreciation for an underrated type of academic paper. Through writing over 30 annotated bibliography entries, so far, I have learned the following. I have learned to avoid accepting things without discerning the premise and method of support. I have learned to slow down and process information before forming an opinion. I have learned the value of a well-supported, logical thesis for my own writing. Most importantly, I have learned that there is order and logic in this world that God created. I have learned that it is well worth my time to discover it.