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  • What Is an Annotated Bibliography? | Examples & Format

What Is an Annotated Bibliography? | Examples & Format

Published on March 9, 2021 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 23, 2022.

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 your annotated bibliography in APA or MLA style. To generate a perfectly formatted annotated bibliography, select the source type, fill out the relevant fields, and add your annotation.

The Scribbr Citation Generator will automatically create a flawless APA citation

The Scribbr Citation Generator will automatically create a flawless MLA citation

An example of an annotated source is shown below:

Annotated source example

Table of contents

Annotated bibliography format: apa, mla, chicago, how to write an annotated bibliography, descriptive annotation example, evaluative annotation example, reflective annotation example, finding sources for your annotated bibliography, frequently asked questions about annotated bibliographies.

Make sure your annotated bibliography is formatted according to the guidelines of the style guide you’re working with. Three common styles are covered below:

In APA Style , both the reference entry and the annotation should be double-spaced and left-aligned.

The reference entry itself should have a hanging indent . The annotation follows on the next line, and the whole annotation should be indented to match the hanging indent. The first line of any additional paragraphs should be indented an additional time.

APA annotated bibliography

In an MLA style annotated bibliography , the Works Cited entry and the annotation are both double-spaced and left-aligned.

The Works Cited entry has a hanging indent. The annotation itself is indented 1 inch (twice as far as the hanging indent). If there are two or more paragraphs in the annotation, the first line of each paragraph is indented an additional half-inch, but not if there is only one paragraph.

MLA annotated bibliography

Chicago style

In a  Chicago style annotated bibliography , the bibliography entry itself should be single-spaced and feature a hanging indent.

The annotation should be indented, double-spaced, and left-aligned. The first line of any additional paragraphs should be indented an additional time.

Chicago annotated bibliography

For each source, start by writing (or generating ) a full reference entry that gives the author, title, date, and other information. The annotated bibliography format varies based on the citation style you’re using.

The annotations themselves are usually between 50 and 200 words in length, typically formatted as a single paragraph. This can vary depending on the word count of the assignment, the relative length and importance of different sources, and the number of sources you include.

Consider the instructions you’ve been given or consult your instructor to determine what kind of annotations they’re looking for:

These specific terms won’t necessarily be used. The important thing is to understand the purpose of your assignment and pick the approach that matches it best. Interactive examples of the different styles of annotation are shown below.

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A descriptive annotation summarizes the approach and arguments of a source in an objective way, without attempting to assess their validity.

In this way, it resembles an abstract , but you should never just copy text from a source’s abstract, as this would be considered plagiarism . You’ll naturally cover similar ground, but you should also consider whether the abstract omits any important points from the full text.

The interactive example shown below describes an article about the relationship between business regulations and CO 2 emissions.

Rieger, A. (2019). Doing business and increasing emissions? An exploratory analysis of the impact of business regulation on CO 2 emissions. Human Ecology Review , 25 (1), 69–86. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26964340

An evaluative annotation also describes the content of a source, but it goes on to evaluate elements like the validity of the source’s arguments and the appropriateness of its methods .

For example, the following annotation describes, and evaluates the effectiveness of, a book about the history of Western philosophy.

Kenny, A. (2010). A new history of Western philosophy: In four parts . Oxford University Press.

A reflective annotation is similar to an evaluative one, but it focuses on the source’s usefulness or relevance to your own research.

Reflective annotations are often required when the point is to gather sources for a future research project, or to assess how they were used in a project you already completed.

The annotation below assesses the usefulness of a particular article for the author’s own research in the field of media studies.

Manovich, Lev. (2009). The practice of everyday (media) life: From mass consumption to mass cultural production? Critical Inquiry , 35 (2), 319–331. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/596645

Manovich’s article assesses the shift from a consumption-based media culture (in which media content is produced by a small number of professionals and consumed by a mass audience) to a production-based media culture (in which this mass audience is just as active in producing content as in consuming it). He is skeptical of some of the claims made about this cultural shift; specifically, he argues that the shift towards user-made content must be regarded as more reliant upon commercial media production than it is typically acknowledged to be. However, he regards web 2.0 as an exciting ongoing development for art and media production, citing its innovation and unpredictability.

The article is outdated in certain ways (it dates from 2009, before the launch of Instagram, to give just one example). Nevertheless, its critical engagement with the possibilities opened up for media production by the growth of social media is valuable in a general sense, and its conceptualization of these changes frequently applies just as well to more current social media platforms as it does to Myspace. Conceptually, I intend to draw on this article in my own analysis of the social dynamics of Twitter and Instagram.

Before you can write your annotations, you’ll need to find sources . If the annotated bibliography is part of the research process for a paper, your sources will be those you consult and cite as you prepare the paper. Otherwise, your assignment and your choice of topic will guide you in what kind of sources to look for.

Make sure that you’ve clearly defined your topic , and then consider what keywords are relevant to it, including variants of the terms. Use these keywords to search databases (e.g., Google Scholar ), using Boolean operators to refine your search.

Sources can include journal articles, books, and other source types , depending on the scope of the assignment. Read the abstracts or blurbs of the sources you find to see whether they’re relevant, and try exploring their bibliographies to discover more. If a particular source keeps showing up, it’s probably important.

Once you’ve selected an appropriate range of sources, read through them, taking notes that you can use to build up your annotations. You may even prefer to write your annotations as you go, while each source is fresh in your mind.

An annotated bibliography is an assignment where you collect sources on a specific topic and write an annotation for each source. An annotation is a short text that describes and sometimes evaluates the source.

Any credible sources on your topic can be included in an annotated bibliography . The exact sources you cover will vary depending on the assignment, but you should usually focus on collecting journal articles and scholarly books . When in doubt, utilize the CRAAP test !

Each annotation in an annotated bibliography is usually between 50 and 200 words long. Longer annotations may be divided into paragraphs .

The content of the annotation varies according to your assignment. An annotation can be descriptive, meaning it just describes the source objectively; evaluative, meaning it assesses its usefulness; or reflective, meaning it explains how the source will be used in your own research .

A source annotation in an annotated bibliography fulfills a similar purpose to an abstract : they’re both intended to summarize the approach and key points of a source.

However, an annotation may also evaluate the source , discussing the validity and effectiveness of its arguments. Even if your annotation is purely descriptive , you may have a different perspective on the source from the author and highlight different key points.

You should never just copy text from the abstract for your annotation, as doing so constitutes plagiarism .

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If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2022, August 23). What Is an Annotated Bibliography? | Examples & Format. Scribbr. Retrieved May 24, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/citing-sources/annotated-bibliography/

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“Annotated.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/annotated. Accessed 27 May. 2023.

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Origin of annotate

Other words from annotate, words nearby annotate, more about annotate, what does  annotate mean.

To annotate is to add notes or comments to a text or something similar to provide explanation or criticism about a particular part of it.

Such notes or comments are called annotations . Annotation can also refer to the act of annotating.

Annotations are often added to scholarly articles or to literary works that are being analyzed. But any text can be annotated. For example, a note that you scribble in the margin of your textbook is an annotation, as is an explanatory comment that you add to a list of tasks at work.

Something that has had such notes added to it can be described with the adjective annotated , as in This is the annotated edition of the book. 

Example: I like to annotate the books I’m reading by writing my thoughts in the margins.

Where does  annotate come from?

The first records of the word annotate come from the 1700s. ( Annotation is recorded much earlier, in the 1400s.) Annotate derives from the Latin annotātus, which means “noted down” and comes from the Latin verb annotāre. At the root of the word is the Latin nota, which means “mark” and is also the basis of the English word note.

Typically, text is annotated in order to add explanation, criticism, analysis, or historical perspective. The word can be used in more specific ways in different contexts. In an annotated bibliography , each citation is annotated with a summary or other information. In computer programming, strings of code can be annotated with explanatory notes. In genomics , gene sequences can be annotated with interpretations of genes and their possible functions. In all cases, the word refers to adding some kind of extra information to an existing thing.

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How is  annotate used in real life?

Annotate is most commonly used in the context of academic and literary works.

every time i annotate a book i think about how beautiful the reading experience will be for the next person but nobody ever borrows books from me so 😔 https://t.co/Uktg1BLIUo — mahnoor (@mahnewr_) July 26, 2020
When I read books, I analyze them completely. I annotate, I take notes—I try to communicate with the author. Doing this has shown dramatic improvement in retaining the information I read from the books. I also listen to ASMR ambiences, whether a crackling fireplace or a library. pic.twitter.com/Y4s69lHESb — Brice van der Post (@bricevdp) July 26, 2020
Human workers are needed to prepare data for #AI , annotate the datasets used to train AI models, monitor the performance of these models — and correct inaccurate predictions. Namrata Yadav examines. https://t.co/IXieNmjfkD — ORF (@orfonline) July 30, 2020

Try using  annotate !

Which of the following things can be annotated ?

A. a classic novel B. a scholarly article C. a grocery list D. all of the above

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How to use annotate in a sentence.

An AI trained to recognize cancer from a slew of medical scans, annotate d in yellow marker by a human doctor, could learn to associate “yellow” with “cancer.”

To make any sense of these images, and in turn, what the brain is doing, the parts of neurons have to be annotate d in three dimensions, the result of which is a wiring diagram.

This kind of labeling and reconstruction is necessary to make sense of the vast datasets in connectomics, and have traditionally required armies of undergraduate students or citizen scientists to manually annotate all chunks.

Once a video is annotate d with a topic, it is associated with IAB’s categories to be monetized.

You should annotate your reports to document these indexing bugs during the month of September through October 14th.

The latest $400 model has a reading light and a touch screen that allows you to annotate while reading.

Madame Beattie threw back her plumed head and laughed, the same laugh she had used to annotate the stories.

He read industriously for some time, occasionally pausing to annotate ; and once or twice he raised his head and listened.

He would annotate three hundred volumes for a page of facts.

To annotate it in detail would be to spoil its completeness.

His curiosity turning to admiration, he began to translate and annotate the most striking treatises that fell into his hands.

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  1. Annotated Definition & Meaning

    annotated: [adjective] provided with explanatory notes or comments.

  2. Annotate Definition & Meaning

    annotate: [verb] to make or furnish critical or explanatory notes or comment.


    annotated meaning: 1. past simple and past participle of annotate 2. to add a short explanation or opinion to a text…. Learn more.

  4. Annotated Definition & Meaning

    Annotated definition, supplied with or containing explanatory notes, textual comments, etc.: an annotated edition of Milton's poetry. See more.


    annotate meaning: 1. to add a short explanation or opinion to a text or image: 2. to add a description or piece of…. Learn more.

  6. Annotated Definition & Meaning

    Annotated definition: Simple past tense and past participle of annotate. .

  7. Annotation Definition & Meaning

    Annotation definition, a critical or explanatory note or body of notes added to a text. See more.

  8. 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 ...

  9. Annotated

    Define annotated. annotated synonyms, annotated pronunciation, annotated translation, English dictionary definition of annotated. v. an·no·tat·ed , an·no·tat·ing , an·no·tates v. tr. To furnish with critical commentary or explanatory notes; gloss. v. intr. To gloss a text....

  10. Annotated Definition

    Define Annotated. means that each proposed conclusion of law shall be accompanied by citation to statutory or case authority. Do not submit a proposed conclusion of law without citation to supporting authority. Because Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court cases are the only precedent binding on this court, the parties should — to the extent possible — rely on these sources.

  11. Annotation Definition & Meaning

    annotation: [noun] a note added by way of comment or explanation.

  12. 37 Synonyms & Antonyms of ANNOTATED

    Synonyms for ANNOTATED: interpreted, analyzed, explained, illustrated, clarified, simplified, commentated, demonstrated; Antonyms of ANNOTATED: clouded, confused ...


    annotated definition: 1. past simple and past participle of annotate 2. to add a short explanation or opinion to a text…. Learn more.

  14. Annotate Definition & Meaning

    Annotate definition, to supply with critical or explanatory notes; comment upon in notes: to annotate the works of Shakespeare. See more.

  15. Annotate

    annotate: 1 v add explanatory notes to or supply with critical comments "The scholar annotated the early edition of a famous novel" Synonyms: footnote Type of: compose , indite , pen , write produce a literary work v provide interlinear explanations for words or phrases "He annotated on what his teacher had written" Synonyms: comment , gloss ...

  16. Annotated definition and meaning

    Annotated definition: supplied with critical or explanatory notes | Meaning, pronunciation, translations and examples

  17. Historical Background on Free Speech Clause

    Home > Browse the Constitution Annotated > First Amendment—Fundamental Freedoms > Amdt1.7 Free Speech Clause > Amdt1.7.1 Historical Background on Free Speech Clause ... The Sedition Act of 1798 sparked one such controversy that crystallized a national awareness of the central meaning of the First Amendment. 8 Footnote

  18. Annotate Definition & Meaning

    annotate / ˈ ænəˌteɪt/ verb. annotates; annotated; annotating. Britannica Dictionary definition of ANNOTATE. [+ object] : to add notes or comments to (a text, book, drawing, etc.) He annotated the text at several places. annotate a list.

  19. Annotate

    Define annotate. annotate synonyms, annotate pronunciation, annotate translation, English dictionary definition of annotate. v. an·no·tat·ed , an·no·tat·ing , an·no·tates v. tr. To furnish with critical commentary or explanatory notes; gloss. ... "The scholar annotated the early edition of a famous novel" footnote. authorship, ...


    annotate definition: 1. to add a short explanation or opinion to a text or image: 2. to add a description or piece of…. Learn more.

  21. Annotation

    DNA annotation or genome annotation is the process of identifying the locations of genes and all of the coding regions in a genome and determining what those genes do. An annotation (irrespective of the context) is a note added by way of explanation or commentary.