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IDS 801: Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies (Turner)

This guide is for students enrolled in IDS801: Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies taught by Elizabeth Turner

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What is an annotation?

Before you start writing, please review the List of Forbidden Practices. You will be graded on these mechanics from the start.

An annotation is a brief description and analysis of a single resource used to support your research. Research can be a long process. Writing good annotations helps you keep track of the information you've already read. Annotations should be written in clear language that specifically addresses each point. When done correctly, a good annotation will help you identify what the source was about, what the author's main arguments were, what evidence was used to support those arguments, the quality of the information, what you found most important, and how you intended to use the information in your paper.

A good annotation has four pillars:

  • Citation
  • Summary and Analysis
  • Assessment
  • Reflection

Citations provide information on where to find the information again. You can find help for citations on the APA 7 page.

The Summary and Analysis provides information on what the source is about by identifying the author's arguments and the types of evidence used to support those arguments. You can find help for analyses on the Writing Help page.

Assessments provide information on why this information is good information. An assessment will cover things like authority, overall quality of the information, and the limits of the information.

Reflections provide information on how you will use the information to support your research. This piece identifies the most important information in the article and ties it to a specific research use like supporting an argument or providing background information.

Summary & Analysis

A good summary and analysis 1) identifies what the article is about 2) identifies the main arguments the author is making and 3) identifies the types of evidence used to support those arguments. Consider things like:


  • What is the overarching topic of the article?

Argument Identification:

  • What claims are the authors making?
  • What are they asking you to accept as true?

Evidence Identification:

  • What types of evidence are they using to support these claims?
    • Did they do original research?
    • Did they review the research of others?
    • Did they use first-hand accounts?
    • Did they base it on their own experience?

Here is an example of a good summary and analysis:

In this article about availability of childcare, the authors claim that structural change is needed in order to support working parents. They conducted interviews with more than 1,000 persons with children working in the industry and discovered that workers cited childcare conflicts are their greatest barrier to advancement.

This summary and  analysis identifies what the article is about (availability of childcare), identifies the major claims the author is making (that structural change is needed and that childcare conflicts are a barrier to advancement), and then identifies the type of evidence used to support those claims (interviews with more than 1,000 working parents).


A good assessment provides details on the validity of the information. It covers things like authority, data quality, and data limitations. Consider things like:


  • Is the author an expert on the topic?
    • What are their credentials?
    • What is their reputation?
  • Where is the information published?
    • Is it peer reviewed?
    • What is the reputation of the publication?

Data Quality:

  • Is the information current for the field?
    • e.g. a fast-paced field like medicine has different currency needs than a slower-paced field like history.
  • Is the methodology sound?
  • Is the information accurate?
  • Is it based soley on opinion or anecdotal accounts?

Data Limitations:

  • What can't the data tell us?
  • What important information was not addressed?
  • What things are outside of the scope of the data?


Here is an example of a good assessment:

Jane Smith, a professor of microbiology who has authored more than twenty papers on the topic, published this article in the peer-reviewed publication Science last year. The longitudinal study she used took care to use good methodology, however, the conclusions are specific to a limited situation and cannot be applied across the board.

This assessment names the author, provides information on her credentials (she is a professor and has authored many papers on the topic), gives information on the authority of the source (peer-reviewed journal which is named) and indicates that it is a recent piece. It further states the quality of the data (she used solid methodology) used as well as the limitations (her conclusions can't be applied across the board).


A good reflection provides details on how this particular source supports your research. It generally has two parts: The first part identifies which information will be the most useful and the second part identifies a specific research use for the material.

Important information:

  • What specific information jumped out at you?
    • The conclusions?
    • The arguments made?

Research uses:

  • Providing background information on a topic
  • Supporting or refuting an argument you are making
  • Demonstrating a point.

Here is an example of a good reflection:

This article provides extensive information on reduced mammal populations in areas that experience drought at an increasing frequency. This supports the argument that climate change has an effect on prairie dog population.

This reflection identifies a specific piece of information (reduced mammal populations in drought-affected areas) and connects it to a specific research use (supporting the argument regarding prairie dog populations.)

Formatting an annotation

A correctly formatted annotation contains all elements, is a single cohesive paragraph without headings, is double spaced and has a hanging indent. 

Sample Annotation