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How to write an annotated bibliography
What is an annotated bibliography.
An annotated bibliography or annotated bib is a bibliography (a list of books or other works) that includes descriptive and evaluative comments about the sources cited in your paper. These comments are also known as annotations .
How do I format my annotated bibliography?
An annotated bibliography entry consists of two components: the Citation and the Annotation .
The citation should be formatted in the bibliographic style that your professor has requested for the assignment. Some common citation styles include APA , MLA , and Chicago . For more information, see the Style Guides page.
Generally, an annotation is approximately 100-300 words in length (one paragraph). However, your professor may have different expectations so it is recommended that you clarify the assignment guidelines.
An annotation may include the following information:
- A brief summary of the source
- The source’s strengths and weaknesses
- Its conclusions
- Why the source is relevant in your field of study
- Its relationships to other studies in the field
- An evaluation of the research methodology (if applicable)
- Information about the author’s background
- Your personal conclusions about the source
MLA style format (8th ed.)
Hanging Indents are required for citations in the bibliography, as shown below. That is, the first line of the citation starts at the left margin, and subsequent lines are indented 4 spaces. The bibliography is double-spaced, both within the citation and between them. The annotation appends the entry unless complete sentences are used, then a line space is added and the annotation begins with a paragraph indent, as shown in the example below.
Lozier, Jeffrey D., et al. "Predicting the Distribution of Sasquatch in Western North America: Anything Goes with Ecological Niche Modelling." Journal of Biogeography , vol. 36, no.9, 2009, pp. 1623-1627. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40305930. Accessed 14 June 2016. This paper critiques the use of Ecological Niche Models (ENM) and species distribution by performing a tongue-in-cheek examination of the distribution of the fictional Sasquatch, based on reports from an online Bigfoot archive.Lozier's paper powerfully demonstrates the issues faced by ENM, when reports come from non-specialists, and highlights key problems with sourcing data from unmediated online environments. The author neglects to compare the reliability of the many wildlife databases with the single Bigfoot database, as well as other key issues; however in closing, the paper briefly mentions that many issues lie outside the scope of the short article. Lozier's paper advises professionals in fields using ENM to carefully assess the source of the data on which the model is based and concludes that the distribution of rare species in particular is often over-reported to misidentification.
APA style format (7th ed.)
Refer to Section 9.51, p. 307 and Figure 9.3, p. 308 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed. [ print ] for detailed information on annotated bibliographies.
The following are general guidelines. Check with your instructor for
References follow the same alphabetical order as entries in a reference list [Section 9.43-9.44, p. 303]. The annotation is a new paragraph below its reference entry and follows block quotation format [Section 8.27, pp. 272-273]. Should the annotation have multiple paragraphs, the first line of the second and subsequent paragraphs are indented an additional 0.5in.
D’Elia, G., Jorgensen, C., Woelfel, J., & Rodger, E. J. (2002). The impact of the Internet on public library use: An analysis of the current consumer market for library and Internet services. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 53 (10), 808-820. https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.10102 In this study, the researchers examined if the Internet had affected public library usage in the United States. This study is distinct because its researchers surveyed library nonusers as well as users. The major finding was that 75.2% of people who used the Internet also used the public library. However, the researchers surveyed only 3000 individuals in a population of millions; therefore, these results may not be statistically significant. However, this study is relevant because it provides future researchers with a methodology for determining the impact of the Internet on public library usage.
Writing an annotated bibliography From Concordia University
How to prepare an annotated bibliography From Cornell University
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Annotated bibliographies From The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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What is an annotated bibliography.
An annotated bibliography provides an overview or a brief account of the available research on a given topic. It is a list of research sources that takes the form of a citation for each source, followed by an annotation - a short paragraph sumarising and evaluating the source. An annotated bibliography may be a stand-alone assignment or a component of a larger assignment.
Purpose of an annotated bibliography
When set as an assignment, an annotated bibliography allows you to get acquainted with the material available on a particular topic.
Depending on your specific assignment, an annotated bibliography might:
- review the literature of a particular subject;
- demonstrate the quality and depth of reading that you have done;
- exemplify the scope of sources available—such as journals, books, web sites and magazine articles;
- highlight sources that may be of interest to other readers and researchers;
- explore and organise sources for further research.
What does an annotated bibliography look like?
Each entry in an annotated biliography has two components:
- a bibliographic citation followed by
- a short paragraph (an annotation) that includes concise descriptions and evaluations of each source.
The annotation usually contains a brief summary of content and a short analysis or evaluation. Depending on your assignment you may be asked to summarise, reflect on, critique, evaluate or analyse each source. While an annotation can be as brief as one sentence, a paragraph is more usual. An example is provided below.
As with a normal reference list or bibliography, an annotated bibliography is usually arranged alphabetically according to the author’s last name.
An annotated bibliography summary should be about 100 - 200 words per citation—check with your lecturer/tutor as this may vary between faculties and assessments. Please also check with your lecturer about the elements each annotation should include.
Steps to writing an annotated bibliography
- Choose your sources - locate and record citations to sources of research that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic.
- Review the items that you’ve collected in your search.
- Write the citation using the correct style.
- Write the annotation.
Questions to consider when selecting sources
The sources for your annotated bibliography should be carefully selected. Start by reading abstracts or skimming to help you identify and select relevant sources. Also keep in mind that, while annotated bibliographies are often ‘stand alone’ assignments, they can also be preliminary research about a particular topic or issue, and further research or a longer literature review may follow. Try to choose sources which together will present a comprehensive review of the topic.
Keep the following questions in mind to help clarify your choices
- What topic/ problem am I investigating?
- What question(s) am I exploring? (Identify the aim of your literature research).
- What kind of material am I looking at and why? Am I looking for journal articles, reports, policies or primary data?
- Am I being judicious in my selection of sources? Does each one relate to my research topic and assignment requirements?
- Have I selected a range of sources? Choose those sources that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic
- What are the essential or key works about my topic? Am I finding them? Are the sources valuable or often referred to in other sources?
Surveying the sources
Take notes on your selected texts as you read. Pay attention to:
- the author’s theoretical approach.
- which parts of the topic are covered.
- main points or findings on the topic.
- the author’s position or argument.
Evaluate and ask questions as you read
Record evaluations in your notes and consider:
- How, and how effectively, does this source address the topic?
- Does it cover the topic thoroughly or only one aspect of it?
- Do the research methods seem appropriate?
- Does the argument seem reasonable?
- Where does it stand in relation to other studies? Agree with or contradict?
How should I write the annotations?
- Each annotation should be concise. Do not write too much—annotations should not extend beyond one paragraph (unless assignment guidelines say otherwise).
- The summary should be a brief outline of argument(s) and main ideas. Only mention details that are significant or relevant, and only when necessary.
- Any information apparent in the title of thesourcel can be omitted from the annotation.
- Background materials and references to previous work by the same author usually are not included. As you are addressing one text at a time, there is no need to cross reference or use in-text citations to support your annotation.
- Find out what referencing style you need to use for the bibliographic citations, and use it consistently.
- In-text citations would usually only be necessary for quotations or to draw attention to information from specific pages.
- Unless otherwise stipulated, you should write in full sentences using academic vocabulary.
Contents of an annotated bibliography
An annotation may contain all or part of the following elements depending on the word limit and the content of the sources you are examining.
- Provide the full bibliographic citation.
- Indicate the background of the author(s).
- Indicate the content or scope of the text.
- Outline the main argument.
- Indicate the intended audience.
- Identify the research methods if applicable.
- Identify any conclusions made by the author/s.
- Discuss the reliability of the text.
- Highlight any special features of the text that were unique or helpful e.g. charts, graphs etc.
- Discuss the relevance or usefulness of the text for your research.
- Point out in what way the text relates to themes or concepts in your course.
- State the strengths and limitations of the text.
- Present your view or reaction to the text.
The citation goes first and is followed by the annotation. Make sure that you follow your faculty’s preferred citation style. The summary needs to be concise. Please note the following example is entirely fictitious.
In the sample annotation below, each element is numbered (see Key).
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How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: The Annotated Bibliography
- The Annotated Bibliography
- Fair Use of this Guide
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.
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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- Academic Skills
Writing an annotated bibliography
An annotated bibliography provides a brief account of the available research on a given topic. Find out how to select resources, what to include, and which writing style to use.
What is an annotated bibliography?
An annotated bibliography reviews the research published on your problem of study. Unlike a literature review, articles are reviewed separately with a full citation, brief summary of their content and a statement on how or why they apply to your research. It is a list of citations, each followed by a short paragraph, of 150 – 200 words, reviewing each source. Depending on your assignment, in this paragraph you may reflect on, summarise, critique, evaluate or analyse the source.
An annotated bibliography may be a component of a larger assignment or it may be a standalone document.
Why write an annotated bibliography?
Depending on your specific assessment, you may be asked to create an annotated bibliography for the following reasons:
- To familiarise yourself with the material available on a particular topic
- To demonstrate the quality and depth of reading that you have done
- To identify range of sources available on your topic
- To highlight sources that may be of interest to other readers and researchers
- To explore and organise sources for further research, e.g. as the first step toward a literature review
What kind of resources should be studied?
Review recent academic materials such as academic books and peer reviewed journals. Textbooks and web pages are generally not appropriate as the content may be either too broad or unreliable.
The sources you choose will depend on your topic. Choose sources which most closely answer a clearly defined question or problem from a balanced range of approaches, not only those which confirm your current beliefs. Also, include any references which are considered central to your topic.
How to create an annotated bibliography
These are good places to start:
- Your lecture notes / references given in class
- The Library Guide for your subject
- The subject liaison librarian
First, read abstracts or academic book reviews to help you select studies most relevant to your problem, then select the most suitable from those to read in full. Take notes on your selected texts as you read. Pay attention to:
- the author’s theoretical approach.
- which parts of the topic are covered in this paper.
- main points or findings on the topic.
- the author’s position or argument.
Record evaluations in your notes; your bibliography should not merely be a catalogue but present your own informed position on the texts and the topic as a whole.
- How well does this text address your topic?
- Does it cover the topic thoroughly or only one aspect of it?
- Do the research methods seem appropriate and does the argument stand up to scrutiny?
- Does it agree with or contradict other studies?
- List texts in alphabetical order using citation conventions for a reference list.
- Create an annotation under each citation: a paragraph summarising each text and explaining how the text applies to your research question or problem. e.g. What aspect of your question/ problem does it address? How fully? Does it provide background information/ theory / useful results? How strong is the evidence? What are its limitations in answering your research question?
Find out what citation style you need to use, such as APA, Vancouver, MLA. Department style guides or detailed assignment briefs often provide information on this. Details of how to cite are explained in re:cite.
Write in complete sentences to create a cohesive ‘snapshot’ of the text and its contribution to your research. Be brief and selective; aim to outline the text in less than 200 words.
An annotation may contain all or part of the following elements depending on the word limit and the content of the sources you are examining:
You might include:
- the background of the author(s)
- the content or scope of the text
- the main argument
- the intended audience
- the research methods (if applicable)
- any conclusions made by the author/s
- comments on the reliability of the text
- any special features of the text that were helpful (charts, graphs etc.)
- the relevance or usefulness of the text for your research
- the strengths and limitations of the text
Below is a sample annotation (APA). The superscript numbers at the end of the sentence explain the features or elements covered.
Scoffer, J., Treet, M., Nibbell, A., Tayste, C., & Snacker, A. (2017). Visual priming for chocolate increases chocolate consumption–an attention bias modification study. Journal of Healthy Eating, 38(1), 176-183. 1
The study examines the effect of attention priming on subsequent chocolate consumption within a University context 2 . 120 female subjects were primed with presentations of pictures either of shoes or chocolate, then participated in a chocolate search 3 . Findings indicated that the group primed with visual stimuli of chocolate showed significantly higher persistence in the chocolate searching task, consuming on average greater amounts of chocolate 4 . The authors contend that attention to food stimuli could increase risk of weight gain for many individuals 5 . By demonstrating the role of visual attention in subsequent food seeking behaviour and quantity consumed, this study provides evidence that such visual stimuli as web-based or billboard-based advertisements containing images of food may present a health risk to many individuals 6 . Limitations of the study include the lack of a true control since no non-primed condition was included. Another limitation is the use of a highly prized foodstuff, which limits the application of the findings to more everyday foods less closely related to reward 7 . However, the positive finding on the role of visual priming in food seeking and consumption provides useful support for the argument in my research that visual advertising contributes to weight problems, particularly in an obesogenic environment 8 .
1 Full citation
2 Aim and scope of the research
3 Brief summary of methods (where appropriate)
4 Summary of findings
5 Author’s main contention/ argument
6 Usefulness for your research
7 Limitations for your study
8 Reflection on how this work informs your research and how it will be applied.
As you research, keep in mind that annotated bibliographies are often preliminary research for a single, cohesive literature review about a situation or problem. Try to choose sources which together will present a comprehensive review of the issue under study.
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Writing an Annotated Bibliography
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What is an annotated bibliography?
An annotated bibliography gives an account of the research that has been done on a given topic. Like any bibliography, an annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of research sources. In addition to bibliographic data, an annotated bibliography provides a concise summary of each source and some assessment of its value or relevance. Depending on your assignment, an annotated bibliography may be one stage in a larger research project, or it may be an independent project standing on its own.
Selecting the 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. Your research should attempt to be reasonably comprehensive within well-defined boundaries. Consider these questions to help you find appropriate limits for your research:
- What problem am I investigating? What question(s) am I trying to pursue? If your bibliography is part of a research project, this project will probably be governed by a research question. If your bibliography is an independent project on a general topic (e.g. aboriginal women and Canadian law), try formulating your topic as a question or a series of questions in order to define your search more precisely ( e.g. How has Canadian law affecting aboriginal women changed as a result of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? How have these changes affected aboriginal women? How have aboriginal women influenced and responded to these legal developments?).
- What kind of material am I looking for? (academic books and journal articles? government reports or policy statements? articles from the popular press? primary historical sources? etc.)
- Am I finding essential studies on my topic? (Read footnotes in useful articles carefully to see what sources they use and why. Keep an eye out for studies that are referred to by several of your sources.)
Summarizing the argument of a source:
An annotation briefly restates the main argument of a source. An annotation of an academic source, for example, typically identifies its thesis (or research question, or hypothesis), its major methods of investigation, and its main conclusions. Keep in mind that identifying the argument of a source is a different task than describing or listing its contents. Rather than listing contents (see Example 1 below), an annotation should account for why the contents are there (see Example 2 below).
Example 1: Only lists contents:
McIvor, S. D. (1995). Aboriginal women’s rights as “existing rights.” Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 2/3 , 34-38. This article discusses recent constitutional legislation as it affects the human rights of aboriginal women in Canada: the Constitution Act (1982), its amendment in 1983, and amendments to the Indian Act (1985). It also discusses the implications for aboriginal women of the Supreme Court of Canada’s interpretation of the Constitution Act in R. v. Sparrow (1991).
Example 2: Identifies the argument:
McIvor, S. D. (1995). Aboriginal women’s rights as “existing rights.” Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 2/3 , 34-38. This article seeks to define the extent of the civil and political rights returned to aboriginal women in the Constitution Act (1982), in its amendment in 1983, and in amendments to the Indian Act (1985). * This legislation reverses prior laws that denied Indian status to aboriginal women who married non-aboriginal men. On the basis of the Supreme Court of Canada’s interpretation of the Constitution Act in R. v. Sparrow (1991), McIvor argues that the Act recognizes fundamental human rights and existing aboriginal rights, granting to aboriginal women full participation in the aboriginal right to self-government. ** * research question ** method & main conclusions
The following reading strategies can help you identify the argument of your source:
- Identify the author’s thesis (central claim or purpose) or research question. 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.
Assessing the relevance and value of sources:
Your annotation should now go on to briefly assess the value of the source to an investigation of your research question or problem. If your bibliography is part of a research project, briefly identify how you intend to use the source and why. If your bibliography is an independent project, try to assess the source’s contribution to the research on your topic.
- 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? (e.g. bringing the Sparrow decision concerning aboriginal fishing rights to bear on the scope of women’s rights)
- Are you interested in the way the source uses a theoretical framework or a key concept? (e.g. analysis of existing, extinguished, and other kinds of rights)
- Does the source gather and analyze a particular body of evidence that you want to use? (e.g. the historical development of a body of legislation)
- How do the source’s conclusions bear on your own investigation?
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?
Keep the context of your project in mind. How is material assessed in your course or discipline? What models for assessing arguments are available in course materials?
Various kinds of annotated bibliographies:
Annotated bibliographies do come in many variations. Pay close attention to the requirements of your assignment. Here are some possible variations:
- Some assignments may require you to summarize only and not to evaluate.
- Some assignments may want you to notice and comment on patterns of similarity and dissimilarity between sources; other assignments may want you to treat each source independently.
- If the bibliography is long, consider organizing it in sections. Your categories of organization should help clarify your research question.
- Some assignments may require or allow you to preface the bibliography (or its sections) with a paragraph explaining the scope of your investigation and providing a rationale for your selection of sources.
Some language for talking about texts and arguments:
It is sometimes challenging to find the vocabulary in which to summarize and discuss a text. Here is a list of some verbs for referring to texts and ideas that you might find useful:
To learn more on referring to texts and ideas, visit our file on reporting verbs .
This handout and many others are available in Writing in the Health Sciences: a comprehensive guide .
Based on materials originally developed for the Equity Studies Program, New College.
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This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.
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.
Writing Annotated Bibliographies: Writing the Annotated Bibliography
- About Annotated Bibliographies
- Writing the Annotated Bibliography
How to write an annotated bibliography
The citations (bibliographic information - title, date, author, publisher, etc.) in the annotated bibliography are formatted using the particular style manual (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) that your discipline requires.
Annotations are written in paragraph form, usually 3-7 sentences (or 80-200 words). Depending on your assignment your annotations will generally include the following:
- Summary: Summarize the information given in the source. Note the intended audience. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say?
- Evaluate/Assess: Is this source credible? Who wrote it? What are their credentials? Who is the publisher? Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
- Reflect/React: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. State your reaction and any additional questions you have about the information in your source. 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. Compare each source to other sources in your AB in terms of its usefulness and thoroughness in helping answer your research question.
- AB Rubric from Cal State San Marcos
- AB Rubric from UW-Eau Claire McIntyre Library
- Help in Writing Annotations from Cal State San Marcos
- How to successfully write an AB from Emporia State
- What is an Annotated Bibliography? from Learning Centre, Univ. of New South Wales
Examples for a book chapter
Carson, R. (1962). The obligation to endure. In Silent spring (pp. 5-13). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Carson talks about the overuse of chemicals to kill insects and other pests that invade and harm the nation's environment and agriculture. She thinks that chemicals that people once thought would control disease in plants are now going to cause another worse kind of disease in humans. She uses some history and current realities to back up her points.
An evaluative annotation (again, APA format): Carson, R. (1962). The obligation to endure. In Silent spring (pp. 5-13). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Carson, in this chapter from Silent Spring, claims that chemical pollution, especially in the form of pesticides, is "the most alarming of all man's assaults upon the environment" (152). Modern science's creation of new chemicals (almost five hundred a day) and their subsequent use--two hundred of them alone used to kill pests of all kinds--have begun to alter the biological environment irrevocably, so that nuclear warfare is no longer the most certain means of wiping out life on the planet. Instead, the real killer becomes the many poisons we use to wipe out pests. These already are causing and will cause ultimately all kinds of genetic alterations in plant and animal life that will bring about the end of life as we know it. Carson does not advocate a complete end to chemical pest control, but she does insist that chemicals should be used only after they have been thoroughly investigated, tested, and understood. And then they should be used only by those who understand how to use them and their potential for both benefit and harm.
The second annotation is longer than the first, but it is also evaluative. A descriptive annotation is simply a list of topics an author talks about, while an evaluative annotation states conclusively what the author thought about, how he/she thought about it, and what it finally meant for the piece of writing he/she produced. Ask your instructor how you should write your annotations.
- APA Annotated Bibliography Example from dianahacker.com
- Examples in MLA & APA from Concordia University, Canada
- Examples of Annotated Bibliography Entries from University of California, Santa Cruz
- Sample annotated bibliography entry for a journal article from Cornell University
- Sample Descriptinve Annotation & Sample Critical Annotation from Memorial University, Canada
- Samples ABs from the University of Oklahoma
- Annotated Bibliography ExampleAnnotated Bibliography ExampleAnnotated Bibliography Example From Purdue OWL
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- Last Updated: May 24, 2019 11:01 AM
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Writing an Annotated Bibliography Video
This video will introduce you to how to write an annotated bibliography. At some time during your studies at university, it is likely that you will be asked to write an annotated bibliography.
An annotated bibliography is essentially a list of sources with a brief note, (or annotation), summarizing each item on the list.
The main difference between it and a ‘Works Cited’ reference list, is that you would normally complete one before you start writing your research paper.
For some students, the annotated bibliography is a stand-alone assignment. But for others, it’s just one stage of a larger project, to be used as a reference tool as you complete your research paper.
Annotated bibliographies let others know what the key sources are on a particular topic.
They’re important because:
- they help you to see how different sources fit together to shape your research
- they remind you to give credit where credit is due in order to avoid plagiarism
- they often help you to verify facts which adds credibility to your own research path, but more importantly, an annotated bibliography demonstrates your research progress!
Creating a bibliography is pretty straight forward since it’s a record of the sources you’ve chosen, in the style that your course instructor has selected.
However, this process involves setting aside time to research for a wide variety of perspectives on your topic. The quality of your annotated bibliography will depend on the selection of your sources.
Your course instructor probably has specific instructions for exactly what the annotations should include and how long each one should be, so make sure you read your assignment carefully.
Generally speaking, each annotation should be about 150 – 200 words long and can:
- assess the source’s strengths and weaknesses
- give an outline the main arguments
- provide background information about the author
- describe how the source is relevant to your topic
Annotated bibliographies remind you why you selected a certain source, why it’s relevant, and even whether or not you agreed or disagreed with its main arguments, so it’s best to get started compiling your list of sources early and writing your own annotations.
Thank you for watching. If you need additional help, please come and visit us at the research help desk on the main floor of the library or contact your subject specialist from the Research Help section of the library website.