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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.
- Citation Generator
- Style Guides
- Chicago/Turabian Format
Annotated Bibliography Examples & Step-by-Step Writing Guide
An annotated bibliography is a unique form of bibliography providing a short summary or analysis of sources. While creating an annotated bibliography shouldn’t be stressful, many students might find the process hard. Keep it simple by using this step-by-step annotated bibliography guide for perfect annotations in any style.
Table of Contents
- What Is an Annotated Bibliography
- How to Write an Annotated Bibliography
Annotated Bibliography Examples
- Use an Annotated Bibliography Generator
- Abstract vs. Annotations vs. Literature Review
What Is an Annotated Bibliography?
So, the big question in everyone’s minds is, what is an annotated bibliography? An annotated bibliography is a list of citations followed by a brief summary or analysis of your sources, aka annotations. The annotation gives information about the relevance and quality of the sources you cited through a 150-250 word description or interpretation of the source.
Why Write Annotations?
One of the main questions students have is what the purpose of an annotation is. Surprise, it’s not just for your teacher. Annotations help you, too. Many times, you create your reference list as you begin researching your topic. Since you summarize the source in an annotated bibliography, you start to delve into the topic more critically to collect the information for your annotations. This helps you better understand the subject and sources to help you create your thesis .
How to Write an Annotated Bibliography Step-by-Step
The creation of an annotated bibliography is a three-step process. It starts with evaluating sources to find the ones that will genuinely make your paper shine. You’ll then begin writing your annotation for each different source. The final step is to choose your citation style. Now that you know the three-step process, let’s check out each step in turn.
Step 1: Analysis of Sources
When it comes to an annotated bibliography, you have to critically look at your topic’s sources and research. Therefore, you need to look at the author’s qualifications and credentials, along with the date of the study itself. Since new thoughts and literary movements are happening all the time, you want to make sure the analysis and opinions you use are relevant to your topic and current times.
In addition to the author, make sure the publisher or journal where you found the research is distinguished and reviewed by professionals in the field. Research by an unknown or unreputable journal will not make a good source for your arguments or analysis. Other areas you’ll want to be aware of include:
- The intended audience
- Omissions of facts
- Opinions presented as truths
Critically analyzing all these different areas helps you evaluate if a source is credible , helpful to your project or research, and works to answer your thesis.
Step 2: Create Your Annotations
Now that you’ve used your critical academic eye to dive deep into your sources, it’s time to create annotations for them. Annotations aren’t one size fits all. Therefore, there are different ways you can create them, depending on your intent. You might choose to use descriptive, summary, or evaluation in your annotations or a combination of all three. Just remember to always include what your instructor asks for.
Descriptive or indicative annotations do just what they say. They describe the source. Indicative annotations give you a quick summary of the source and argument and describe the main points and even chapters within the source. See how this indicative annotation example in MLA works.
Zachs, Mitch. The Little Book of Stock Market Profits . John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
This book covers a wide variety of strategies used in the stock market throughout the years to improve performance. Insightful chapters within the text include “Understanding the Markets,” “Using Profits to Achieve Your Elusive Goals,” and “The Challenge of Investing.”
Summary annotations simply provide a summary of your different sources. Within them, you describe the main arguments or points along with the various topics covered. This is where you show why this source was essential and made it to your list. See an example of informative annotations at play.
Doerr, John. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World With OKRs . Penguin. 2018.
This book is written by Doerr, who is the chair of a venture capitalist group. The book describes how a business organization can use OKRs to drive a company’s focus through agility, which leads to explosive growth. These are first-person, behind-the-scenes case studies narrated by leaders like Bill Gates. This book helps guide understanding of the business management strategies that drive the success of large companies.
Your annotations might stop at summarizing, or you could take it a step further by evaluating the source. To do this, you want to compare and contrast it. Why did this one make the cut? Explain the overarching goal of the source and why it fits into your paper so well. Additionally, you want to look at the reliability of the information and any bias it might have. Dig deep into your source like in this example.
Wilson, John Philip. When the Texans Come: Missing Records from the Civil War in the Southwest. UNM Press, 2001.
Through primary resources like original letters, song lyrics, and casualty lists, the author, a historian-archeologist, provides a fresh narrative of the Civil War. The author dissects primary sources like witness testimony and original newspaper accounts to clearly understand the battles fought within the Civil War. It not only takes you through the major battles but the minor ones happening in the west to provide you a clear picture of the war. While it’s interesting to see the war through fresh eyes, it lacks in some areas due to its overarching look at the entirety of the war.
Annotations don’t have to just follow one specific format. You can combine all three types of annotations into your annotated bibliography. For example, you might spend a few lines describing and summarizing the work and end with an evaluation.
Writing Style for Annotations
Just like there are different types of annotations you can create, you can also use different writing styles. Annotations typically follow three specific formats depending on how long they are.
- Phrases – Short phrases providing the information in a quick, concise manner.
- Sentences – Write out complete sentences with proper punctuation and grammar. Be sure to keep sentences short and concise.
- Paragraphs – Longer annotations also break the information out into different paragraphs. This can be very effective for combination annotations.
Step 3: Annotated Bibliography Format
All annotated bibliographies have a title, annotation, and citation. While the annotation is the same for all, the way you create your title and citation varies based on your style. The three main bibliography styles used include MLA, APA, and Chicago.
Get examples of an annotated bibliography in each different style. Find a quick overview of when to use APA, MLA, and Chicago styles.
An APA annotated bibliography is used for science and technical papers. It includes an APA citation and APA formatting for headers and title.
An MLA annotated bibliography is the go-to style of high school and college students for language arts and humanities papers. This style uses MLA style citations and formatting like the surname and page number header.
Chicago style annotated bibliographies are a catch-all type of style with author-date and notes-bibliography citations. The citation used in Chicago style can vary by style, but the annotation remains the same.
How to Use an Annotated Bibliography Generator
When it comes to creating your annotated bibliography, you can use the annotated bibliography generator at Bibliography.com to make things easier. Get a step-by-step overview on how to create an annotated bibliography using Bibliography.com.
Creating your annotated bibliography through Bibliography.com’s annotation generator is as simple as that.
Difference Between Abstract, Annotation, and Literature Review
The difference between an abstract, literature review, and annotated bibliography can get a bit fuzzy, especially if you are new to the academic writing game. You know an annotation is a brief synopsis of your source. Explore how that differs from an abstract and a literature review.
What Is a Literature Review?
Like an annotated bibliography, literature reviews can be full papers, in their own right, or they can be incorporated into a school paper. Their purpose is to review and tie together previously published research to bolster a writer’s own thesis. The literature review also suggests ways to move the research forward or identifies gaps in the existing literature. Preparing a literature review helps students learn how to find and critically evaluate sources.
Purpose of an Abstract
The difference between an abstract and an annotated bibliography is abstracts are included as part of research papers. Their purpose is to inform an interested researcher about the topic, problem, methodology, findings, and conclusion of the research. This abstract helps students understand whether this source is a good one for their own school paper.
An abstract is written as a summary rather than to serve an evaluative purpose. No added material, such as explanations or further reading, are included in abstracts—usually, an abstract runs between 150 to 250 words. If you’re using APA style to format your research paper, you may need to include an abstract on the page following the title page.
Now that you know the difference between an abstract, annotated bibliography, and literature review, you have all the skills needed to create a perfect annotated bibliography.
Creating an Annotated Bibliography
Creating an annotated bibliography takes more work, but it can make you a better researcher. Just follow the steps for creating annotations and citations per your professor, and you’re ready for that A. Interested in learning more about research papers? Why not check out how to insert citations in Word quickly .
FAQ Annotated Bibliography Writing Guide With Examples
How do you write an annotated bibliography.
To write an annotated bibliography, you need to evaluate your source then write a summary, evaluation, or reflection of the source. Once your annotation is complete, you will create a citation for the source using the rules for APA, MLA, or Chicago style.
What are the 3 parts of an annotated bibliography?
The three different parts of an annotated bibliography include the title, annotation, and citation. The title and citation format will vary based on the style you use. The annotation can include a summary, evaluation, or reflection.
How long is an annotated bibliography?
The length of an annotated bibliography can vary from about 150-250 words. However, some annotations can be shorter for the Chicago style.
What should an annotated bibliography look like?
The look of an annotated bibliography includes a title, citations, and annotation. Each source has a citation and annotation throughout the entire annotated bibliography to provide an overview of the relevance of your sources for your teacher.
What are 3 types of annotations?
The 3 types of annotation include descriptive, summary, and evaluation. You can choose to use one of these or all three in your annotations for your bibliography.
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How to write a bibliography for a school project, tips on citing a poem in mla style, understanding citations vs. references.
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Annotated Bibliography Chart of Articles
The following image is a chart with headings: title/authors, research question, methods, results, and discussion/conclusion. This chart was used to separate each article into the above headings. By separating them in the columns, it was easier to compare them to each other and see the differences and similarities in them. This chart was a very useful organization tool in constructing my annotated bibliography because I had already listed the main points of each section of the articles.
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MLA Citation Guide (9th Edition): Annotated Bibliography
- What Kind of Source Is This?
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Annotated Bibliography Template
- MLA Annotated Bibliography Template
This sample annotated bibliography shows you the structure you should use to write an MLA annotated bibliography and gives examples of evaluative and summary annotations.
It can be used as a template to set up your assignment.
What is an Annotated Bibliography?
Useful Links for Annotated Bibliographies
- Annotated Bibliographies Overview of purpose and form of annotated bibliographies from the Purdue OWL.
- Annotated Bibliography Sample Sample annotations in an MLA and an APA annotated bibliography. From the Purdue OWL.
- Annotated Bibliography Breakdown An example of an MLA annotated bibliography. From the Purdue OWL.
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for various books, articles, and other sources on a topic. The annotated bibliography looks like a Works Cited 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 the document discusses, 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 MLA 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 and 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 Works Cited 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)
Sample Evaluative Annotation
London, Herbert. “Five Myths of the Television Age.” Television Quarterly , vol. 10, no. 1, Mar. 1982, pp. 81-69. Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: “seeing is believing”; “a picture is worth a thousand words”; and “satisfaction is its own reward.” London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He does not refer to any previous works on the topic. London’s style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly illustrates London’s points, but does not explore their implications leaving the reader with many unanswered questions.
"How to Write Annotated Bibliographies." Memorial University Libraries , www.library.mun.ca/researchtools/guides/writing/annotated_bibl/. Accessed 29 June 2016.
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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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An annotated bibliography provides an alphabetized list of sources with descriptive commentary. Each entry in the bibliography consists of a citation, in the citation style preferred by your discipline or reader(s), followed by 1-3 paragraphs (roughly 100-150 words total) that describe and evaluate that source.
What Is the Purpose of an Annotated Bibliography?
More than summaries, each entry should demonstrate your critical awareness of the sources related to the topic and their various connections. Consider the following “3 Cs”:
- Content: Provide a thorough summary of the source, including information about the author(s), the main points and/or the hypothesis or purpose of the study, the methods and data used, and the findings and implications.
- Comparison: Point out the comparisons and contradictions between and among sources—that is, what a source is saying or not saying about a particular topic and how it relates to other research sources you’ve found. Doing so demonstrates you know and can enter scholarly and scientific “conversations,” and it will position this source within those conversations.
- Commentary: Comment on the usefulness of each source to your particular topic and how it will help you communicate your ideas to a larger audience. For example, does it support or counter your argument and how so? does it provide background information? present useful data? offer new insights or a different perspective?
Important Questions to Ask about a Source
As you read your sources, consider the following questions. Your annotated bibliography should incorporate most, if not all, of the answers.
- What are the main points of the study or article?
- What method was used in the study?
- What are the results?
- What are the larger implications?
- Is the study reliable?
- In your opinion, was the study effective and why?
- How does it compare with your other sources?
- Was the study objective or biased?
- How does this article relate to your own research project?
- What does it add to your understanding of the issue?
Important Steps to Take When Analyzing Sources
When locating and analyzing sources, consider the following:
- Start with the abstract to get a general sense of the article and whether it’s valuable to understanding your own topic—If so, read on for deeper details, insights, and connections to other sources and your project.
- Look at the References or Bibliography page to find who an author(s) is citing—doing this can help you better understand the research conversations you’re entering.
- Pay attention to dates! Old articles are not necessarily bad, but make sure you’re aware of and reading up-to-date research.
In the first sample annotation below, the writer includes three paragraphs: a summary, an evaluation of the text, and a reflection on its applicability to his/her own research, respectively.
Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life . New York: Anchor Books, 1995. Print.
Lamott's book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecurities and failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters in Lamott's book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one's own internal critic. In the process, Lamott includes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun.
Lamott offers sane advice for those struggling with the anxieties of writing, but her main project seems to be offering the reader a reality check regarding writing, publishing, and struggling with one's own imperfect humanity in the process. Rather than a practical handbook to producing and/or publishing, this text is indispensable because of its honest perspective, its down-to-earth humor, and its encouraging approach.
Chapters in this text could easily be included in the curriculum for a writing class. Several of the chapters in Part 1 address the writing process and would serve to generate discussion on students' own drafting and revising processes. Some of the writing exercises would also be appropriate for generating classroom writing exercises. Students should find Lamott's style both engaging and enjoyable.
[Source for this example: Purdue Online Writing Lab ]
The annotation below both summarizes and connects the source to other sources. This particular annotation does not reflect on the source’s potential importance or usefulness for this person’s own research.
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.
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.
[Source for this example: Cornell University Library ]
Creating an Annotated Bibliography in APA Style
A bibliography is a list of source material, cited in whatever citation style you're required to use in a specific course.
An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation.
Put the two together and you have an Annotated Bibliography !
An annotated bibliography is an organizational tool . an annotated bibliography....
- Is an alphabetical list of all of your source material
- Includes sources you may or may not use in your research
- Summarizes each resource so you can remember what it's about
- Can include any type of resource unless specified in the assignment instructions (For an overview of the types of resources you can find through our library, view our description of resource types on our Evaluating Sources guide .)
Why must you do an Annotated Bibliography?
- If you're utilizing print resources through the library, you may not be able to renew items. How will you remember what the resource was about if you have to send it back?
- If you're utilizing electronic resources, nothing online is permanent. How will you find the resource again if it disappears?
- In larger projects, every resource starts to look the same. An Annotated Bibliography can save you time by reminding you of what you've already found.
What types of resources are used?
An Annotated Bibliography can include any type of resource unless otherwise specified by the assignment. This can include (but is not limited to):
- Scholarly materials
- Government documents
Annotated Bibliographies can be a great resource for students before they write other types of assignments, like literature reviews .
There are TWO PARTS to each entry in an Annotated Bibliography. They are:
- The citation of the resource , in whatever citation style you're required to use.
- The annotation describing the contents of the resource and how it may or may not contribute to your research.
Be sure to carefully read over the assignment instructions when you're asked to compose an Annotated Bibliography, and reach out to your professor with any questions!
Consult your course style guide to confirm the accuracy of your citation.
You can also...
- View our guide for APA Style Help .
- Consult resources like Academic Writer or Grammarly .
Focus on key areas of a text to learn enough so that you can write a strong annotation. This includes:
- Abstracts, prefaces, and summaries
- Paragraph headings
- Charts/graphs/images and their captions
- Introduction paragraph(s)
- Conclusion paragraph(s)
These areas will provide you with enough information to determine the topic, arguments, and conclusions drawn from any research presented.
A strong annotation will have three main parts:
Length requirements can vary from a few sentences to a single paragraph or a full page. Be sure to verify length requirements with your professor and/or through the assignment instructions.
When writing the summary, ask yourself:
- What topics are covered in the resource?
- What are the main arguments?
- What are the main conclusions drawn from the resource?
When writing the assessment, ask yourself:
- Is the source useful?
- How does it compare to your other resources?
- Is there bias present?
- Is the source reliable?
Our guide for Evaluating Your Sources can help you assess your research material.
When writing the reflection, ask yourself:
- How does the source fit into your research?
- How might the source support your argument?
- Did the source change your mind about the topic?
Sample APA Style citation with annotation:
Bell, C., & Holder, M. (2019, January/February). The Interrelationship between Race, Social Norms, and Dietary Behaviors among College-attending
Women. American Journal of Health Behavior , 43 (1), 23-36.
This article examines a study conducted to compare racial identity and dietary habits of women on college campuses. The findings of the
study found that women with perceived differences and social/family norms were more likely to develop unhealthy dietary habits in college,
most specifically related to fruit and vegetable consumption. This resource is useful because it examines self-perception of race and how that
can impact behavior in ways that influence one's health in the future.
View a full example in APA Style:
- Annotated Bibliography Example- APA Style A full Annotated Bibliography formatted in APA Style. Users, please verify that formatting matches your course style guide's requirements.
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Conducting a Literature Review
- Creating an Annotated Bibliography
- The Research Process
- Finding Books
- Finding Journal Articles
- Finding Theses and Dissertations
- Writing a Literature Review
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, documents and other resources. 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.
- Annotated Bibliographies Guide from the OWL Offers information about bibliographies, annotations, and how they are useful for your research.
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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / Citation Basics / Annotated Bibliography Format & Examples
Annotated Bibliography Format & Examples
A complete guide to the mla & apa annotated bibliography.
If you’ve just received an assignment that requires an MLA or APA annotated bibliography, you may be wondering where to start. This guide will help answer all of your questions and includes step-by-step instructions on how to do an annotated bibliography in MLA style, as well as an APA annotated bibliography. You will also find sample annotated bibliographies, real-life examples, and opportunities to practice what you have learned.
The MLA ( Modern Language Association ) and APA (American Psychological Association) are not associated with this guide. All of the information provided here, however, offers direction for students and researchers who use these citation styles in their work.
The structures and annotated bibliography templates on this page were created by the in-house librarians at EasyBib.com.
If you’re simply looking for an example of an annotated bibliography (both in MLA format and APA format), scroll down toward the bottom of the page. We’ve included links to visuals for those of you who need help with the structure and styling of an annotated bibliography. If you’re looking for a variety of annotated bibliography topics, and you’re truly searching for the answer to, “What is an annotated bibliography?” then continue reading!
Here’s a run-through of everything this page includes:
Table of contents
What is an annotated bibliography, annotations vs. abstract, why include annotations.
- Step 1: Analyze your sources
Step 2: Write the descriptions
- Step 3a: Formatting an MLA style annotated bibliography
- Step 3b: Formatting an APA style annotated bibliography
Annotated Bibliography Templates
Using the easybib annotation tool.
A bibliography is a complete list of the sources that were used to complete a research paper or project.
Depending on the style guide you follow, you may also see this called a Works Cited (also called an MLA bibliography) or Reference List (APA format). Each listed source, or citation , shares information about the author, title, publishing year, and other details that serve to credit the original authors whose work informed your research. These details also help other students and researchers find and read the source materials.
When your research is related to a scholastic assignment, you should always verify your instructor’s requirements for the types and number of sources to include, as well as the style you should adhere to when formatting your paper and bibliography.
An MLA annotated bibliography and an APA format annotated bibliography are bibliographies that include a concise explanation, or annotation , of each listed source. Depending on the assignment, this annotation may be solely descriptive, or analytical.
An abstract and annotation should not be confused; they differ in both their substance as well as their placement in a paper.
- Usually found in bibliographies at the end of a paper
- Are subjective
- Purpose is to summarize and evaluate . It should briefly communicate the work’s main point, but also discuss the background of the author or study, and the strengths/weaknesses of the work.
- Usually found in journal databases or the beginning of a paper
- Are objective
- Purpose is to summarize . It should provide a short overview of the article and communicate the main points and themes.
If you would like to learn more , this link further explores the difference between an abstract and an annotation.
This resource provides additional information on how to write a bibliography with annotations in other formats. You can also take advantage of the plagiarism checker and bibliography tools that come with EasyBib Plus to help you create your reference lists.
Before you learn how to make an annotated bibliography, you may be wondering why you need to.
Sometimes instructors want you to create and include annotations in your bibliography, either as part of an assignment or as an assignment unto itself. Understanding the purpose of this approach to your reference list can help to ensure that you gain all of the benefits that the annotated bibliography process provides.
As a student, this method will help you develop or hone your research skills, providing you with practice not only in locating sources but also in analyzing and evaluating them for relevance and quality.
Your instructor will gain insight into your research abilities, as well, allowing them to assess your work more thoroughly. If you plan to publish your research, this comprehensive approach to detailing your sources will provide readers and other researchers with a substantial directory of resources to evaluate for their own work.
Whether you’re publishing or submitting your annotated bibliography, make sure your spelling and wording is correct! If you need to brush up on any parts of speech topics, check out our interjection , determiner , and adverb pages!
Step 1: Analyze your sources
Each annotation should be a summarization or analysis of your source. If you have been tasked with writing annotations as part of a research paper or project, begin to create both the citation and notes on the source while you identify and analyze your sources.
Not only will this approach help you to hone your research skills and identify sources that are relevant and useful for your topic, but you will also save time. When done in this manner, both your citations and annotations will be nearly complete before you begin to write the body of your paper.
Analyzing your potential sources requires a two-pronged approach that first evaluates the author, publication, and date, and then examines the content.
When conducting your initial assessment of the source, consider some of the following questions to guide your appraisal:
- What qualifies the author to write on this subject?
- Is the author affiliated with a reputable institution in this field?
- Is the author credentialed or otherwise considered an expert in this field?
- Is this source current?
- Is this the most recent edition?
- Is the publisher reputable?
- Is the journal reputable?
Once your primary evaluation is complete, you will move on the assessing the content itself. Consider some of these elements as you review each source:
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the author presenting her opinion or interpretation as the truth, or stating facts?
- What supporting evidence does the author provide?
- Did the author perform the research, or curate and present the research of others?
- If the author used the research of others, are the sources the author cites credible?
- Are there errors or omissions of fact?
- Is the author writing objectively and without bias?
Also, consider the value each source provides to you:
- Is the information helpful for your particular assignment?
- Does it help answer your research question(s)?
- Is this source different from your other sources, or does it repeat information you already have?
- Is the source providing you with a different perspective on your topic, or changing your beliefs or thinking about your subject?
To make it easier for you to create your reference page, write your notes in the format you will be using when you construct this part of the assignment (for instance, as short phrases or complete sentences). Once you have identified all of the sources you wish to include, you will merely need to insert what you have already written on the page and write your citation, which is explained in the next section.
Click here for additional information and a supplementary annotated bibliography sample. For an MLA bibliography example (with annotations), check out our visual example of an MLA annotated bibliography .
An annotated bibliography entry may be written either as short phrases or complete sentences. Your instructor will advise you of which approach you are required to take.
Annotations should include either:
- The main points from the source, as well as the topics covered, the approach used, and any findings.
- Or your critical evaluation.
- A standard annotation is approximately one paragraph.
- Take care not to include any unnecessary details, as the goal is to summarize each source as succinctly as possible and, in some cases, evaluate them.
- Your field of study or instructor will determine what format your annotated bibliography will use. In this guide, you’ll find examples of an MLA and an APA annotated bibliography.
Here is an annotated bibliography example MLA annotation for the book The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by UK author and blogger Mark Forsyth:
The author, Mark Forsyth, examines the rhetorical devices used in the English language, analyzing the patterns and formats that create memorable quotes. He traces the history of rhetoric to the Ancient Greeks, and provides an abridged timeline, following their use and evolution through to modern day. The author also explores the broader subject of persuasion and maps out the role that the figures of rhetoric play in it. In all, he examines over thirty devices, dissecting notable passages and phrases from pop music, the plays of William Shakespeare, the Bible, and more to explore the figures of rhetoric at work within each of them. Thorough definitions accompany this examination of structure to demonstrate how these formulas have been used to generate famously memorable expressions as well as how to reproduce their effects.
Notice how the annotated bibliography MLA entry above is descriptive enough so the reader has an idea of what the source is about with just a single paragraph. For more information on annotations, check out this informative site . If you’re looking to strengthen your writing in general, reading these grammar guides could be a good start.
For guidance on creating entries in MLA format , APA format , and more styles , check out the EasyBib library of resources or try the EasyBib annotation tool—we talk about it below!
Step 3a: MLA annotated bibliography format
The MLA Style Center and the current edition of the MLA Handbook provide the following guidance for formatting an MLA annotated bibliography:
- Title your reference page as “Annotated Bibliography” or “Annotated List of Works Cited.”
- Place each annotation after its reference.
- Annotations should typically not exceed a single paragraph.
- Annotations should be indented one inch from the start of your citation.
- Double-space all text on the page.
- 1-inch margins around the page.
Sources in an annotated bibliography can be organized alphabetically by the first word in each reference (as with a normal Works Cited page), by publication date, or by subject.
For a visual example of an annotated bibliography, as well as specific annotation examples, visit the MLA annotated bibliography guide .
If you are required to share your references in a manner other than in MLA bibliography format, the EasyBib style guides can help you with many common styles. While you’re at it, check out their conjunction , preposition , and pronoun pages to help keep your paper in mint condition!
Step 3b: APA annotated bibliography format
The American Psychological Association states that your instructor should set the guidelines for your annotated bibliography, but asks that the bibliography be formatted according to their standard reference page rules (see Section 9.51 of the Publication Manual ). If your teacher has requested an APA formatted annotated bibliography, first ask them for guidelines. Otherwise, here are some quick rules for you to follow:
- Double space all text on the page.
- Title your page “Annotated Bibliogra phy”. Bold and center the title.
- Organize references alphabetically by the first word of each reference.
- Only the first line of a ref erence is flush with the left margin. Any other lines after the first line should be indented ½ inch from the left.
- Add annotations on the next line after their paired reference.
- Fully indent annotations by a ½ inch from the left.
- Keep annotations short. No more than one paragraph.
For examples of a properly formatted APA annotation, visit this guide on APA annotated bibliographies .
In comparison to the sample annotated bibliography MLA, the APA sample formats its page elements and references differently.
Students and researchers who type their research notes can save time by using an annotated bibliography template in MLA format while reviewing and analyzing sources. By adding the relevant information into a pre-formatted template, you’ll create a resource that helps you when you begin writing your paper in addition to saving time by completing your references and summaries alongside your research.
Students who prefer to take notes by hand can employ a modified version of this approach, with an additional step required to transfer your handwritten and formatted references from your notebook to populate your reference page.
Bibliography Template for MLA
To create an annotated bibliography MLA template, copy the following details into the program in which you will take notes or hand write it on the top margin of a page in your notebook. For each source, use this template to guide you as you identify the necessary details and insert them into your notes:
- Author (Last name, First name).
- Title of source.
- Title of the container ,
- Other contributors (names and roles),
- Publication Date,
- Location of the source (such as URL or page range).
- Summary or Analysis.
The MLA 9 model for MLA works cited entries offers a single format for all source type, and a great deal of flexibility to include the information most relevant to your topic and omit that which isn’t.
Hopefully our visual annotated bibliography example in MLA above has helped. If you still have lingering questions, visit the MLA Style Center online ( linked here ). Also, here’s a guide if you’re looking for more on the related topic of MLA in-text & parenthetical citations .
Bibliography Template for APA
Students and researchers who are still asking themselves how to piece together an annotated bibliography, or still questioning what is an annotated bibliography, could probably benefit from a template, similar to the one above. This one, however, is for those of you who are tasked with creating an annotated bibliography in the style created by the American Psychological Association.
The tricky thing about this specific style though, is that every reference is styled differently. Books, websites, journal articles, newspaper articles, and many others each have their own reference structure.
For most sources though, you should look for the following, basic information:
- Type of source
- Author (last name, first name)
- Title of source/article/web page, etc.
- Title of where source was found (e.g., database name, website name, etc.)
- Other contributors (names and roles)
- Location of the source (such as URL, DOI, or page range)
- Summary or Analysis
We understand it can get tricky, and it’s very different from the Modern Language Association’s structure for references. Take a moment to either use the other handy guides on EasyBib.com or use our automatic generator to form your references in just a few clicks. Our tools help take the pain away from having to rack your brain to form references properly. Capitals, lowercase letters, italics, quotation marks, punctuation in the appropriate places, it can all be quite overwhelming. Do yourself a favor, and use the EasyBib automatic citation generator.
Even though there are a lot of different variations, here’s a commonly used structure for sources:
Author’s Last Name, First initial, Middle initial. (Year the source was published). Title of the source . Retrieved from (insert the website address here)
Underneath the reference, include your summary or analysis paragraph.
Hopefully, this page helped answer all of your “What is an annotated bibliography?” questions. If you’re seeking out an annotated bibliography generator, follow the steps above the annotated bibliography examples.
Looking for additional help with other related topics? Don’t forget about the various beneficial guides on EasyBib.com! Our APA in-text citation guide and our APA parenthetical citation guide are two of our most popular pages. Learn the ins and outs of referencing your work in the body of your paper with our thorough, complete, and reader-friendly guides.
If you are creating a bibliography in MLA format, the EasyBib MLA bibliography generator can help save you time formatting your citations and annotations correctly. You can create entries for websites, books, videos, databases, dictionary articles, and many other types of sources.
In addition to forming the citations, you can also enter your annotation text to produce the complete entry for each source. The process for this is simple. You can follow along below to practice creating one:
- First, select your source type from among the 50+ available options. For this example, we will use the acting career of Keanu Reeves as our research topic and use the movie Point Break from 1991 as our first source. To cite this film, you would select the option for “Film/Online Video.” As you follow along, pick the option that is suitable for your source if you are using a different example.
- Enter the title of your source or, if you are citing a website, you may enter the URL. (Now would be a great time to peek at how to cite websites in MLA ). After you enter the title or URL for your reference, the EasyBib citation tool will scan for titles that match it and provide you with a list of results. Select “Cite this” next to the listing that matches your source.
- You will see a citation form. This gives you the option to add additional relevant or necessary information. For our sample topic, we will specifically cite Keanu Reeves as the performer and Kathryn Bigelow as the director.
- After entering any additional details, you have the option to expand your entry and include an annotation. To do so, select “Add annotation” at the bottom of the page, and a text box will open up.
Then, type your summary or analysis into the text box. If you took notes during the research stage using the format of your paper, this might be as simple as copying and pasting your already written summary or critique. Once you have entered all of the necessary information, select “Create citation” to generate the complete entry. You can then copy and paste this into your MLA bibliography.
Here’s what it’ll look like:
Point Break . Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, performance by Keanu Reeves, 20th Century Fox, 1991.
Reeves’ role as rookie FBI Agent Johnny Utah in Point Break marks the turning point in his Hollywood film career. While he’d risen to fame due to the success of the Bill and Ted franchise, his status today as an action star began when Point Break provided him with the material to establish himself as capable of portraying more than the lovable but unserious characters of his previous starring roles. In a parallel arc, director Kathryn Bigelow’s career also sees a shift beginning with Point Break , establishing her within the traditional action genre as a serious director capable of creating high-action and visually memorable films. While Point Break leaves plenty to be desired in terms of dialogue, it afforded Bigelow and Reeves the opportunities to showcase themselves and their talent in new ways that still echo in their work today.
- Works Cited
Harner, James L. On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography . 2nd ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2000.
MLA Handbook . 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . 7th ed., American Psychological Association, 2020.
“What Guidance Should I Give My Students for Preparing an Annotated Bibliography?” The MLA Style Center , The Modern Language Association, 4 Nov. 2016, style.mla.org/annotated-bibliographies/.
Visit our EasyBib Twitter feed to discover more citing tips, fun grammar facts, and the latest product updates.
Published October 18, 2015. Updated July 25, 2021.
Written and edited by Michele Kirschenbaum and Elise Barbeau. Michele Kirschenbaum is a school library media specialist and is the in-house librarian at EasyBib.com. Elise Barbeau is the Citation Specialist at Chegg. She has worked in digital marketing, libraries, and publishing.
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An annotated bibliography is a list containing complete information of sources, such as journals, books, and reports, cited in the text. In addition, it provides a brief description of each source in about 100–150 words. The annotation can explain the topics covered in the source or evaluate the source. The main objective of giving the annotation is to provide the reader the importance, accuracy, and value of the source.
An example of an annotated bibliography in APA style is given below.
Lim, L. (2014). Ideology, rationality and reproduction in education: A critical discourse analysis. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 35 (1), 61–76. https://doi:10.1080/01596306.2012.739467
Lim (2014) focuses on issues of power and ideology dominant in curricular discourses of rationality to study a discourse analysis of the goals of one of the most important curricula in the teaching of thinking. He proves that political and class commitments are reproduced in the forms of thinking that are valued in societies. Through his research, Lim asserts that such curricula engage in making our understanding of what thinking and rationality are. It must facilitate the social reproduction of a specific proportion of the middle class.
If you want to evaluate or provide a description of a source you are citing, you can create an annotated bibliography. Write your annotation in 100–150 words and add it below the source for which you are providing your annotation. Remember, your annotation should provide the reader the importance, accuracy, and value of the source. Below are the guidelines and rules to be followed while writing an annotated bibliography for APA style:
Order your reference entries in alphabetical order, similar to how you would order entries in the reference list.
If you want to add an annotation to an entry, add it as a fresh paragraph below the reference entry. The annotation is indented 0.5 inches from the left margin. However, the first line of the annotation is not indented.
To format the annotated bibliography, follow the recommendations given below:
Set the left, right, top, and bottom margins to 1 inch.
Give double-line spacing.
Title the page “Annotated Bibliography.” Set it in bold.
The title should be aligned to the center of the page.
As you format reference entries, left-align all references in the annotated bibliography section. If any entry runs over more than a line, indent the subsequent lines 0.5 inch from the left margin.
Arrange all reference entries alphabetically according to the surname of the authors.
Provide your annotations below the reference entry for which you want to give your annotation. Indent annotations 0.5 inches from the left margin.
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