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Resources for sociology coursework and research.

Differences Between Annotated Bibliography and Literature Review

Comparing the Annotated Bibliography to the Literature Review
  Annotated Bibliography  Literature Review 
Purpose  Provides the reader with an ordered list of sources for additional reading. Usually also provides brief explanations of why each source is credible and relevant to the topic. Provides an overview of a particular topic or problem by summarizing and explaining the most significant sources in the field.
Structure  Sources are separated from each other and are arranged alphabetically, so they will be easy to locate. Sources are integrated into paragraphs based on the progression of the topical overview, and they may be mentioned more than once
Components Each item in the list uses the formal citation style (usually APA, MLA, or Chicago) to cite a single source and includes a short paragraph with a summary explaining its credibility and relevancy. Uses an introduction to explain the topic, synthesizes sources progressively as the topic is explained through the body, and then concludes by summarizing the overall background presented.

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a “critical analysis of a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles” (University of Wisconsin Writing Center).

Do not confuse a literature review with an annotated bibliography.


  • The introduction should explain why you are writing the review (“so what/who cares?”) and make some central claims about the current state of the literature (e.g. trends, debates, gaps, etc.).
  • Organize the body of the paper by common denominators among sources, such as methodologies, conclusions, philosophical approaches, or possibly chronology (assuming topical subsections)
  • The conclusion should summarize significant contributions to the field, situate the reviewed literature in the larger context of the discipline, point out flaws or gaps in the research, and/or suggest future areas of study.

Questions to Ask?

  • How are sources similar in terms of methodologies, philosophies, claims, choice and interpretation of evidence, reliability, etc.?
  • How do they differ?
  • Do you observe gaps in the research or areas that require further study?
  • Do particular issues or problems stand out?
  • Do you want to compare texts in general or hone in on a specific issue or question?

Action Plan

  • Determine your purpose. Understanding the purpose and expectations of the prompt will help you place appropriate emphasis on analysis or summary.
  • Keep track of sources by writing a brief summary for each.
  • Consider making a table or chart to map how different sources relate to/contrast with one another.
  • Consider the significance of each work to the field. The amount of space you dedicate to an individual source denotes its significance within the body of literature