Annotated Bibliographies: Writing the introduction

  • First steps
  • Finding source materials
  • Selecting materials
  • Finding additional materials
  • Steps in writing annotations
  • Writing the introduction
  • Revising for quality
  • Final checklist
  • Style sheets
  • Examples of styles/annotations

Why write the intro AFTER the bibliography???

Projects like an annotated bibliography lead you beyond what you knew when you started. Your annotated bibliography will be shaped by what you find and what you learn , so it makes sense to write the Introduction when you know exactly what you've accomplished, and what the final scope and limitations of your resource selection are.

The introduction

7.   WRITE AN INTRODUCTION Typically a short overview of the research focus, the introduction needs to define the topic, the scope of the bibliography, and if it is meant to cover the whole range of opinion or just one viewpoint or aspect. Check your  Subject Outline  or verify with your lecturer for what else needs to be included in the introduction.

Note: In a very short exercise ("Write an annotated bibliography with at least three different works."), giving it an informative title might take the place of writing an introduction.

For longer bibliographies, especially ones that attempt to give a full overview of a topic, having an introduction is essential. Very specific topics need to be defined clearly, or the reader might be misled.

Describe the scope of your bibliography, i.e., whether it covers what you judge to be the best, or the most recent, or a broad sample of the available material on your topic.

Again, does it cover the whole range of opinion, or just one viewpoint or aspect of the topic?

Example: Postmodern Interpretations of Hamlet

Does it cover a particular time period, or does it reach back for the "classic" articles, even if they are decades old?

Black Republicans' Opinions on Barack Obama's Candidacy

Negative Criticism of Keynesian Economics during the Reagan Administration

The Lutheran Response to the Holocaust, 1951-1975

Introduction

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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

  • Introduction
  • New RefWorks
  • Formatting Citations
  • Writing Annotations
  • Sample Annotated Bibliographies

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is an enhanced list of citations that briefly summarizes each article, book, or other source of information and explains why it is important for your topic.  It can be divided into two distinct parts: the annotation and the bibliography.

  • A bibliography is a list of articles, books, and or other sources of information that have been used for researching a topic. This list is called “References” In APA format or “Works Cited” in MLA format.  All academic papers should have a bibliography that lists the sources used for its creation. 
  • An annotation is a short paragraph that summarizes a source and describes how it is relevant to your research.  To annotate literally means “to make notes.”

There is not an official format for annotated bibliographies, though usually the bibliographic citation is written in APA or MLA format.  If this is being done for a class, ask the instructor which format you should use. ​

  • Example of an Annotated Bibliography The William Morris Collection at the Archives and Rare Books Library, University of Cincinnati
  • More Examples

Example of entries on an Annotated Bibliography

Henderson, R., & Honan, E. (2008). Digital literacies in two low socioeconomic classrooms: Snapshots of practice. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, (7)2 , 85-98.

Provides snapshots of digital practices in two middle-level classrooms within low socioeconomic suburbs in Australia during one school term. Ethnographic research techniques were used to investigate (1) teachers' pedagogical approaches to using digital literacy practices with low-income students; (2) students' access to digital technologies at home and at school; and (3) how home literate practices compared to the practices valued in school. Results underscore the need to disrupt teachers' deficit views of these students' home digital literacies so that school practices can be built upon the knowledge and literacies students already have. 

(Beach et al., 2009)

Frazen, K., & Kamps, D. (2008). The utilization and effects of positive behavior support strategies on an urban school playground. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 10, 150-161. doi: 10.1177/1098300708316260.

This study examined the effectiveness of a school-wide PBS recess intervention across three grades—2 nd , 3 rd , and 4 th .  The intervention included a token economy system for following five operationally defined, positively stated school rules.  A multiple baseline design across grades was used to determine the effectiveness of the swPBS recess intervention on inappropriate behaviors.  Intervention was implemented across the three grades at staggered times.  When intervention was implemented, inappropriate behavior demonstrated a change in level for all grades and a decrease in variability for one grade (2 nd ). Trend was relatively stable across all phases for two classrooms and a slight increasing trend was observed during baseline for the 4 th grade that stabilized once the intervention was implemented. Experimental control was demonstrated when (1) baseline behavior remained consistent despite the implementation of intervention in other grades, (2) only when intervention was implemented was a change in behavior level observed, and (3) experimental control was demonstrated at three distinct points. 

(McCoy, 2015)

Why are Annotated Bibliographies useful?

An annotated bibliography demonstrates your understanding of a topic.  It's easy to add a source to a reference list and forget about it when you just need a citation, but you will read and evaluate that source more carefully when you have to write an annotation for it. Since annotations need to be more than just a summary and explain the value of each source, you are forced to think critically and develop a point of view on the topic.  Writing an annotated bibliography is a great way to start preparing a major research project because you will see what arguments have already been proposed in the literature and where your project can add something new to the larger body of work.

Reading published scholarly annotated bibliographies is an efficient method for starting research since they will provide a comprehensive overview of a topic and introduce what other researchers are saying about a topic.

Beach, R., Bigelow, M., Dillon, D., Dockter, J., Galda, L., Helman, L., . . . Janssen, T. (2009). Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.  Research in the Teaching of English,   44 (2), 210-241. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27784357

McCoy, D. (2015). Annotated bibliography #1 behavior research methods [Class handout]. Behavior Analysis, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH.

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Annotated Bibliographies

What this handout is about.

This handout will explain why annotated bibliographies are useful for researchers, provide an explanation of what constitutes an annotation, describe various types of annotations and styles for writing them, and offer multiple examples of annotated bibliographies in the MLA, APA, and CBE/CSE styles of citation.

Introduction

Welcome to the wonderful world of annotated bibliographies! You’re probably already familiar with the need to provide bibliographies, reference pages, and works cited lists to credit your sources when you do a research paper. An annotated bibliography includes descriptions and explanations of your listed sources beyond the basic citation information you usually provide.

Why do an annotated bibliography?

One of the reasons behind citing sources and compiling a general bibliography is so that you can prove you have done some valid research to back up your argument and claims. Readers can refer to a citation in your bibliography and then go look up the material themselves. When inspired by your text or your argument, interested researchers can access your resources. They may wish to double check a claim or interpretation you’ve made, or they may simply wish to continue researching according to their interests. But think about it: even though a bibliography provides a list of research sources of all types that includes publishing information, how much does that really tell a researcher or reader about the sources themselves?

An annotated bibliography provides specific information about each source you have used. As a researcher, you have become an expert on your topic: you have the ability to explain the content of your sources, assess their usefulness, and share this information with others who may be less familiar with them. Think of your paper as part of a conversation with people interested in the same things you are; the annotated bibliography allows you to tell readers what to check out, what might be worth checking out in some situations, and what might not be worth spending the time on. It’s kind of like providing a list of good movies for your classmates to watch and then going over the list with them, telling them why this movie is better than that one or why one student in your class might like a particular movie better than another student would. You want to give your audience enough information to understand basically what the movies are about and to make an informed decision about where to spend their money based on their interests.

What does an annotated bibliography do?

A good annotated bibliography:

  • encourages you to think critically about the content of the works you are using, their place within a field of study, and their relation to your own research and ideas.
  • proves you have read and understand your sources.
  • establishes your work as a valid source and you as a competent researcher.
  • situates your study and topic in a continuing professional conversation.
  • provides a way for others to decide whether a source will be helpful to their research if they read it.
  • could help interested researchers determine whether they are interested in a topic by providing background information and an idea of the kind of work going on in a field.

What elements might an annotation include?

  • Bibliography according to the appropriate citation style (MLA, APA, CBE/CSE, etc.).
  • Explanation of main points and/or purpose of the work—basically, its thesis—which shows among other things that you have read and thoroughly understand the source.
  • Verification or critique of the authority or qualifications of the author.
  • Comments on the worth, effectiveness, and usefulness of the work in terms of both the topic being researched and/or your own research project.
  • The point of view or perspective from which the work was written. For instance, you may note whether the author seemed to have particular biases or was trying to reach a particular audience.
  • Relevant links to other work done in the area, like related sources, possibly including a comparison with some of those already on your list. You may want to establish connections to other aspects of the same argument or opposing views.

The first four elements above are usually a necessary part of the annotated bibliography. Points 5 and 6 may involve a little more analysis of the source, but you may include them in other kinds of annotations besides evaluative ones. Depending on the type of annotation you use, which this handout will address in the next section, there may be additional kinds of information that you will need to include.

For more extensive research papers (probably ten pages or more), you often see resource materials grouped into sub-headed sections based on content, but this probably will not be necessary for the kinds of assignments you’ll be working on. For longer papers, ask your instructor about their preferences concerning annotated bibliographies.

Did you know that annotations have categories and styles?

Decisions, decisions.

As you go through this handout, you’ll see that, before you start, you’ll need to make several decisions about your annotations: citation format, type of annotation, and writing style for the annotation.

First of all, you’ll need to decide which kind of citation format is appropriate to the paper and its sources, for instance, MLA or APA. This may influence the format of the annotations and bibliography. Typically, bibliographies should be double-spaced and use normal margins (you may want to check with your instructor, since they may have a different style they want you to follow).

MLA (Modern Language Association)

See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for basic MLA bibliography formatting and rules.

  • MLA documentation is generally used for disciplines in the humanities, such as English, languages, film, and cultural studies or other theoretical studies. These annotations are often summary or analytical annotations.
  • Title your annotated bibliography “Annotated Bibliography” or “Annotated List of Works Cited.”
  • Following MLA format, use a hanging indent for your bibliographic information. This means the first line is not indented and all the other lines are indented four spaces (you may ask your instructor if it’s okay to tab over instead of using four spaces).
  • Begin your annotation immediately after the bibliographic information of the source ends; don’t skip a line down unless you have been told to do so by your instructor.

APA (American Psychological Association)

See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for basic APA bibliography formatting and rules.

  • Natural and social sciences, such as psychology, nursing, sociology, and social work, use APA documentation. It is also used in economics, business, and criminology. These annotations are often succinct summaries.
  • Annotated bibliographies for APA format do not require a special title. Use the usual “References” designation.
  • Like MLA, APA uses a hanging indent: the first line is set flush with the left margin, and all other lines are indented four spaces (you may ask your instructor if it’s okay to tab over instead of using four spaces).
  • After the bibliographic citation, drop down to the next line to begin the annotation, but don’t skip an extra line.
  • The entire annotation is indented an additional two spaces, so that means each of its lines will be six spaces from the margin (if your instructor has said that it’s okay to tab over instead of using the four spaces rule, indent the annotation two more spaces in from that point).

CBE (Council of Biology Editors)/CSE (Council of Science Editors)

See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for basic CBE/CSE bibliography formatting and rules.

  • CBE/CSE documentation is used by the plant sciences, zoology, microbiology, and many of the medical sciences.
  • Annotated bibliographies for CBE/CSE format do not require a special title. Use the usual “References,” “Cited References,” or “Literature Cited,” and set it flush with the left margin.
  • Bibliographies for CSE in general are in a slightly smaller font than the rest of the paper.
  • When using the name-year system, as in MLA and APA, the first line of each entry is set flush with the left margin, and all subsequent lines, including the annotation, are indented three or four spaces.
  • When using the citation-sequence method, each entry begins two spaces after the number, and every line, including the annotation, will be indented to match the beginning of the entry, or may be slightly further indented, as in the case of journals.
  • After the bibliographic citation, drop down to the next line to begin the annotation, but don’t skip an extra line. The entire annotation follows the indentation of the bibliographic entry, whether it’s N-Y or C-S format.
  • Annotations in CBE/CSE are generally a smaller font size than the rest of the bibliographic information.

After choosing a documentation format, you’ll choose from a variety of annotation categories presented in the following section. Each type of annotation highlights a particular approach to presenting a source to a reader. For instance, an annotation could provide a summary of the source only, or it could also provide some additional evaluation of that material.

In addition to making choices related to the content of the annotation, you’ll also need to choose a style of writing—for instance, telescopic versus paragraph form. Your writing style isn’t dictated by the content of your annotation. Writing style simply refers to the way you’ve chosen to convey written information. A discussion of writing style follows the section on annotation types.

Types of annotations

As you now know, one annotation does not fit all purposes! There are different kinds of annotations, depending on what might be most important for your reader to learn about a source. Your assignments will usually make it clear which citation format you need to use, but they may not always specify which type of annotation to employ. In that case, you’ll either need to pick your instructor’s brain a little to see what they want or use clue words from the assignment itself to make a decision. For instance, the assignment may tell you that your annotative bibliography should give evidence proving an analytical understanding of the sources you’ve used. The word analytical clues you in to the idea that you must evaluate the sources you’re working with and provide some kind of critique.

Summary annotations

There are two kinds of summarizing annotations, informative and indicative.

Summarizing annotations in general have a couple of defining features:

  • They sum up the content of the source, as a book report might.
  • They give an overview of the arguments and proofs/evidence addressed in the work and note the resulting conclusion.
  • They do not judge the work they are discussing. Leave that to the critical/evaluative annotations.
  • When appropriate, they describe the author’s methodology or approach to material. For instance, you might mention if the source is an ethnography or if the author employs a particular kind of theory.

Informative annotation

Informative annotations sometimes read like straight summaries of the source material, but they often spend a little more time summarizing relevant information about the author or the work itself.

Indicative annotation

Indicative annotation is the second type of summary annotation, but it does not attempt to include actual information from the argument itself. Instead, it gives general information about what kinds of questions or issues are addressed by the work. This sometimes includes the use of chapter titles.

Critical/evaluative

Evaluative annotations don’t just summarize. In addition to tackling the points addressed in summary annotations, evaluative annotations:

  • evaluate the source or author critically (biases, lack of evidence, objective, etc.).
  • show how the work may or may not be useful for a particular field of study or audience.
  • explain how researching this material assisted your own project.

Combination

An annotated bibliography may combine elements of all the types. In fact, most of them fall into this category: a little summarizing and describing, a little evaluation.

Writing style

Ok, next! So what does it mean to use different writing styles as opposed to different kinds of content? Content is what belongs in the annotation, and style is the way you write it up. First, choose which content type you need to compose, and then choose the style you’re going to use to write it

This kind of annotated bibliography is a study in succinctness. It uses a minimalist treatment of both information and sentence structure, without sacrificing clarity. Warning: this kind of writing can be harder than you might think.

Don’t skimp on this kind of annotated bibliography. If your instructor has asked for paragraph form, it likely means that you’ll need to include several elements in the annotation, or that they expect a more in-depth description or evaluation, for instance. Make sure to provide a full paragraph of discussion for each work.

As you can see now, bibliographies and annotations are really a series of organized steps. They require meticulous attention, but in the end, you’ve got an entire testimony to all the research and work you’ve done. At the end of this handout you’ll find examples of informative, indicative, evaluative, combination, telescopic, and paragraph annotated bibliography entries in MLA, APA, and CBE formats. Use these examples as your guide to creating an annotated bibliography that makes you look like the expert you are!

MLA Example

APA Example

CBE Example

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

American Psychological Association. 2010. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Bell, I. F., and J. Gallup. 1971. A Reference Guide to English, American, and Canadian Literature . Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzburg. 1991. Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Writing , 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford Books.

Center for Information on Language Teaching, and The English Teaching Information Center of the British Council. 1968. Language-Teaching Bibliography . Cambridge: Cambridge University.

Engle, Michael, Amy Blumenthal, and Tony Cosgrave. 2012. “How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography.” Olin & Uris Libraries. Cornell University. Last updated September 25, 2012. https://olinuris.library.cornell.edu/content/how-prepare-annotated-bibliography.

Gibaldi, Joseph. 2009. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 7th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Huth, Edward. 1994. Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers . New York: University of Cambridge.

Kilborn, Judith. 2004. “MLA Documentation.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. Last updated March 16, 2004. https://leo.stcloudstate.edu/research/mla.html.

Spatt, Brenda. 1991. Writing from Sources , 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin’s.

University of Kansas. 2018. “Bibliographies.” KU Writing Center. Last updated April 2018. http://writing.ku.edu/bibliographies .

University of Wisconsin-Madison. 2019. “Annotated Bibliography.” The Writing Center. Accessed June 14, 2019. https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/annotatedbibliography/ .

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: The Annotated Bibliography

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Explanation, Process, Directions, and Examples

What is an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

Annotations vs. Abstracts

Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they may describe the author's point of view, authority, or clarity and appropriateness of expression.

The Process

Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.

Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

Critically Appraising the Book, Article, or Document

For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, see How to Critically Analyze Information Sources . For information on the author's background and views, ask at the reference desk for help finding appropriate biographical reference materials and book review sources.

Choosing the Correct Citation Style

Check with your instructor to find out which style is preferred for your class. Online citation guides for both the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) styles are linked from the Library's Citation Management page .

Sample Annotated Bibliography Entries

The following example uses APA style ( Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , 7th edition, 2019) for the journal citation:

Waite, L., Goldschneider, F., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51 (4), 541-554. The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

This example uses MLA style ( MLA Handbook , 9th edition, 2021) for the journal citation. For additional annotation guidance from MLA, see 5.132: Annotated Bibliographies .

Waite, Linda J., et al. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review, vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 541-554. The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

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Writing an Annotated Bibliography: Introduction

What is an annotated bibliography.

A bibliography is a list of works (books, articles, chapters, websites, etc.) that have been consulted during a research project. Sometimes a bibliography is referred to as works cited or reference list. Each entry in a bibliography will include certain information such as the author, title, date, etc. 

An annotated bibliography has an added portion, which is a summary, description, evaluation, or discussion of each work listed.  

You need to know which citation style your assignment requires, such as APA, MLA, Chicago, or another style. If no particular style is required, then you must choose one and use it consistently throughout the bibliography. Quick guides for each citation style are available at the Reference Desk (Pfau Library, 1st floor) or online at Citation Styles . Complete manuals for each style are also available at the Reference Desk.

The annotations should be written in paragraph form using complete sentences. Consult the assignment or instructor about the length of the annotations, but a rule of thumb is roughly 150 words (4 to 6 sentences). You must read the source you are annotating. You cannot get by with reading only the source’s abstract, it will be very apparent to your professor if you do not read the source.

These citations are in MLA format.

Book with very brief summary annotation

White, Timothy. Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley . Henry Holt, 2000.

This book narrates and analyzes the life of Bob Marley from his youth in rural Jamaica to his ascendance as an international reggae superstar. The author provides unique insights from the dozens of interviews with Marley, his family and friends, and other associates. 

Journal Article with evaluation annotation

Umar, Abdullahi. “Timbuktu and Library Culture.”  Library History , vol. 1, no. 3, 2011, pp. 62-75. 

This article describes the state of libraries in medieval Timbuktu, contrasting the city with its counterparts in North Africa and the broader Islamic world. Timbuktu’s scholars often paid enormous sums to attain manuscripts through outright purchase or hiring of scribes to make copies. It is claimed that the lack of Islamic endowment (waqf) practices in sub-Saharan Africa during this era precluded the existence of public libraries. The author concludes that despite an acute bibliophilic culture in Timbuktu, scholars often generously lent books, establishing de facto public libraries.  

View more Annotated Bibliography Examples from the Purdue OWL.

Types of Annotated Bibliographies

You must consult your assignment or instructor to verify which elements are required in your annotated bibliography. This may include some or all of the following: a summary of the source, a note on the author’s affiliation and/or the source’s intended audience, any perceived bias, an analysis or evaluation of the arguments or data in the source, how the source fits within your research or with your other sources, and your personal reaction to, or reflection on, the source.

Sample Language

To succinctly summarize/analyze a source it is important to use vocabulary that describes an action in as few words as possible. As well, it is a good idea to use a varied vocabulary when constructing your annotated bibliography. Here is a short list of words to consider:

Analyzes, Argues, Assesses, Concludes, Describes, Evaluates, Examines, Explains, Illustrates, Implies, Investigates, Narrates, Proposes, Questions, Reports, Reviews, Suggests – there are many other similar words you can use.

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In other words, if a researcher were evaluating recent journal articles that update research on the cloning of animals for inclusion in an annotated reference list, he or she would go beyond merely summarizing article content and might examine and comment on the usefulness of the sources, comment on the reliability of the authors of the articles covered, evaluate the scope of the articles, and examine the articles' contributions to existing literature. The extent of the information included in the annotation would depend on the purpose of the bibliography and the intended audience. A highly critical, scientific audience would expect considerable detail in an annotation. A college professor might allow for less detail for a practice assignment for the purpose of teaching annotation.

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Introduction

1. Definition

A bibliography is usually thought of as an alphabetical listing of books at the end of a written work (book, book chapter, or article), to which the author referred during the research and writing process. In addition to books, bibliographies can include sources such as articles, reports, interviews, or even non-print resources like Web sites, video or audio recordings. Because they may include such varied resources, bibliographies are also referred to as 'references', 'works cited' or 'works consulted' (the latter can include those titles that merely contributed to research, but were not specifically cited in text). The standard bibliography details the citation information of the consulted sources: author(s), date of publication, title, and publisher's name and location (and for articles: journal title, volume, issue and page numbers). The primary function of bibliographic citations is to assist the reader in finding the sources used in the writing of a work.

To these basic citations, the annotated bibliography adds descriptive and evaluative comments (i.e., an annotation ), assessing the nature and value of the cited works. The addition of commentary provides the future reader or researcher essential critical information and a foundation for further research.

2. Composition

While an annotation can be as short as one sentence, the average entry in an annotated bibliography consists of a work's citation information followed by a short paragraph of three to six sentences, roughly 150 words in length. Similar to the literature review except for the shorter length of its entries, the annotated bibliography is compiled by:

  • Considering scope: what types of sources (books, articles, primary documents, Web sites, non-print materials) will be included? how many (a sampling or a comprehensive list)? (Your instructor may set these guidelines)
  • Conducting a search for the sources and retrieving them
  • Evaluating retrieved sources by reading them and noting your findings and impressions
  • Once a final group of sources has been selected, giving full citation data (according to the bibliographic style [e.g., APA, Chicago, MLA] prescribed by your instructor) and writing an annotation for each source; do not list a source more than once

Annotations begin on the line following the citation data and may be composed with complete sentences or as verb phrases (the cited work being understood as the subject)—again at the discretion of the instructor. The annotation should include most, if not all, of the following:

  • Explanation of the main purpose and scope of the cited work
  • Brief description of the work's format and content
  • Theoretical basis and currency of the author's argument
  • Author's intellectual/academic credentials
  • Work's intended audience
  • Value and significance of the work as a contribution to the subject under consideration
  • Possible shortcomings or bias in the work
  • Any significant special features of the work (e.g., glossary, appendices, particularly good index)
  • Your own brief impression of the work

Although these are many of the same features included in a literature review, the emphasis of bibliographic annotation should be on brevity.

Not to be confused with the abstract —which merely gives a summary of the main points of a work—the annotated bibliography always describes and often evaluates those points. Whether an annotated bibliography concludes an article or book—or is even itself a comprehensive, book-length listing of sources—its purposes are the same:

  • To illustrate the scope and quality of one's own research
  • To review the literature published on a particular topic
  • To provide the reader/researcher with supplementary, illustrative or alternative sources
  • To allow the reader to see if a particular source was consulted
  • To provide examples of the type of resources available on a given topic
  • To place original research in a historical context
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How to Create an Annotated Bibliography

  • First Steps
  • Finding Source Materials
  • Selecting Materials
  • Finding Additional Materials
  • Steps in Writing Annotations

Why write the Intro AFTER the bibliography?

The introduction.

  • Revising for Quality
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Projects like an annotated bibliography lead you beyond what you knew when you started. Your annotated bibliography will be shaped by what you find and what you've learned , so it make sense to write the Introduction when you know exactly what you've accomplished, and what the final scope and limitations of your resource selection are.

7. Write an introduction Define the topic, and the scope of your bibliography, whether it is meant to cover the whole range of opinion or just one viewpoint or aspect.

Describe the scope of your bibliography, i.e. whether it covers what you judge to be the best, or the most recent, or a broad sample of the available material on your topic.

Again, does it cover the whole range of opinion, or just one viewpoint or aspect of the topic?

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Tips for Writing an Annotated Bibliography

What's an annotated bibliography, where to find the info, formatting your citation, featured open access.

Generally these are the kinds of things to include in your annotation:

  • The qualifications of the author to write about the topic.
  • The purpose of the work.
  • The main points the author makes about the topic.
  • Whether it is useful in the study of the topic.
  • How it compares to other works on the topic.

Citation Help

COM Library databases can help you cite your articles, books or eBooks. See step by step instructions for grabbing your citation with change it tips from the databases on the Grab a Citation pages in Cite APA or MLA style guides.

Annotated Bibliography Example

1. qualifications of author.

Limit your articles to scholarly/peer reviewed articles and you'll generally be able to find the qualifications of the authors on the first page of the article. The qualifications generally consist of advanced degrees and affiliations with colleges or universities. If you're not sure how, go to Tips for Academic & Scholarly Articles .

2. Purpose of the Work

You can frequently find the purpose in the abstract of the article. If there is no abstract, the first section of the article generally states the purpose.

3. Main Points

This you will have to find throughout the article. Frequently there are different main points to each section of the article. It might help to jot them down as you read.

4. Whether it is Useful

This you will also find through reading the article. You should ask: Did I learn anything? Did the authors discover something new about the topic? Did they provide data or statistics? Did they do their own original research such as experiments, human studies or surveys or did they review existing articles--or both? The more you learned or discovered something new, the more useful the articles is.

5. How it Compares

You will have to read all of the articles for your annotated bibliography before you can determine this. Once you've read them all you can compare them to each other. You should ask: Which article did you learn the most from? Which article made the most important points?  How many sources did the authors use when doing their research?

It's easier done than said:

  • Place your cursor at the beginning of your citation, and highlight it.
  • Right click your mouse
  • Select Paragraph from the resulting pop up menu
  • Under Indentation , use the Special pull-down menu to select hanging
  • Use the By menu to select 0.5"

Paste the text

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Annotated Bibliographies: Introduction

An annotated bibliography is often used in academic writing to help guide the research process by presenting a focused selection of sources that are relevant to your topic.

What to Include

Check with your professor's instructions regarding:

  • number of sources needed,
  • length of each entry,
  • citation style to use (in this case, APA Style)

Each entry in an Annotated Bibliography includes:

  • Annotated Bibliography FAQ/Sample
  • Writing Annotated Bibliographies

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What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a summary and evaluation of a resource. According to Merriam-Webster, a bibliography is “the works or a list of the works referred to in a text or consulted by the author in its production.” Your references (APA) or Works Cited (MLA) can be considered a bibliography. A bibliography follows a documentation style and usually includes bibliographic information (i.e., the author(s), title, publication date, place of publication, publisher, etc.). An annotation refers to explanatory notes or comments on a source.

An annotated bibliography, therefore, typically consists of:

Documentation for each source you have used, following the required documentation style.

For each entry, one to three paragraphs that:

Begins  with a summary ,

Evaluates  the reliability of the information,

Demonstrates  how the information relates to previous and future research.

Entries in an annotated bibliography should be in alphabetical order.

** Please note: This may vary depending on your professor’s requirements.

Why Write an Annotated Bibliography?

Why Write an Annotated Bibliography

Writing an annotated bibliography will help you understand your topics in-depth.

An annotated bibliography is useful for organizing and cataloging resources when developing an argument.

Formatting an Annotated Bibliography

Formatting Annotated Bibliographies

  • Use 1-inch margins all around
  • Indent annotations ½ inch from the left margin.
  • Use double spacing.
  • Entries should be in alphabetical order.

Structure of an Annotated Bibliography

This table provides a high-level outline of the structure of a research article and how each section relates to important information for developing an annotated bibliography.

Annotated Bibliography Sample Outline

Author, S. A. (date of publication). Title of the article.  Title of Periodical, vol.  (issue), page-page.  https://doi.org/XXXXXX

Write one or two paragraphs that focus on the study and its findings.

  • Two or more sentences that outline the thesis, hypothesis, and population of the study.
  • Two or more sentences that discuss the methodology.
  • Two or more sentences that discuss the study findings.  
  • One or more sentences evaluating the study and its relationship to other studies.

Sample Annotated Bibliographies

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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography - MLA Style

What is an annotation, how is an annotation different from an abstract, what is an annotated bibliography, types of annotated bibliographies, descriptive or informative, analytical or critical, to get started.

An annotation is more than just a brief summary of an article, book, website, or other type of publication. An annotation should give enough information to make a reader decide whether to read the complete work. In other words, if the reader were exploring the same topic as you, is this material useful and if so, why?

While an abstract also summarizes an article, book, website, or other type of publication, it is purely descriptive. Although annotations can be descriptive, they also include distinctive features about an item. Annotations can be evaluative and critical and the two major types of annotations included here demonstrate the difference.

An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (like a reference list). It differs from a straightforward bibliography in that each reference is followed by a paragraph length annotation, usually 100–200 words in length.

Depending on the assignment, an annotated bibliography might have different purposes:

  • Provide a literature review on a particular subject
  • Help to formulate a thesis on a subject
  • Demonstrate the research you have performed on a particular subject
  • Provide examples of major sources of information available on a topic
  • Describe items that other researchers may find of interest on a topic

There are two major types of annotated bibliographies:

A descriptive or informative annotated bibliography describes or summarizes a source as does an abstract; it describes why the source is useful for researching a particular topic or question and its distinctive features. In addition, it describes the author's main arguments and conclusions without evaluating what the author says or concludes.

For example:

Gabbin, Joanne V. "Maya Angelou--The Peoples' Poet Laureate: An Introduction."  Langston Hughes Review , vol. 19, Spring 2005, pp. 3-6.  LION: Literature Online , gateway.proquest.com/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&xri:pqil:res_ver=0.2&res_id=xri:lion&rft_id=xri:lion:ft:criticism:R04012678:0&rft.accountid=14580. This scholarly article is a critical introduction to the works of Maya Angelou, and the criteria surrounding her success as a poet laureate. The author points out Angelou's literary influences, which include William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, Langston Hughes, among others. This article also points out that her poetry lacks cultural boundaries, yet her trademark lies in the secular chants, songs, and games of the black vernacular tradition. The author discusses dialect and vernacular rhythms in several of Angelou's poems, and compares several of her works to the racy dialect of Sterling Brown and Langston Hughes. Also discussed is her political cultural voice and her deep understanding of emotion. This article is distinctive in its discussion of the need for a poet laureate to add to an audience's collective memory.

Please pay attention to the last sentence. While it points out distinctive features about the item it does not analyze the author's conclusions.

An analytical or critical annotation not only summarizes the material, it analyzes what is being said. It examines the strengths and weaknesses of what is presented as well as describing the applicability of the author's conclusions to the research being conducted.

Analytical or critical annotations will most likely be required when writing for a college-level course.

Gabbin, Joanne V. "Maya Angelou--The Peoples' Poet Laureate: An Introduction."  Langston Hughes Review , vol. 19, Spring 2005, pp. 3-6.  LION: Literature Online , gateway.proquest.com/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&xri:pqil:res_ver=0.2&res_id=xri:lion&rft_id=xri:lion:ft:criticism:R04012678:0&rft.accountid=14580. This scholarly article is a critical introduction to the works of Maya Angelou, and the criteria surrounding her success as a poet laureate. The author points out Angelou's literary influences, that include William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, Langston Hughes, among others. This article also points out that her poetry lacks cultural boundaries, yet her trademark lies in the secular chants, songs, and games of the black vernacular tradition. The author discusses dialect and vernacular rhythms in several of Angelou's poems, and compares several of her works to the racy dialect of Sterling Brown and Langston Hughes. Also discussed is her political cultural voice and her deep understanding of emotion. This article is a good resource for those wanting to explore criteria related to the achievement of the award of poet laureate and how Angelou meets the criteria. This article begins to explore the poet's works and suggests her ability to add to an audience's collective memory. The author is a professor of English at James Madison University and has authored a book on Sterling Brown and numerous critical essays.

Please pay attention to the last three sentences. They give information about the author and critique the author's research.

To write an annotated bibliography here are the steps:

  • Choose your sources -  Before writing your annotated bibliography, you must choose your sources. This involves doing research much like for any other project. Locate records to materials that may apply to your topic.
  • Review the items -  Then review the actual items and choose those that provide a wide variety of perspectives on your topic. Article abstracts are helpful in this process.
  • The purpose of the work
  • A summary of its content
  • Information about the author(s)
  • For what type of audience the work is written
  • Its relevance to the topic
  • Any special or unique features about the material
  • Research methodology
  • The strengths, weaknesses or biases in the material

Annotated bibliographies are arranged alphabetically by the first author's last name.

Please see the  MLA Examples Page  for more information on citing in MLA style.

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  • Examples of an Annotated Bibliography Use this document as an example of how to create an annotated bibliography for MLA, APA or Chicago styles.

Annotations vs. Abstract

Annotation vs. abstract.

At first glance, it may seem like a resource abstract and an annotation are the same thing. However, they serve different purposes

Abstracts are specifically descriptive summaries located at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or indexes. 

Annotation:

Annotations are often contextual to the research project. They are meant to assist in writing research papers by including not only a brief summary, but also one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the author's authority, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) explain how this work ties in with your thesis or (d) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a combination of two parts: the citation (in your chosen style) and a brief description of the source and how it is useful to your research. They can be used with any citation style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).  

Annotated bibliographies are a great way to collect your sources and determine how and why you have chosen to include them for your assignment. They help you think about the quality of the source you have chosen. 

The annotation, or description, part of the annotated bibliography is normally between 3-5 sentences, but may vary depending on what your instructor requires. Typically included in the annotation:

  • A short summary of the source and its information.
  • An assessment of the quality of information in the source. (Is the information reliable? What is the goal of the source? How does it compare to other resources you have collected? etc.)
  • An evaluation of how this source will be useful for your assignment. (Has it changed your thinking of your topic? How will it help shape your argument?) 

**Keep in mind your instructor may have different guidelines for your annotation than the three listed here. Always be sure to follow the requirements given by your instructor. **

Annotated Bibliographies are structured the same way as any other Works Cited or References page. Each citation is placed in alphabetical order and has a hanging indent. The annotation directly follows the citation it is describing. 

Visuals MLA

MLA Annotated Bibliography eample

The Process

Finding and selecting sources.

The quality and usefulness of your bibliography will depend on your selection of sources. Define the scope of your research carefully so that you can make good judgments about what to include and exclude. By understanding the requirements and focus of your research it will make the search process more streamlined. Refer to the  Finding Scholarly Sources  guide for searching tips. Consider these questions to help you find appropriate limits for your research:

  • What topic do I want to write about? What  question(s)  am I trying to answer? If your bibliography is part of a research project, this project will probably be governed by a research question/thesis. If your bibliography is a project on a general topic (e.g. incarceration and economic status), try formulating your topic as a question or a series of questions in order to define your search more precisely( ie. How does economic status effect incarceration sentences?) 
  • What  kind of material  am I looking for? (scholarly academic books and journal articles? government reports or policy statements? articles from the popular press? primary historical sources? etc.)
  • Do my sources fit the requirements of the assignment?

Summarizing

Your annotation should identify the main argument of the source. This is often the source's thesis or hypothesis. Include a brief description of the source's main points and the author's final conclusion. 

The following reading strategies can help you identify the argument of your source:

  • Identify the author’s thesis (central claim or purpose), research question, or hypothesis. Both the introduction  and  the conclusion can help you with this task.
  • Look for repetition of key terms or ideas. Follow them through the text and see what the author does with them. Note especially the key terms that occur in the thesis or research question that governs the text.
  • Notice how the text is laid out and organized. What are the main divisions or sections? What is emphasized? Why? Accounting for why will help you to move beyond listing contents and toward giving an account of the argument.
  • Notice whether and how a theory is used to interpret evidence or data. Identify the method used to investigate the problem/s addressed in the text.
  • Pay attention to the opening sentence(s) of each paragraph, where authors often state concisely their main point in the paragraph.
  • Look for paragraphs that summarize the argument. A section may sometimes begin or conclude with such a paragraph.

This section will be specific to your overall research. How does the source fit into the argument you are making in your paper? If your annotated bibliography is not part of a larger assignment, how does the source contribute to your larger selection of sources? Some thoughts to consider:

  • Are you interested in the way the source frames its research question or in the way it goes about answering it (its method)? Does it make new connections or open up new ways of seeing a problem? 
  • Are you interested in the way the source uses a theoretical framework or a key concept? 
  • Does the source gather and draw from other ideas and sources that you want to use? 
  • How do the source’s conclusions bear on your own thoughts?

In order to determine how you will use the source or define its contribution, you will need to assess the quality of the argument: why is it of value? what are its limitations? how well defined is its research problem? how effective is its method of investigation? how good is the evidence? would you draw the same conclusions from the evidence?

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Annotated Bibliographies

  • Introduction
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Creating an Annotated Bibliography

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations, arranged alphabetically by authors' last names, with a brief annotation (description/summary/analysis/evaluation) following each citation.

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/1f/1b/f3/1f1bf3b07802f96f9e6421733f7e6fa6.jpg

(The above image shared from COM Library under 4.0 Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ )

Your professor might assign an annotated bibliography for you to show that you have conducted research in your discipline and have widened your understanding of a topic. Some instructors ask you to create an annotated bibliography in preparation for writing a research essay.

Please note that your professors may have slightly different requirements for your assignments, so pay attention to what is communicated throughout your course.  You may be required to identify the authors' research methods and theoretical frameworks.  Some annotated bibliographies are descriptive, while others include analysis or criticism in each annotation. 

Click any of the blue tabs on the left to view examples of citations and annotations in specific style guide formats.

The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material that are freely available online.  They provide information on Annotated Bibliographies , Annotated Bibliography Breakdown , and Annotated Bibliography Samples .

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Definitions

A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).

An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation. Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following.

For more help, see our handout on paraphrasing sources.

For more help, see our handouts on evaluating resources .

  • Reflect : Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?

Your annotated bibliography may include some of these, all of these, or even others. If you're doing this for a class, you should get specific guidelines from your instructor.

Why should I write an annotated bibliography?

To learn about your topic : Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information. At the professional level, annotated bibliographies allow you to see what has been done in the literature and where your own research or scholarship can fit. To help you formulate a thesis: Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So, a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.

To help other researchers : Extensive and scholarly annotated bibliographies are sometimes published. They provide a comprehensive overview of everything important that has been and is being said about that topic. You may not ever get your annotated bibliography published, but as a researcher, you might want to look for one that has been published about your topic.

The format of an annotated bibliography can vary, so if you're doing one for a class, it's important to ask for specific guidelines.

The bibliographic information : Generally, though, the bibliographic information of the source (the title, author, publisher, date, etc.) is written in either MLA or APA format. For more help with formatting, see our MLA handout . For APA, go here: APA handout .

The annotations: The annotations for each source are written in paragraph form. The lengths of the annotations can vary significantly from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages. The length will depend on the purpose. If you're just writing summaries of your sources, the annotations may not be very long. However, if you are writing an extensive analysis of each source, you'll need more space.

You can focus your annotations for your own needs. A few sentences of general summary followed by several sentences of how you can fit the work into your larger paper or project can serve you well when you go to draft.

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Annotated bibliography: How to create one

Resources for annotated bibliographies, writing the annotated bibliography, the annotated bibliography & citation styles, more sample annotations.

  • Parts of an annotation
  • Sample APA annotation
  • Sample MLA annotation
  • Sample Chicago annotation
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This guide was originally adapted with permission from a guide created by Rainer Schira, Brandon University, Brandon, Manitoba.

  • Tutorial: Annotated Bibliography A quick tutorial explaining the basics of an annotated bibliography - includes a couple of checkpoints along the way with questions so you can assess your understanding.
  • Annotated bibliography worksheet You can use this worksheet to guide you through the process.

An annotated bibliography is a type of student paper in which reference list entries are followed by a short description of the work.  Each annotation allows your reader to see the relationship of a number of written works to each other and in the context of the topic you've researched.

An annotation could include a summary of the work, an evaluation , and a reflection of how this work "fits" with your research question and other works you've discovered. Follow the requirements of your assignment to provide the type of specific annotation your instructor wants.

Your instructor might assign an annotated bibliography to teach you how to conduct research in your discipline and to widen your understanding of a topic. Some instructors ask you to create annotated bibliographies in preparation for research essays. 

An overview of the annotated bibliography - questions to ask yourself:

  • What are the qualifications of the author(s)?
  • What are the main points of the book or article? 
  • What was the purpose of the research?
  • Who is the audience? Other scholars? Professionals? 
  • Is this source good for background information? In-depth?
  • What is  your  assessment of the source? Do you agree or disagree?
  • What are the limitations of the work?
  • How does this resource compare to others on the same topic? What are the similarities and/or differences?
  • Did you learn something new from this source that you hadn't thought of or read from another source?

Style Guides quick links

Any essay or article needs to give information for readers, so they can see where the author got the ideas and facts.  Different subjects require slightly different formats for presenting that information.  To make sure you're following the rules for your discipline, check a style guide.  Here are a few:

  • The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA Manual) is summarized online , and print copies are available on Reserve and at the Research Help Desk at both libraries. BF 76.7 P83 2020  
  • The MLA handbook for writers of research papers online guide will assist with the basics; for more detailed information consult the print copy which is available at the Research Help Desk at both libraries and in the loan collection. LB 2369 M53 2021
  • The Chicago Manual of Style online   guide will outline the style basics.
  • The 9th edition of Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations is in both collections: LB 2369 T8 2018

The University of Toronto offers an example that illustrates how to summarize a study's research methods and argument .

The Memorial University of Newfoundland presents these examples of both descriptive and critical annotations . Cornell University Library offers these examples of both APA and MLA format descriptive bibliographies.

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  • Last Updated: Apr 25, 2024 10:38 AM
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DOC 3 Annotated Bibliography: Annotated Bibliography

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Abstract VS Annotations
  • Critical Appraisal & Analysis
  • Sample Annotations
  • Creating Annotations

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of works (books, articles, films, etc.) on a particular topic. An annotated bibliography includes a paragraph following each citation that summarizes the work. An annotation can help the reader determine the value of each work on the topic and the contribution it might make to his own research.

Elements of an Annotation

Sample elements of a critical annotated bibliography

a brief summary (2-4 sentences) of the article, including the author’s name and what you think is the author’s primary point or thought;

  • a description of the intended audience;
  • how the article illuminates your bibliography topic;
  • an evaluation of the source’s usefulness, reliability, strengths and weaknesses and its value for your research;
  • how this specific article relates to another article in your bibliography

For more information, see:

  • Annotated Bibliographies UMKC Libraries
  • How Do I Write an Annotated Bibliography UC Santa Cruz Library
  • Preparing an Annotated Bibliography The Writing Studio, Colorado State University

This information was adapted with permission from  How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography , Hesburgh Libraries, University of Notre Dame.

Types of Annotation

  • Descriptive
  • Informative

There are different kinds of annotations, depending on what might be most important for your reader to learn about a source. Three common types of annotated bibliographies are  Descriptive ,  Informative , and  Critical .

Three types of annotations, critical, descriptive and informative.

A Descriptive annotation may summarize:

  • The main purpose or idea of the work
  • The contents of the work
  • The author’s conclusions
  • The intended audience
  • The author’s research methods
  • Special features of the work such as illustrations, maps, and tables

This type of annotation seeks to answer the question, Does this source cover or address the topic I am researching?

This information was adapted with permission rom the following:  How to prepare an annotated bibliography  Hesburgh Libraries, University of Notre Dame.

An  Informative  annotation:

  • Summarizes what the content, message, or argument of the source is
  • Generally contains the hypothesis, methodology, main points, and conclusion or results
  • Does not include any editorial or evaluative comments about such content

This type of annotation seeks to answer these types of questions,  What are the author's main arguments? What conclusions did the author draw?

Critical  annotation includes value judgments or comments on the effectiveness of the work. In this context, critical means evaluative and may include both positive and negative comments. A critical annotation may contain the information found in a descriptive annotation and discuss some of the following features:

  • The importance of the work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
  • The author’s bias or tone
  • The author’s qualifications for writing the work
  • The accuracy of the information in the source
  • Limitations or significant omissions
  • The work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
  • Comparison with other works on the topic

This type of annotation seeks to answer these types of questions:

  • Is the author's presentation of the facts objective?
  • Is the methodology sound? Is this source useful for my audience?
  • Are the conclusions still valid in light of new research?
  • What contribution does this make to the field?
  • Does this source address all the relevant issues?
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  • Last Updated: May 16, 2024 2:15 PM
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What is a Bibliography?

What is an annotated bibliography, introduction to the annotated bibliography.

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  • the authors' names
  • the titles of the works
  • the names and locations of the companies that published your copies of the sources
  • the dates your copies were published
  • the page numbers of your sources (if they are part of multi-source volumes)

Ok, so what's an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is the same as a bibliography with one important difference: in an annotated bibliography, the bibliographic information is followed by a brief description of the content, quality, and usefulness of the source. For more, see the section at the bottom of this page.

What are Footnotes?

Footnotes are notes placed at the bottom of a page. They cite references or comment on a designated part of the text above it. For example, say you want to add an interesting comment to a sentence you have written, but the comment is not directly related to the argument of your paragraph. In this case, you could add the symbol for a footnote. Then, at the bottom of the page you could reprint the symbol and insert your comment. Here is an example:

This is an illustration of a footnote. 1 The number “1” at the end of the previous sentence corresponds with the note below. See how it fits in the body of the text? 1 At the bottom of the page you can insert your comments about the sentence preceding the footnote.

When your reader comes across the footnote in the main text of your paper, he or she could look down at your comments right away, or else continue reading the paragraph and read your comments at the end. Because this makes it convenient for your reader, most citation styles require that you use either footnotes or endnotes in your paper. Some, however, allow you to make parenthetical references (author, date) in the body of your work.

Footnotes are not just for interesting comments, however. Sometimes they simply refer to relevant sources -- they let your reader know where certain material came from, or where they can look for other sources on the subject. To decide whether you should cite your sources in footnotes or in the body of your paper, you should ask your instructor or see our section on citation styles.

Where does the little footnote mark go?

Whenever possible, put the footnote at the end of a sentence, immediately following the period or whatever punctuation mark completes that sentence. Skip two spaces after the footnote before you begin the next sentence. If you must include the footnote in the middle of a sentence for the sake of clarity, or because the sentence has more than one footnote (try to avoid this!), try to put it at the end of the most relevant phrase, after a comma or other punctuation mark. Otherwise, put it right at the end of the most relevant word. If the footnote is not at the end of a sentence, skip only one space after it.

What's the difference between Footnotes and Endnotes?

The only real difference is placement -- footnotes appear at the bottom of the relevant page, while endnotes all appear at the end of your document. If you want your reader to read your notes right away, footnotes are more likely to get your reader's attention. Endnotes, on the other hand, are less intrusive and will not interrupt the flow of your paper.

If I cite sources in the Footnotes (or Endnotes), how's that different from a Bibliography?

Sometimes you may be asked to include these -- especially if you have used a parenthetical style of citation. A "works cited" page is a list of all the works from which you have borrowed material. Your reader may find this more convenient than footnotes or endnotes because he or she will not have to wade through all of the comments and other information in order to see the sources from which you drew your material. A "works consulted" page is a complement to a "works cited" page, listing all of the works you used, whether they were useful or not.

Isn't a "works consulted" page the same as a "bibliography," then?

Well, yes. The title is different because "works consulted" pages are meant to complement "works cited" pages, and bibliographies may list other relevant sources in addition to those mentioned in footnotes or endnotes. Choosing to title your bibliography "Works Consulted" or "Selected Bibliography" may help specify the relevance of the sources listed.

This information has been freely provided by plagiarism.org and can be reproduced without the need to obtain any further permission as long as the URL of the original article/information is cited. 

How Do I Cite Sources? (n.d.) Retrieved October 19, 2009, from http://www.plagiarism.org/plag_article_how_do_i_cite_sources.html

The Importance of an Annotated Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography is a collection of annotated citations. These annotations contain your executive notes on a source. Use the annotated bibliography to help remind you of later of the important parts of an article or book. Putting the effort into making good notes will pay dividends when it comes to writing a paper!

Good Summary

Being an executive summary, the annotated citation should be fairly brief, usually no more than one page, double spaced.

  • Focus on summarizing the source in your own words.
  • Avoid direct quotations from the source, at least those longer than a few words. However, if you do quote, remember to use quotation marks. You don't want to forget later on what is your own summary and what is a direct quotation!
  • If an author uses a particular term or phrase that is important to the article, use that phrase within quotation marks. Remember that whenever you quote, you must explain the meaning and context of the quoted word or text. 

Common Elements of an Annotated Citation

  • Summary of an Article or Book's thesis or most important points (Usually two to four sentences)
  • Summary of a source's methodological approach. That is, what is the source? How does it go about proving its point(s)? Is it mostly opinion based? If it is a scholarly source, describe the research method (study, etc.) that the author used. (Usually two to five sentences)
  • Your own notes and observations on the source beyond the summary. Include your initial analysis here. For example, how will you use this source? Perhaps you would write something like, "I will use this source to support my point about . . . "
  • Formatting Annotated Bibliographies This guide from Purdue OWL provides examples of an annotated citation in MLA and APA formats.

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COMMENTS

  1. Annotated Bibliographies: Writing the introduction

    Note: In a very short exercise ("Write an annotated bibliography with at least three different works."), giving it an informative title might take the place of writing an introduction. For longer bibliographies, especially ones that attempt to give a full overview of a topic, having an introduction is essential.

  2. What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

    An annotated bibliography is a list of source references that includes a short descriptive text (an annotation) for each source. It may be assigned as part of the research process for a paper, or as an individual assignment to gather and read relevant sources on a topic. Scribbr's free Citation Generator allows you to easily create and manage ...

  3. Introduction

    An annotation is a short paragraph that summarizes a source and describes how it is relevant to your research. To annotate literally means "to make notes.". There is not an official format for annotated bibliographies, though usually the bibliographic citation is written in APA or MLA format. If this is being done for a class, ask the ...

  4. Annotated Bibliographies

    This handout will explain why annotated bibliographies are useful for researchers, provide an explanation of what constitutes an annotation, describe various types of annotations and styles for writing them, and offer multiple examples of annotated bibliographies in the MLA, APA, and CBE/CSE styles of citation. Introduction

  5. The Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited. ...

  6. How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (like a reference list). It differs from a straightforward bibliography in that each reference is followed by a paragraph length annotation, usually 100-200 words in length. Depending on the assignment, an annotated bibliography might have different purposes:

  7. The Writing Center

    An annotated bibliography is a list of sources on a single topic, with an annotation provided for each source. An annotation is a one or two paragraph summary and/or analysis of an article, book, or other source. Generally, the first paragraph of the annotation provides a summary of the source in direct, clear terms.

  8. Introduction

    Writing an Annotated Bibliography: Introduction. What is an Annotated Bibliography? A bibliography is a list of works (books, articles, chapters, websites, etc.) that have been consulted during a research project. Sometimes a bibliography is referred to as works cited or reference list. Each entry in a bibliography will include certain ...

  9. MLA Style Annotated Bibliography

    MLA provides guidelines for writing and formatting your annotated bibliography. An example of a typical annotation is shown below. Example of an MLA source annotation. Kenny, Anthony. A New History of Western Philosophy: In Four Parts. Oxford UP, 2010. Broad history of Western philosophy from the ancient Greeks to the present day.

  10. Introduction

    An annotated bibliography is an alphabetically organized reference list of sources that have been reviewed for a particular topic that also includes brief evaluative descriptions of each of the sources. Note, the operative word in this discussion is "evaluative." Bibliographies may very well include abstracts, or article summaries, for the ...

  11. Library Guides: Write an Annotated Bibliography: Home

    Introduction. 1. Definition. A bibliography is usually thought of as an alphabetical listing of books at the end of a written work (book, book chapter, or article), to which the author referred during the research and writing process. In addition to books, bibliographies can include sources such as articles, reports, interviews, or even non ...

  12. Writing the Introduction

    Write an introduction Define the topic, and the scope of your bibliography, whether it is meant to cover the whole range of opinion or just one viewpoint or aspect. Describe the scope of your bibliography, i.e. whether it covers what you judge to be the best, or the most recent, or a broad sample of the available material on your topic.

  13. Introduction

    An annotated bibliography is a list of sources such as articles and books cited according to a designated format such as APA or MLA and accompanied by a thoughtful evaluation of the source. Generally these are the kinds of things to include in your annotation: The qualifications of the author to write about the topic. The purpose of the work.

  14. Introduction

    Each entry in an Annotated Bibliography includes: A Bibliographic. Citation. List your sources following a standard citation style (ex. APA style) Alphabetize your list by author's last name. An Annotation. Write your annotation in paragraph format. Provide a summary of the scope, main points, and central theme of the article.

  15. Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is a summary and evaluation of a resource. According to Merriam-Webster, a bibliography is "the works or a list of the works referred to in a text or consulted by the author in its production.". Your references (APA) or Works Cited (MLA) can be considered a bibliography. A bibliography follows a documentation style ...

  16. How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (like a reference list). It differs from a straightforward bibliography in that each reference is followed by a paragraph length annotation, usually 100-200 words in length. ... This scholarly article is a critical introduction to the works of Maya Angelou, and the criteria surrounding ...

  17. LibGuides: English Resource Guide: Annotated Bibliographies

    An annotated bibliography is a combination of two parts: the citation (in your chosen style) and a brief description of the source and how it is useful to your research. ... Both the introduction and the conclusion can help you with this task. Look for repetition of key terms or ideas. Follow them through the text and see what the author does ...

  18. APA Annotated Bibliography Guide With Examples

    An annotated bibliography is organized in the same manner as the reference list. Alphabetize using the letter by letter system by the author's last name. The Purpose of an APA Annotated Bibliography. An APA bibliography with annotations might seem useless but it has a very important purpose. It helps you to become a better researcher and ...

  19. Annotated Bibliography Examples & Step-by-Step Writing Guide

    All annotated bibliographies have a title, annotation, and citation. While the annotation is the same for all, the way you create your title and citation varies based on your style. The three main bibliography styles used include MLA, APA, and Chicago. Annotated Bibliography Examples. Get examples of an annotated bibliography in each different ...

  20. Introduction

    The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material that are freely available online. They provide information on Annotated Bibliographies, Annotated Bibliography Breakdown, and Annotated Bibliography Samples. Last Updated: Jan 15, 2024 12:21 PM. URL: https://libguides.brandonu.ca/annotated ...

  21. Annotated Bibliographies

    A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).

  22. Introduction

    An annotated bibliography is a type of student paper in which reference list entries are followed by a short description of the work. Each annotation allows your reader to see the relationship of a number of written works to each other and in the context of the topic you've researched.

  23. DOC 3 Annotated Bibliography: Annotated Bibliography

    A bibliography is a list of works (books, articles, films, etc.) on a particular topic. An annotated bibliography includes a paragraph following each citation that summarizes the work.

  24. What is an Annotated Bibliography?

    In this video, Helen discusses the annotated bibliography as a tool that helps us navigate the sea of complicated sources we use for research projects.Writte...

  25. What is a Bibliography?

    An annotated bibliography is the same as a bibliography with one important difference: in an annotated bibliography, the bibliographic information is followed by a brief description of the content, quality, and usefulness of the source. ... This short video provides a good introduction to the Annotated Bibliography. Annotated Bibliographies ...