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Annotated Bibliography

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:

What does an annotated bibliography look like?

Each entry in an annotated biliography has two components: 

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

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

Surveying the sources

Take notes on your selected texts as you read. Pay attention to:

Evaluate and ask questions as you read

Record evaluations in your notes and consider:

How should I write the annotations?

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.

Sample annotation  

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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<strong>Annotated</strong> <strong>Bibliography</strong> <strong>The</strong> <strong>Learning</strong> <strong>Centre</strong> • http://www.lc.unsw.edu.au <strong>The</strong> advice in this brochure is a general guide only. We strongly recommend that you also follow your assignment instructions and seek clarification from your lecturer/tutor if needed. What is an <strong>Annotated</strong> <strong>Bibliography</strong>? An annotated bibliography provides a brief account <strong>of</strong> the available research on a given topic. It is a list <strong>of</strong> research sources that includes concise descriptions and evaluations <strong>of</strong> each source. <strong>The</strong> annotation usually contains a brief summary <strong>of</strong> 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. An annotated bibliography may be a component <strong>of</strong> a larger assignment or it may be a stand-alone assignment. While an annotation can be as brief as one sentence, the standard annotated bibliography consists <strong>of</strong> a citation followed by a short paragraph. An example is provided on the next page. Purpose <strong>of</strong> an <strong>Annotated</strong> <strong>Bibliography</strong> Depending on your specific assessment, an annotated bibliography may serve to: • • review the literature <strong>of</strong> a particular subject; demonstrate the quality and depth <strong>of</strong> reading that you have done; • exemplify the scope <strong>of</strong> sources available—such as journals, books, web sites and magazine articles; • highlight sources that may be <strong>of</strong> interest to other readers and researchers; Which writing style should I use in the annotations? • explore and organise sources for further research. • Each annotation should be concise. Do not write too When set as an assignment, an annotated bibliography allows much—remember, you are writing a summary, not you to get acquainted with the material available on a particular an essay. Annotations should not extend beyond topic. one paragraph unless otherwise stipulated in your assignment guidelines. As this is not an extended Questions to Consider piece <strong>of</strong> writing, only mention significant and relevant details. You need to consider carefully the texts that you select for your • Any information apparent in the title <strong>of</strong> the text or annotated bibliography. Keep the following questions in mind journal can be omitted from the annotation. to help clarify your choices. • Background materials and references to previous 1. What topic/ problem am I investigating? work by the same author usually are not included. 2. What question(s) am I exploring? Identify the aim <strong>of</strong> As you are addressing one text at a time, it is not your literature research. usually necessary to cross reference to support your 3. What kind <strong>of</strong> material am I looking at and why? Am I annotation. looking for journal articles, reports, policies or primary • In-text citations would usually only be necessary for historical data? quotations. 4. Am I being judicious in my selection <strong>of</strong> texts? Does • Unless otherwise stipulated, you should write in full each text relate to my research topic and assignment sentences using academic vocabulary. requirements? • Refer to the <strong>Learning</strong> <strong>Centre</strong>’s online 5. What are the essential or key texts on my topic? Am guides for I finding them? Are the sources valuable or <strong>of</strong>ten referred to in other texts? more academic writing strategies.

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Charles Sturt University

ITC571 Research Skills Guide: Home


Welcome to the ITC571 Research Skills Guide.

This guide is designed to make your research process easier.

It focuses on:

If you would like a refresher about other library skills, such as sources of information, using Primo and Google Scholar, evaluating information, and more, head over to the ITC506 Research Skills Guide  or the MGT501 Research Skills Guide .

If you need help with anything library or research related, please get in touch with the library.

Wishing you the best for the study ahead.

Lauren Hookham

Charles Sturt Librarian

Search Skills Demonstration

I've put together a Class Recording that focuses on search strategies and techniques you'll find useful for your work in ITC571. Use the arrow at the bottom of the screen to "watch in Panopto" and see the section headings to jump around in the recording.

Recommended Reading

Mack, C. A. (2018). How to write a good scientific paper. Retrieved from https://spie.org/samples/9781510619142.pdf

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We would love to know how this guide helps you with research in this subject! Your feedback helps us to improve our content and delivery.

All responses are anonymous. This survey should take no longer than 3 mins to complete.

Acknowledgement of Country

Charles Sturt University is an Australian University, TEQSA Provider Identification: PRV12018. CRICOS Provider: 00005F.

Annotated bibliographies

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Annotated Bibliographies

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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 .

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

Why should I write an annotated bibliography?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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