The Annotated Bibliography
By Catharine Niuzzo Honaman

Time: 2 class periods (or 3 if a lot of review of bibliographic format is necessary


During this lesson students are introduced to Genetically Modified Foods (GMF). Hooked by newspaper headlines and the presence of GMF’s in their last night’s meal students review scientists’ opinions from Science Magazine using a Think-Pair-Share approach. This lesson is the introductory piece for a quarter long unit that uses GMF and Pesticides as the context for exploring genetics, basic plant biology and photosynthesis. The goal is to prompt students to ask just what are they eating and what is the biology behind the production of their food?

1. Students will put sources into correct MLA bibliographic format.
2. Students will evaluate the accuracy of the information and the research value of two articles through a short written annotated bibliography for each.

Strand 1
Concept 4: Vocabulary
PO 3: Determine how the meaning of the text is affected by the
writer’s word choice.

Concept 5:
PO 1: Read from a variety of genres with accuracy, automaticity,
and prosody.

Concept 6:
Comprehension Strategies
PO 4: Connect information and events in text to experience and to
related text and sources.

Strand 3
Concept 1: Expository Text
PO 2: Distinguish supported inferences from unsupported
inferences in expository selections such as editorials,
newspaper articles, essays, reviews, and critiques.

W-P1. Use transitional devices: varied sentence structures; the active voice; parallel
structures; supporting details, phrases and clauses; correct spelling, punctuation,
capitalization, grammar and usage to sharpen the focus and clarify the meaning of
their writings.

Background Information
This lesson builds on skills learned in the third quarter, writing a bibliography using correct MLA formats.



1. Share with the students that throughout this quarter they will be gathering information from many sources about their assigned countries. Some of these sources will be provided in social studies, science, and math. Others they will find on their own, for example their current events articles. Each student will need to keep all of these articles, notes on sources, etc. in a folder. As each new source is added it is very important that the source is documented by the student using the correct Modern Language Association (MLA) format. This documentation is necessary so that others can go back and find the sources that the student has used. This would be an appropriate time to talk about the dangers of plagiarism and the benefits of utilizing other people’s bibliographies when doing research. The student will also have the opportunity to comment on how valuable, biased, and /or interesting the article or source was. This special type of bibliography is called an annotated bibliography.

2. A suggested flow of this lesson would be to first practice putting some sources into correct MLA format, reviewing how entries for various sources need to be set up. Two great sites for downloading information on this are http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/annotated.html and http://www.library.arizona.edu/tutorials/citation/mla_exercise.html. These sites are valuable because they also have information on the American Psychological Association (APA) style of documenting sources as well as information on writing annotated bibliographies. If you have time you may wish to just show the students how the MLA and APA styles differ. By putting the article used in lesson #1 into both MLA and APA styles it becomes evident that when a piece was published carries more weight for the sciences which use the APA style.

Activity sheet #1 has sources, which need to be put into correct bibliographical format. This may be used to reinforce skills learned in the third quarter when writing the research paper.

Activity sheet #1 has the two sources that were used in the English and science classes the first week. These need to be put into the correct MLA format.

3. If you used activity sheet #1 go over the answers for this work with the students having them correct their own papers in a different color ink than the original work was done in. If the students only need a little review of correct bibliographic formats (or after successfully completing the work for activity sheet #1) then just use activity sheet #2, but still have them correct their own papers in a different color ink than the original work was done in. Correcting their own papers will give them immediate feedback and will reinforce the correct formats as they need to not just indicate that something is wrong, but they need to write in the correct answers.

4. The point of this lesson is to learn how to annotate a bibliographic citation so the majority of your focus needs to be on this aspect. Use the list provided by the St. Cloud website to highlight how the annotation of a reference evaluates it:

Process for Writing an Annotated Bibliography
1. List the completed bibliographical citation.
2. Explain the main purpose of the work.
3. Briefly describe the content.
4. Indicate the possible audience for the work.
5. Evaluate the relevance of the information.
6. Note any special features.
7. Warn readers of any defect, weakness, or bias.

As the St. Cloud web site further states, “Annotations take different forms, depending on the type of source and on the audience. Articles are often argumentative; in these instances, the writer should incorporate the author's position on the particular issue being addressed. The writer may choose to include quotes and/ or references to individuals or to specific experiments for emphasis.” With this in mind, ask the students to annotate the article read in English for lesson #1 (“Africa Bites the Bullet on Genetically Modified Food Aid”) and the website containing scientists’ opinions examined in science class during the first week’s activities (“Controversies Surrounding the Risks and Benefits of Genetically Modified Food” http://scope.educ.washington.edu/gmfood/

5. While we would hope that all published sources would be accurate, detailed, well-researched, and objective, that is sometimes not the case. The annotated bibliography is an opportunity to point out the faults and/or strengths of a source. The writing of an annotated bibliography will make the students a more discerning audience. It also empowers them as readers who approach each source critically. Students may find that certain sources are so one-sided as to actually qualify as propaganda. And this concept ties into lesson #3.

Embedded Assessment
Students are involved in self evaluation throughout the exercise.

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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