Annotated Bibliography Guide: Sample Annotated Bibliographies
- Definition and Formats
- Elements of Annotation
- Sample Annotated Bibliographies
SAMPLE ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ENTRY FOR A JOURNAL ARTICLE ( From the Cornell Libraries )
The following example uses the APA format for the journal citation. NOTE: APA requires double spacing within citations.
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 the MLA format for the journal citation. NOTE: Standard MLA practice requires double spacing within citations.
- Sample Annotated Bibliography from Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences From Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
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How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: The 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.
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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How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography
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SAMPLE DESCRIPTIVE ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ENTRY FOR A JOURNAL ARTICLE
The following example uses the APA format for the journal citation.
Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51 (4), 541-554.
This example uses the MLA format for the journal citation. NOTE: Standard MLA practice requires double spacing within citations.
Waite, Linda J., Frances Kobrin Goldscheider, and Christina Witsberger. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review 51.4 (1986): 541-554. Print.
More Sample Annotations
- Annotated Bibliography Examples
- Annotated Bibliography Samples
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.
The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin gives examples of the some of the most common forms of annotated bibliographies.
The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina gives examples of several different forms of annotated bibliographies in 3 popular citation formats:
- MLA Example
- APA Example
- CBE Example
This page was adapted with permission from the following:
How to prepare an annotated bibliography Research & Learning Services Olin Library Cornell University Library Ithaca, NY, USA
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- Definition and Purpose
- How to Make Annotated Bibliographies
Example Annotated Bibliography
- Each reference in your bibliography follows the rules for your citation style, such as APA style.
- Your notes for each reference come immediately after your reference. Your notes are indented so that each citation is easy to find.
- The references in your bibliography appear in the same order they would in the reference list at the end of your paper. In APA style, that means that they are listed in alphabetical order by the first author’s last name.
- Explain why each reference is useful for your paper.
- Include specific data, facts, or other unique information you want to use in your paper.
- Include limitations of each source.
- You might notice some themes in what you are writing. Or, you might notice that different sources conflict. These themes and conflicts will be useful for organizing your literature review when you write your paper.
This study shows the complexity of identifying risk factors and, unlike other studies, closely examines the roles of obesity and birth weight. In this large cohort study of people in Britain, the researchers examined the roles of several demographic factors as well as a few different measures of weight and BMI changes. This study did not see a link between low birth weight and the risk of developing diabetes unless changes in BMI were also taken into account. The interplay between low birth weight and changes in BMI over time was a significant risk factor for developing diabetes. Other notable findings were that it mattered when people became obese; people who became obese as teenagers were at higher risk than people who became obese later in life. The study had several important limitations to note. First, the number of participants dropped drastically over time; they had an 82.4% drop-out rate over the 50 years of the study. Although they used statistical methods to estimate missing data and were careful to compare like timespans with like timespans, this lack of data could skew the results. The second major limitation is that the authors did not distinguish between different types of diabetes. Other limitations were more minor. Based on what the authors share about how they calculated another factor, which did not end up being significant, it is unclear if only people with married mothers were included in the study. The authors used the changes in BMI between the different data collection periods to estimate the average age of onset, but the data collection points were not evenly spaced and the authors did not explain why they collected data at those points in time instead of others. Again, that information could skew the data. In spite of its limitations, this article shows how no one factor alone can predict if a person will develop diabetes. It can be a caution in assigning too much importance to specific measures.
Ivarsdottir, E. V., Steinthorsdottir, V., Daneshpour, M. S., Thorleifsson, G., Sulem, P., Holm, H., Sigurdsson, S., Hreidarsson, A. B., Siggurdson, G., Bjarnason, R., Thorsson, A. V., Benediktsson, R., Eyjolfsson, G., Sigurdardottir, O., Zeinali, S., Azizi, F., Thorsteinsdottier, U., Gudbjartsson, D. F., & Stefansson, K. (2017). Effect of sequence variants on variance in glucose levels predicts type 2 diabetes risk and accounts for heritability. Nature Genetics , 49 (9), 1398-1402. https://doi.org/10.1038/ng.3928
In this study, the authors investigated the relationship between genetic variants that are known to affect blood glucose levels to see if they were also associated with type 2 diabetes. In addition to looking for differences between specific people, the authors also accounted for differences between samples taken from a single individual. The real value of this article is in the supplementary materials the authors shared. The authors included a copy of the code they used to calculate the differences between all of their samples. It can be modified to be used with other genetic traits. In addition, the authors also linked out to a set of open access genetic data sets for type 2 diabetes research. Both sets of information make this article super useful for additional genetic research.
Min, D., & Cho, E. (2018). Associations among health behaviors, body mass index, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus: A path analysis. Medicine , 97 (22), Article e10981. https://doi.org/10.1097/md.0000000000010981
Using existing data from a study of aging in Korea, this study identified specific risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes for people who have lower-than-normal weight levels or higher-than-normal weight levels. They looked at correlations between several dietary behaviors, exercise, demographic factors, and changes in body-mass index (BMI). Overall, they found a 2.4% incidence rate for diabetes in their study population, which consisted of middle-aged and older people in Korea who had not previously been diagnosed with diabetes. Regardless of weight, increases in a person’s BMI correlated with higher risk of developing diabetes. For people who were underweight, eating regular meals played a complex role; it was associated with a lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes, but also with increasing the person’s BMI. The study is helpful because it shows the complexity of identifying risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes and deciding what factors might be appropriate targets for public health programs. Rather than focusing on a single potential risk factor, this study looked at the interplay between several possible risk factors, which means the results reflect reality more closely. The study is limited in that the number of people studied was relatively small (a few thousand) and only a small portion of that group were underweight (about 130 people.) It is unclear if the results would hold for the larger population or for a different population.
Muller, N., Heller, T., Freitag, M. H., Gerste, B., Haupt, C. M., Wolf, G., & Muller, U. A. (2015). Healthcare utilization of people with type 2 diabetes in Germany: An analysis based on health insurance data. Diabetic Medicine , 32 (7), 951-957. https://doi.org/10.1111/dme.12747
This study demonstrates the high costs associated with having type 2 diabetes for both the individual and for insurance companies. It helps establish the argument that diabetes should be a public health priority and a priority for policy-makers and insurance companies. In addition, this study clearly showed that age correlates with both diabetes incidence and prevalence. This study looked at health-care related costs in insurance data for people in Germany who used the most common German insurance provider at the time. Based on that data, the researchers found that nearly 34% of people who had type 2 diabetes had secondary diabetes-related conditions. In addition, people with type 2 diabetes were more likely to use healthcare services on both outpatient and in-patient bases. People with type 2 diabetes were twice as likely to be admitted to the hospital and, when taking both outpatient and inpatient information into account, stayed at the hospital three times as long as people without any form of diabetes. (The researchers had excluded people with type 1 diabetes and gestational diabetes from their sample.) The researchers did not include standard deviations or confidence intervals; the data may not be fully representative. The data used in this study was collected in 2010; newer data might show different trends. The study’s findings may not be generalizable to other areas of the world due to differences in diabetes’ prevalence and incidence, the health care structures in place, and environmental factors. It still indicates that diabetes can be an expensive disease. In spite of some limitations, the information in this article suggests that targeting diabetes could have wide benefits.
Wang, T., Huang, T., Li, Y., Zheng, Y., Manson, J. E., Hu, F. B., & Qi, L. (2016). Low birthweight and risk of type 2 diabetes: A Mendelian randomisation study. Diabetologia , 59 (9), 1920-1927. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-016-4019-z
In this meta-analysis, the researchers pooled longitudinal data about two studies of healthcare workers in the United States to evaluate the connection between genetic differences and risk of developing diabetes. Building on a study that showed certain genetic variants increased the likelihood that a person would have a low birth weight, this study examined participant’s genetic make-up to determine their likelihood of having a low birth weight and then investigated how many people with each variation had diabetes at the end of the study. Overall, these calculated risk factors did correlate with increased risk of developing diabetes; having a higher risk factor increased the chances that the person would develop diabetes. However, only two of the five variants the authors considered correlated with increased risk of developing diabetes and they did not include the variant that had the strongest correlation to having a low birth weight. Even when taking into account other behavioral and demographic factors, genetic makeup was a significant risk factor for diabetes. This reinforces the idea that diabetes has several interacting causes. That said, the authors were only looking at people in the U.S. with European heritage; different populations might have different results. This study is important because it shows that social and behavioral factors are not the sole causes for diabetes; traditional public health programs cannot completely eliminate diabetes. In addition, the study’s results might explain some of why people with similar outward appearances or behaviors have different outcomes.
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An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for various books, articles, and other sources on a topic. The annotated bibliography looks like a References page but includes an annotation after each source cited. An annotation is a short summary and/or critical evaluation of a source. Annotated bibliographies can be part of a larger research project, or can be a stand-alone report in itself.
Types of Annotations
A summary annotation describes the source by answering the following questions: who wrote the document, what does the document discuss, when and where was the document written, why was the document produced, and how was it provided to the public. The focus is on description.
An evaluative annotation includes a summary as listed above but also critically assesses the work for accuracy, relevance, and quality. Evaluative annotations can help you learn about your topic, develop a thesis statement, decide if a specific source will be useful for your assignment, and determine if there is enough valid information available to complete your project. The focus is on description and evaluation.
Writing an Evaluative Annotation
- Cite the source using APA style.
- Describe the main ideas, arguments, themes, theses, or methodology, and identify the intended audience.
- Explain the author’s expertise, point of view, and any bias he/she may have.
- Compare to other sources on the same topic that you have also cited to show similarities and differences.
- Explain why each source is useful for your research topic and how it relates to your topic.
- Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each source.
- Identify the observations or conclusions of the author.
Basic Tips on Writing & Formatting
- Each annotation should be one paragraph, between three to six sentences long (about 150- 200 words).
- Start with the same format as a regular References list.
- All lines should be double-spaced. Do not add an extra line between the citations.
- If your list of citations is especially long, you can organize it by topic.
- Try to be objective, and give explanations if you state any opinions.
- Use the third person (e.g., he, she, the author) instead of the first person (e.g., I, my, me)
Annotated bibliographies are formated in the method below.
Use a hanging indent for any references that are longer than one line.
The text of the annotation (where you explain who wrote the article, what they found, and why it is relevant to your paper) goes in a paragraph that has been indented directly below the reference entry.
Johnston, M.P. (2013). School librarian & technology specialist: Partnership for effective technology integration. Knowledge Quest , 42 (1), 70-75. https://search.proquest.com/pq1academic/docview/1437351950/fulltextPDF/1DC0CBB38D6D4A9BPQ/1?accountid=131931
Written by an assistant professor of library and information science and based on her personal experience, observations, and evidence-based research, this article attempts to cement the necessity for open communication between the school librarian and technology specialist. A cohesive relationship with mutual support proves to be a better way for the educational world to navigate the productive use of technology. If librarians and technology specialists are at odds within a school, then the only ones that suffer are the teachers and the students. A cohesive team of media specialists can better serve the school while teaching and integrating new technology in the classroom. Productivity for media specialists, both librarians, and technology specialists, also demands working cohesively with classroom teachers since many need assistance with technology integration. Open communication and consideration are integral to this process and only when these two factors happen in tandem can a school fully realize the possibilities inherent in technology.
Moreillon, J., (2013). Leadership: Teaching digital citizenship. School Library Monthly , 30 (1), 26-27. https://search.proquest.com/pq1academic/docview/1509041319/fulltextPDF/9EBD0EE04754444EPQ/1?accountid=131931
Written by an assistant professor of library and information studies in Texas, this article focuses on digital citizenship. The information, from the author’s personal observations and through discussions with colleagues, highlights the tools librarians currently use to increase their digital clout and technological presence within a school setting and recommends other tools that are potentially available. The author surmises that teaching digital citizenship purposefully helps integrate the correct use of technology while following standards set by the Common Core State Standards. Being advocates for teaching staff and students about digital citizenship acutely brings to focus the need for informed library specialists and the need for adequate technology resources. The author recommends fostering a proactive community in order to help students and staff become informed digital citizens prepared to navigate the wide world of technology.
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What is An Annotated Bibliography?
An annotated bibliography is a list of sources (books, articles, websites, etc.) with short paragraph about each source. An annotated bibliography is sometimes a useful step before drafting a research paper, or it can stand alone as an overview of the research available on a topic.
Each source in the annotated bibliography has a citation - the information a reader needs to find the original source, in a consistent format to make that easier. These consistent formats are called citation styles. The most common citation styles are MLA (Modern Language Association) for humanities, and APA (American Psychological Association) for social sciences.
Annotations are about 4 to 6 sentences long (roughly 150 words), and address:
- Main focus or purpose of the work
- Usefulness or relevance to your research topic
- Special features of the work that were unique or helpful
- Background and credibility of the author
- Conclusions or observations reached by the author
- Conclusions or observations reached by you
Annotations versus Abstracts
Many scholarly articles start with an abstract, which is the author's summary of the article to help you decide whether you should read the entire article. This abstract is not the same thing as an annotation. The annotation needs to be in your own words, to explain the relevance of the source to your particular assignment or research question.
Annotated Bibliography video
MLA 9th Annotated Bibliography Examples
Ontiveros, Randy J. In the Spirit of a New People: The Cultural Politics of the Chicano Movement . New York UP, 2014.
This book analyzes the journalism, visual arts, theater, and novels of the Chicano movement from 1960 to the present as articulations of personal and collective values. Chapter 3 grounds the theater of El Teatro Campesino in the labor and immigrant organizing of the period, while Chapter 4 situates Sandra Cisneros’s novel Caramelo in the struggles of Chicana feminists to be heard in the traditional and nationalist elements of the Chicano movement. Ontiveros provides a powerful and illuminating historical context for the literary and political texts of the movement.
Alvarez, Nadia, and Jack Mearns. “The Benefits of Writing and Performing in the Spoken Word Poetry Community.” The Arts in Psychotherapy , vol. 41, no. 3, July 2014, pp. 263-268. ScienceDirect , https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2014.03.004 .
Spoken word poetry is distinctive because it is written to be performed out loud, in person, by the poet. The ten poets interviewed by these authors describe “a reciprocal relationship between the audience and the poet” created by that practice of performance. To build community, spoken word poets keep metaphor and diction relatively simple and accessible. Richness is instead built through fragmented stories that coalesce into emotional narratives about personal and community concerns. This understanding of poets’ intentions illuminates their recorded performances.
*Note, citations have a .5 hanging indent and the annotations have a 1 inch indent.
- MLA 9th Sample Annotated Bibliography
MLA 8th Annotated Bibliography Examples
Ontiveros, Randy J. In the Spirit of a New People: The Cultural Politics of the Chicano Movement . New York UP, 2014. This book analyzes the journalism, visual arts, theater, and novels of the Chicano movement from 1960 to the present as articulations of personal and collective values. Chapter 3 grounds the theater of El Teatro Campesino in the labor and immigrant organizing of the period, while Chapter 4 situates Sandra Cisneros’s novel Caramelo in the struggles of Chicana feminists to be heard in the traditional and nationalist elements of the Chicano movement. Ontiveros provides a powerful and illuminating historical context for the literary and political texts of the movement.
Alvarez, Nadia, and Jack Mearns. “The Benefits of Writing and Performing in the Spoken Word Poetry Community.” The Arts in Psychotherapy , vol. 41, no. 3, July 2014, pp. 263-268. ScienceDirect , doi:10.1016/j.aip.2014.03.004 . Spoken word poetry is distinctive because it is written to be performed out loud, in person, by the poet. The ten poets interviewed by these authors describe “a reciprocal relationship between the audience and the poet” created by that practice of performance. To build community, spoken word poets keep metaphor and diction relatively simple and accessible. Richness is instead built through fragmented stories that coalesce into emotional narratives about personal and community concerns. This understanding of poets’ intentions illuminates their recorded performances.
- MLA 8th Sample Annotated Bibliography
APA 7th Annotated Bibliography Examples
Alvarez, N. & Mearns, J. (2014). The benefits of writing and performing in the spoken word poetry community. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 41 (3), 263-268. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2014.03.004 Prior research has shown narrative writing to help with making meaning out of trauma. This article uses grounded theory to analyze semi-structured interviews with ten spoken word poets. Because spoken word poetry is performed live, it creates personal and community connections that enhance the emotional development and resolution offered by the practice of writing. The findings are limited by the small, nonrandom sample (all the participants were from the same community).
- APA 7th Sample Annotated Bibliography
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Here's an example of an entry from an annotated bibliography, with the citation of the book in Chicago style and a brief description of the book:
Garrow, David J. Protest at Selma: Martin Luther King and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978.
Garrow describes how the strategy of protest employed by Martin Luther King, Jr., and SCLC at Selma influenced the emergence of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He contends that the choice of Selma as a site for civil rights protests and the specific tactics that SCLC adopted in Selma were part of a plan to force the introduction and passage of national voting rights legislation. The foremost consideration in this campaign was the need to elicit "unprovoked white violence aimed at peaceful and unresisting civil rights demonstrators." Garrow argues that at Selma "a strategy that bordered on nonviolent provocation supplanted the earlier belief in nonviolent persuasion." SCLC correctly assumed that police violence would generate national media coverage and this, in turn, would stimulate reactions "throughout the country, and especially Washington," leading to pressure for federal voting rights legislation.
(Example from: The Civil Rights Movement: References and Resources , by Paul T. Murray. New York: G.K. Hall & Co., 1993.)
Dunnow, I. "Predictors of Young Adult Voting Behavior; the Beavis and Butthead' Experience." Annals of Antipathy 30.1 (1995): 57-98. I.
Dunnow's humorous satire of young voters also includes considerable research. Included are results of four surveys of first time voters conducted during the 1990s. Dunnow's tongue-in-cheek approach to developing his article entertains but doesn't distract the reader from the issues covered in the article.
(Example from: UNF LibGuide Creating an Annotated Bibliography )
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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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Annotated Bibliography Examples | APA, MLA, Chicago
What is an Annotated Bibliography?
An annotated bibliography is a list of sources (books, articles, other publications) that provides an overview of the available research on a topic by summarizing, interpreting, or evaluating each entry. It usually consists of citations followed by short paragraphs of 150–250 words.
Purpose of an Annotated Bibliography
The purpose of such annotation lists is not only to show your professor that you have done your job (although it can sometimes feel like that)—it is to describe and categorize the literature on the topic you are researching, and to critically analyze how relevant or meaningful each source is for your current work, how accurate the findings are, and whether the conclusions drawn by the authors are justified. Creating an annotated bibliography is also a great way for you to familiarize yourself with and review the material available on a particular topic, and to take systematic notes that help you organize your thoughts and identify gaps in the existing literature or issues that might be worth exploring further.
Each entry in an annotated bibliography consists of a citation and the “ annotation “, a short paragraph that summarizes or evaluates the source. Whether you need to simply describe or critically evaluate or analyze each source depends on your assignment and/or the purpose of your bibliography.
Annotation summary or evaluation paragraphs should usually be arranged alphabetically, according to the author’s last name, and need to be in line with the required citation style (more on that below).
How to Write an Annotated Bibliography
To create an annotated bibliography, you first need to do a careful library search : find articles, books, and other sources that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Then examine every item in your preliminary list and choose the works that provide the necessary information.
Next, create a citation for each book, article, or document following the required style guide.
Finally, add an annotation that summarizes/evaluates the central theme and scope of the work.
1) Analyze Your Study’s Sources
Not every work that has ever been published on your topic needs to be included in your bibliography—choosing the most relevant ones is a very important part of creating an annotation list. You also need to consider whether your annotated bibliography is a stand-alone assignment that simply provides an overview of a certain field or issue or whether it represents preliminary research into a specific research topic.
How to choose sources for your annotations
Start by reading abstracts to identify and select relevant sources, and keep the following points in mind:
– your research topic and important keywords
– your research question
– specific methods or the range of methods that have been/are being used
– whether you are creating an overview or identifying a gap in the literature
– the kind of data (experiments, meta-analyses,…) you are interested in
– the quality of each source (e.g., often cited versus famously criticized works)
Taking notes will help you organize your sources from the start and will make writing annotation paragraphs much easier. Your notes could contain the following details:
– the study’s theoretical approach
– the methods used and if they seem appropriate
– the main points or findings
– how the main findings relate to other research
– how the main findings relate to your topic
– the author’s interpretation or conclusion (and whether you agree)
While your annotation should mainly focus on the source, not the authors or their work in general, it can help your selection of valuable sources to check credentials as well as the publisher or journal where you found an article. You don’t want to put too much emphasis on dubious and obscure publications—unless, of course, a “bad” study received particular attention for being biased, containing errors, or not being in line with the required standards in the field and thereby sparked controversy or inspired debates. Such cases might need to be included in an overview of a topic, alongside seminal papers and works that are cited by every new publication in the field. Pay attention to when studies were published as well, since your analysis should represent the timeline of developments appropriately while being up to date with the current literature.
2) Create Annotations: Annotation Types
You can create annotations in different ways, depending on the purpose of your literature analysis. You can simply describe and summarize a source, evaluate it, or combine both approaches .
Descriptive or informative annotations, as their name says, provide a full citation for a source followed by a simple description. They can list the main arguments and even the names of parts or chapters within a book, but do not assess its value or reflect on how useful it might be for your specific purpose.
Have a look at the example below that is taken from the Online Writing Lab of Purdue University . As you can see, this annotation paragraph only contains descriptive expressions and does not offer any judgments or opinions.
Descriptive annotated bibliography example
Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess . London: Routledge, 1998.
Davidson’s book provides a thorough examination of the major roles filled by the numerous pagan goddesses of Northern Europe in everyday life, including their roles in hunting, agriculture, domestic arts like weaving, the household, and death. The author discusses relevant archaeological evidence, patterns of symbol and ritual, and previous research. The book includes a number of black and white photographs of relevant artifacts.
Evaluative annotations assess and critically analyze the work a source presents, by comparing it to other publications, evaluating how trustworthy or questionable its findings are, whether it addresses an issue from various angles or has a limited scope, and whether it used the appropriate methods and made a significant contribution to the literature. By doing this, you demonstrate why each source in your list is essential and relevant.
In the example below (again taken from the Purdue Writing Lab), you see that the descriptive summary of the book is followed by a paragraph that assesses the author, how she did her research, and how valuable her findings therefore are.
Evaluative annotated bibliography example
Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America . Henry Holt and Company.
In this book of nonfiction based on the journalist’s experiential research, Ehrenreich attempts to ascertain whether it is currently possible for an individual to live on a minimum-wage in America. Taking jobs as a waitress, a maid in a cleaning service, and a Walmart sales employee, the author summarizes and reflects on her work, her relationships with fellow workers, and her financial struggles in each situation.
An experienced journalist, Ehrenreich is aware of the limitations of her experiment and the ethical implications of her experiential research tactics and reflects on these issues in the text. The author is forthcoming about her methods and supplements her experiences with scholarly research on her places of employment, the economy, and the rising cost of living in America. Ehrenreich’s project is timely, descriptive, and well-researched.
As you have seen in the last example, annotations come in different formats and can be adapted to your purpose. If the “summary + evaluation” format in the last example is not sufficient for your bibliography, you can add a comparison of the source with another one you have cited or an explanation of how this work is relevant for your topic to your annotation.
Annotation writing style
Annotations should usually consist of full sentences, but whether you split them up into different paragraphs depends on whether you restrict yourself to a summary or whether you also provide a critical evaluation of the source and maybe discuss its relevance for your own work. Sources can also be annotated using short phrases, but this format is more appropriate for personal bibliographies for the purpose of collecting and organizing literature, rather than for stand-alone assignments or research papers.
3) Annotated Bibliography Format and Examples
When you have collected all the information you think is relevant and written your annotation paragraphs, it is important that you format your list according to your faculty’s or journal’s preferred citation style. In the following, we will show you how the three main bibliography styles (MLA, APA, and Chicago) differ when it comes to annotation lists.
APA annotated bibliography example
Your annotated bibliography very likely has to follow American Psychological Association (APA) style if you write a scientific or technical article. This means that each list entry includes a full APA citation and that APA formatting is used for headers and title.
MLA annotated bibliography example
Modern Language Association (MLA) annotation style is usually required in the arts and humanities. A difference to APA style is for example the surname in the header.
Chicago annotated bibliography example
There are two different versions of Chicago Style source citations : (1) notes and bibliography (preferred in the humanities, sources are cited in numbered footnotes or endnotes) and (2) author-date (more common in the sciences and social sciences, sources are cited in parentheses in the text).
Literature Review vs Annotated Bibliography
A literature review is a collection of sources that provides an overview of existing research on a specific topic. It is usually part of dissertations, theses, and research papers, but can also be a stand-alone publication. The purpose of such a comprehensive review is to identify gaps in existing and opportunities for further research, evaluate existing methods and approaches, and introduce a study’s research question or hypothesis to the reader.
An annotated bibliography, on the other hand, is a list of source references with short descriptions and (optionally) critical evaluations, usually presented as a stand-alone paper. An annotated bibliography is often part of the research process itself rather than part of a manuscript/article that describes the study once it is finished.
Frequently Asked Questions about Annotated Bibliographies
What are the parts of an annotated bibliography.
An annotated bibliography has a title and consists of a list of citations that are each followed by an annotation . The annotation itself can just be a summary or also provide an evaluation or critical analysis.
What are the different types of annotations?
Annotations can be descriptive/informative (i.e., simply summarize the source), or they can be evaluative (i.e., provide a critical assessment). Most annotated bibliographies contain combinations of summaries, evaluations, and critical analyses, depending on the specific purpose of the work.
How long is an annotated bibliography?
As a general rule, annotations should be about 4 to 6 sentences long (150–250 words).
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