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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography: Home

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography resembles a works cited page, reference list, or bibliography because it will list properly cited sources about a topic in alphabetical order by author last name or source title.  What makes it different than these is the inclusion of annotations written by you below each citation in the list.

There are two main types of Annotations:

  1. Summary Annotations in which the writer identities the main arguments, topics, and conclusions of the source and summarizes them in your own words without quoting the source.  No evaluation is done.
  2. Critical/Evaluative Annotations in which the writer starts with the same content as a summary annotation, but looks more critically at the biases, evidence, etc., of the source and the author.  Examination of the author's expertise can be done as part of this.  The writer then explains how the source will be useful in their own research project.

The type you use will depend upon your professor's assignment.  Check with them about what type of information they would like to see in the annotations.

Steps to Writing an Annotated Bibliography

  1. Consider which sources would be the most useful for your topic.  You do not need to include everything especially things that demonstrate the same types of information.
    1. Consider how it relates to your topic, is it general summary or original research?
    2. How current is the information?
  2. Create citations for your sources, check to make sure they are correct, use the Citation Help link below to create or check your citations.
  3. Select the type of annotation you are going to write up, consult your professor to be sure of what is required.
  4. Read each source and identify arguments and conclusions.
  5. Identify what type of source you are using, ex: newspaper, photograph, infographic, journal article, etc., as part of your annotation. 
  6. Summarize the source and author's point of view.  If you are only doing summary annotations, this is the final step.
  7. Examine the source for credibility.  Research the author or authors for biases and expertise. Examine and evaluate their evidence and conclusions.  Are they valid? 
  8. Reflect on the source.  How does it relate to your research?  How can you use it?

Additional Resources

Click to See Guidelines for Specific Citation Styles

APA Style

Format Rules:

  • APA (7th edition) recommend short descriptions of the source as guidelines for the annotation content.  It does allow for multiple paragraph annotations.
  • Annotations should be a separate paragraph indented 0.5" much like a block quote
  • Content of annotations can be summary or critical/evaluative
    • APA examples do show comparisons of sources within annotations.
  • Ultimately, you should follow your professor's guidelines for length and content.

Example:

Smith, J. (2010). A brief history of clowns. New York: Circus Press.

This book examines the history of the clown throughout history.  The author touches briefly on clowns in ancient and early modern history. This offers much stronger coverage of clown history in medieval times and from the 19th century to the present.  The author contends that clowns have served as comic relief for centuries as well as serving as the earliest form of satire and political commentary.  It is only with changing technologies and political freedoms that they have lost this important role.

 

Information based upon the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th edition.

Chicago Style

Format Rules

  • Chicago Style has no set standards for length
    • If your annotations one sentence or less they should be put in brackets. 
    • Most annotations are brief paragraphs and the entire annotation should be indented 0.5" like a block quote.
  • Annotations can be summary or critical/evaluative.
  • Ultimately, you should follow your professor's guidelines for length and content.

Example:

Smith, John. A Brief History of Clowns. New York: Circus Press, 2010.

This book examines the history of the clown throughout history.  The author touches briefly on clowns in ancient and early modern history. This offers much stronger coverage of clown history in medieval times and from the 19th century to the present.  The author contends that clowns have served as comic relief for centuries as well as serving as the earliest form of satire and political commentary.  It is only with changing technologies and political freedoms that they have lost this important role.

 

Information based upon the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition and A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 9th edition by Kate L. Turabian. 

CSE Format

Format Rules:

  • CSE Format annotations should be indented 0.5" as a block quote.
  • It offers no recommendations on length or type of content.
  • Ultimately, you should follow your professor's guidelines for length and content.

Example in name-year:

Smith J. 2010. A brief history of clowns. New York (NY): Circus Press.

This book examines the history of the clown throughout history.  The author touches briefly on clowns in ancient and early modern history. This offers much stronger coverage of clown history in medieval times and from the 19th century to the present.  The author contends that clowns have served as comic relief for centuries as well as serving as the earliest form of satire and political commentary.  It is only with changing technologies and political freedoms that they have lost this important role.

 

Information based upon Scientific Style and Format by Council of Science Editors, 8th edition.

MLA Style

Format Rules:

MLA Style recommends

  • Title the list Annotated Bibliography or Annotated List of Works Cited.
  • If annotations are only one sentence align them to the left margin.
  • If longer than one sentence, put a space between the citation and the annotation and indent the first line as you would a paragraph, but align the annotation to the left margin.  Annotations should be no longer than a paragraph.
  • Annotations do not need to be double spaced unless the paper is double spaced.
  • Annotations should cover the main point, not details or specifics.
  • Annotations can be summary or critical/evaluative.
  • Ultimately, you should follow your professor's guidelines for length and content.

Example:

Smith, John. A Brief History of Clowns. Circus Press, 2010.

      This book examines the history of the clown throughout history.  The author touches briefly on clowns in ancient and early modern history. This offers much stronger coverage of clown history in medieval times and from the 19th century to the present.  The author contends that clowns have served as comic relief for centuries as well as serving as the earliest form of satire and political commentary.  It is only with changing technologies and political freedoms that they have lost this important role.

 

Information based upon the MLA Handbook, 8th edition

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