Annotated bibliographies can help maximise benefit of literature research skills exercises

Michelle Coulson

Abstract


This study evaluates annotated bibliographies as a way to ‘value-add’ to written assignments, to guide students towards strong literature research skills. While the annotated bibliography is an accepted research tool in social sciences, it is rare in most sciences disciplines. This study followed two small cohorts of biology students as they encountered annotated bibliographies. Students submitted their annotated bibliographies four weeks into a 10 week assignment. All students found the experience valuable, and felt that it increased their preparation for the final essay. Virtually all students said receiving written feedback on their bibliography was helpful. However, many students were ambivalent about whether the annotated bibliography exercise improved their literature research skills. When asked the question, ‘What do you think would most improve your literature research skills?’, the most common response was ‘more practice’. Annotated bibliographies allow more practice indirectly, by facilitating greater effort and completion in existing essay-type assignments. Other advantages of annotated bibliographies identified in this study include timely identification of students headed down the wrong track and the ability to provide timely feedback to students. Possibly the major direct benefit perceived and appreciated by students is in facilitating early commencement and thus effective time management. The annotated bibliography is concluded to be a useful pedagogical tool to enhance the outcomes of any assessment requiring literature research skills.

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