The Annotated Bibliography (Throwback Thursday)

Series note:  The following post is part of the GradFund Throwback Thursday blog series.  Each week we will repost one of our most popular blog posts from years past. If you are interested in learning more about research grants and fellowships to support your graduate study, be sure to visit the GradFund Knowledgebase.

An annotated bibliography can be a powerful component of your application package. If a funder requires one, it is further opportunity to situate your research within your field, or it may take the place of the literature review. Your goal is to highlight significant bodies of work, advancements in the literature that you are contributing to, and positive distinctions that draw your scholarship apart. If you are working with primary sources, annotation can also elaborate the significance of these materials to your investigation. While most funders may require bibliographies as an application component, only a portion of these call for annotation. Examples of funding proposals requiring an annotated bibliography include the Ford Foundation Dissertation and Postdoctoral Fellowships, the Kress History of Art: Institutional Fellowship, and other awards primarily in the humanities and social sciences.

Should you have to prepare an annotated bibliography, there are some factors to consider regarding the selection of sources. The length of the bibliography will be specified by the funder. The Ford fellowships for example require no more than ten key sources, while the Kress fellowship guidelines specify a maximum length of 5 pages. For an application like Ford that asks for a restricted number of key sources, you will have to choose the sources most relevant for your project rather than presenting an overview of everything that has been written about your topic. Longer bibliographies allow for a more comprehensive scope. The selection of sources reveals your knowledge and assessment of the field and so you will want to highlight familiarity with foundational works and emerging perspectives as they relate to your research. This holds true for bibliographies in general, and annotation presents further opportunity to affirm your knowledge.

The annotation itself is a summary and assessment of the individual entries. You might want to address questions such as: how does the entry contribute to key debates in the field? How does this source relate to your research project? Does it establish a precedent that you can build on? Has it shaped how you think about your topic? The extent to which you feature primary and secondary sources will depend on disciplinary practices as well as the particularities of your project. Consult with your advisor and faculty mentors regarding these concerns. Bibliographies typically consist of citations included in the proposal, although some applications allow a more expansive list. Consult the application guidelines and program officer if this is unclear.

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