W231 Faculty Resources

Annotated Bibliography & Literature Review

Teams conduct library research using a variety of library databases to explore the problem on a global level, then compile an annotated bibliography of recently published scholarly sources in APA format.The annotated bibliography is a report of the outcome of their search for you, their project supervisor. Based on their annotated bibliography, you will be able to assess whether they are conducting their library research efficiently, and whether they are ready to draft their literature review.

After completing the annotated bibliography, teams collaborate to create a review of the literature, a document which synthesizes the important ideas from the literature. Most students find the literature review to be the most challenging assignment of the semester. The use of a grid will facilitate synthesis as teams collaborate on the literature review. It's important to devote sufficient class time to the literature review, especially activities that allow students to practice synthesizing and documenting sources.

Annotated Bibliography Overview

Instructional Resources for the Annotated Bibliography

Students' Guide to Library Research for W231

Suggested Databases by Topic

Instructor Resources for Teaching Library Research

Literature Review

Instructional Resources for the Literature Review

Synthesis & Using Grids to Organize the Literature Review

Annotated Bibliography

The annotated bibliography is a valuable tool for the team. It provides a listing of all their articles, a brief summary of each article, a description of the authors, and the APA citations (which they'll need later for their references page.)

The annotated bibliography is also a report of the outcome of the research for the instructor, the project supervisor. Based on your annotated bibliography, instructors can assess whether teams have conducted their library research efficiently, and whether they are ready to draft their literature reviews, the next assignment.

To complete the annotated bibliography, teams must gather published sources from the databases and indexes available through our University Library. They should read "Conducting your Library Research" before beginning.

Each team member is required to find at least four recently published, authoritative, reliable articles from credible business or trade journals or another reliable source.

Each team member’s articles must be distinct from his or her team members’. As students locate articles, they should download them and/or email them to their team so everyone knows what kinds of sources are being gathered. Everyone will need a copy of each article selected.

Each student will submit an individual annotated bibliography of 4 sources. The annotated bibliography should demonstrate that the student made a good effort to find credible, relevant articles and that he or she knows how to cite and annotate them effectively. Evaluation of the annotated bibliography will be based on:

  • the quality of the sources
  • the accuracy and effectiveness of the annotations, and
  • the correctness of the APA citations.  Visit the APA page for help.

After students get their annotated bibliography back, they will revise it, and by this time the team will have selected 10 – 12 most relevant out of all those gathered to use as the team’s “literature.” The team will compile the team members’ annotations for the selected articles into one document -- the team’s annotated bibliography.

Instructional Resources for the Annotated Bibliography

Literature Review


  1. To identify and analyze issues raised in the literature
  2. To establish relationships among secondary sources
  3. To identify similarities and differences between secondary research contexts, events, and  issues
  4. To form explicitly stated conclusions
  5. To review summary, quotation, and paraphrase
  6. To review organizing long reports; synthesis
  7. To use transitions to show relationships and connections
  8. To review purpose and form of APA documentation

The literature review is a major section of the recommendation report and provides the target audience with an overview of what the experts are saying about the problem under investigation. The review will update the target audience on the recent research in the field. Students survey the literature to see how others have perceived the factors related to the problem under investigation and to define the problem as an important step before arriving at solutions. The reviews become a major section in the upcoming recommendation report, and should be at least 4 – 5 pages single-spaced, should cite about 10 - 12sources, and should include topic-related headings and subheadings.

Completion of this assignment will reinforce and build on the skills students began to develop earlier in the semester, such as critical reading, analysis, synthesis, organization, and evaluation and integration of sources. In addition, reviewing the literature will help the students focus the primary research more meaningfully on aspects of the problem found to be important in the published studies. A comprehensive review of the literature ensures that no major variables have been ignored that have previously impacted the problem. The survey of the literature not only helps the researcher to include all relevant variables in the project, it also provides a good framework to proceed further with the investigation.

As students examine the current state of the literature on their topic in a comprehensive analysis, they identify strategies used by other organizations to address the problem as well as the causes and effects of the problem discussed by the experts.

  • According to Sekaran (1992), a good literature review ensures that:
    Important variables that are likely to influence the problem situation are not omitted from the study.
  • The problem investigated is perceived by the professional community as relevant and significant.
  • A clearer idea emerges as to what variables would be most important to consider, why they would be considered important, and how they should be investigated to solve the problem. Thus, the literature review prepares the student to conceptualize the  primary research.
  • The problem statement can be made with greater precision and clarity.
  • The student does not run the risk of "reinventing the wheel," that is, wasting efforts trying to rediscover something that is already known.
  • The student as researcher is knowledgeable about the problem area and has done the preliminary work necessary to conduct primary research.

When drafting literature reviews, students should write a logical presentation of the research done thus far in the area of investigation. The review should synthesize all relevant information in a cogent and logical manner instead of presenting all the studies in chronological order with bits and pieces of uncoordinated information.

Instruction should discuss key concepts related to literature reviews. For example, literature reviews synthesize large amounts of information and present it in a coherent, organized fashion. Synthesis comes from the Greek word suntithenai -- to put together -- and occurs when two or more things are combined to create something new, whether it is a new idea, a new fabric, a new sound, or a new piece of writing. Thus, for this assignment, students will combine material from several sources to create a new report.

 (Adapted from Sekaran (1992), Research Methods for Business: A Skill-Building Approach (2nd ed.) New York: John Wiley and Sons.)

Although writers control the synthesis, they must remain objective and unbiased as they review the literature. The readers of the literature review do not wish to learn what the student thinks; they want to learn what the authors/experts think. Therefore, students should be cautioned against commenting on the sources or evaluating their ideas. Instead, they should show how the sources’ ideas are related.

Students who are unfamiliar with the concept of synthesis often simply list their sources and summarize their contents as they did for their annotated bibliography. They must be taught how to illustrate ways in which the sources agree and disagree by providing topic sentences and transitional words and phrases so readers can see those relationships.  Students need to learn how to establish their focus on the literature, beginning with the introduction, and maintain it through to the conclusion. Using transitional words and phrases that show the connection between the sources helps students stay centered on the literature.

Each section of the review should fulfill specific purposes:

Introduction: Since the lit review introduction will be the introduction to one part of a larger report, it is unnecessary to give the background information or state the problem here. In a sentence or two, students should simply introduce the purpose and scope of the literature review, including the key issues the review will address.

Body: Using relevant headings, the body should take up each question/issue one at a time and discuss how the authors of the articles respond to that question or issue. Students should relate the sources to one another and to the key point. Length of body section: about  4 – 5 pages single-spaced.
Conclusion: A brief final paragraph should bring this section of the recommendation report to a close by summarizing what the literature says about the topic overall.

Instructional Strategies:

  1. Guide students through development of a grid of common points to ensure synthesis.
  2. Have students work in groups to analyze and evaluate a range of sample literature reviews, looking at how well expectations were met in areas of content, format, synthesis, objectivity, and documentation. Provide them with a list of questions to guide their analysis.
  3. Have teams draft a section of a literature review in class, pointing out the need for topic sentences which maintain focus on the literature.  Have them report out by reading aloud or projecting the file.
  4. Have students complete an audience analysis worksheet to ensure they are directing their report to their target audience. The writer’s checklists in the textbook could serve this purpose.
Instructional Resources for the Literature Review


Grid: A Good Example (.doc)

Synthesis Activity (.doc)