An annotated bibliography gives an overview of any research on a given topic. It is typically a list of all the research sources, taking the form of any citation from each source. It is followed by an annotation, a short paragraph summarising and evaluating the source. It can be a stand-alone assignment or even a larger assignment.


How to Write an Annotated Bibliography



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Purpose of Annotated Bibliography-


If set as an assignment, it allows you to get acquainted with the available material on any topic.


Your annotated bibliography may have the following features depending on your assignment type:

  • Review of the literature on any particular subject
  • Demonstrating the depth and quality of the reading
  • Exemplifying the scope of the available sources like books, journals, articles, magazines, websites, etc.
  • Highlighting the sources that might draw the interest of your readers
  • Organizing and exploring the sources for further research


Also Read: How to Write an Essay in MLA Format?


How Does an Annotated Bibliography Look?


Each entry in an annotated bibliography has 2 components- A bibliographic citation, which is followed by a short paragraph or annotation. This paragraph includes a concise description and evaluation of each of the sources.


An annotation usually contains a brief content summary with a short analysis per your given assignment. You need to summarise, reflect, critique, analyze or evaluate each of the sources. An annotation can be as small as a single sentence or even a paragraph.


For example, in any normal bibliography or list, an annotated bibliography is typically arranged in alphabetical order to the author’s last name.


The summary of any annotated bibliography needs to be 100 to 200 words in length per citation. Here, you need to check with your tutor or lecturer as these specifications vary as per faculties or institutes. You also need to check with your faculty regarding the elements your annotation should include.


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Annotated Bibliography Format: APA, MLA and Chicago


Always ensure that your annotation bibliography is well formatted as per the styles and guidance of your professor. 3 commonest types of annotated bibliography Format are as follows:

  • APA
  • MLA
  • Chicago


APA style: Here, both the reference entries and annotation must be left-aligned and spaced. The reference entry needs to have a hanging indent. This annotation follows the next line, and the entire annotation must be indented to match the hanging indent. The 1st line of the additional para needs to be indented one more time. The APA Citation Generator usually formats the annotations while you download your bibliography.


MLA style: The annotated bibliography and the annotation are left-aligned and double-spaced. The “Works Cited” entry has a hanging indent. The annotation itself is 1 inch indented, which is twice as far as the hanging indent.


If there are 2 or more paras, the 1st line of each para is indented with an additional half inch in your annotation. But this needs to be done in case there is only one para. Using the “MLA Citation Generator” will format your annotation correctly while downloading your bibliography.


Chicago style: Here, the annotated bibliography is an entry that must be single-spaced and show a hanging indent. The annotation needs to be double-spaced, indented and left-aligned. The first line of each additional para needs to be indented once more.


Must Read: Paragraph Structure: How to Write Strong Paragraphs?


How to Write an Annotated Bibliography? Example and Types


Steps in writing an annotated bibliography


  • Choosing your sources: Locate and record the citations to the sources of the research work that contain all the useful information as well as ideas on the given topic.
  • Review all these sites you collected in your search word.
  • Write all your citations in the correct style or format.
  • Write the annotation perfectly.


Questions You Need To Consider While Selecting the Sources


Sources of your annotated bibliography need to be selected carefully. It would help if you started by reading the abstracts or gusting in order to help you identify and choose the relevant sources.


Here, it would help if you remembered that while the annotated bibliographies are commonly “stand-alone” assignments, they can also be preliminary research on any particular topic or issue. It can also be a further research of a longer literature review, which can be followed. Always try to select sources that can comprehensively review any given topic together.


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Necessary Questions that are to be Borne in Mind Here are as Follows


  • What topic or problem am I investing in?
  • What are the questions I am exploring here?
  • What type of material I am looking for and why? Am I looking for articles, journals, sites, etc.?
  • Am I judicious in selecting my sources? Does each of the sources relate to my given topic?
  • Are a range of sources selected by me?
  • Am I choosing sources that are very relevant and adherent to my research topic?
  • What are the main works of my topic? Am I finding them abundantly? Are the sources I selected truly valuable?


Do a Proper Survey of the Sources


  • Take down the notes selected by you as text and keep them well
  • Adapt a theoretical approach
  • Figure out what parts of the given topic are to be covered
  • Main findings or points of the topic
  • Your own position or argument


Evaluate and Ask the Question


  • Record the evaluations in your notes.
  • How effectively does the source address your topic
  • Is it covering the topic quite thoroughly, or is any one particular aspect
  • Are the research methods really appropriate
  • Are the arguments reasonable
  • Where is the writing done in relation to the other studies?
  • Do they agree with you contradict


Looking for Assessment Solution: Find Questions and Answers


How Do You Write the Annotations?


  • Each annotation needs to be concise. It should be at most 1 paragraph.
  • You need to write a brief summary with an outline of all the previously discussed arguments. Only mention details of the relevant points.
  • Any extra information in the title can be omitted from your annotation.
  • The background materials and the references to the previous work by the same author are not included.
  • Since you are addressing 1 text at a time, you do not need to cross the reference or use the in-text citations to support your annotation.
  • Find out the referencing style you use in the bibliographic citations.
  • The in-text citations are necessary for the quotations or drawing attention to the relevant information.
  • Otherwise, you need to write in full sentences using major academic vocabulary.


Contents of the Annotated Bibliography


  • Providing full bibliographic citation.
  • Indicating the background of the author
  • Indicating the scope or content of the text
  • Outlining the main arguments
  • Indicating the intended audiences
  • Indicating the research methods
  • Identifying the author’s conclusions
  • Discussing the text reliability
  • Highlight any special features like diagrams, sketches, graphs, etc.
  • Discuss the usefulness of your research.
  • Figure out how your text citations relate to the themes of your study course.
  • Write about the strengths and limitations
  • Present your own view in your text


Types of Annotated Bibliography


Types of Annotated Bibliography


  • Descriptive Annotations: when writing an assignment about summarizing and gathering information, focus only on each source’s key arguments and methods.
  • Evaluative Annotations: If the assignment is about evaluating the sources, you must assess the effectiveness and validity of the methods and arguments.
  • Reflective Annotations: If your assignment is a major part of a larger research process, the usefulness and relevance of the process need to be considered in your research.


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Examples of Annotated Bibliography


Ex. Of MLA annotation: “Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor Books, 1995.”

Lamott’s book offers good advice on the nature of writing, along with the failures as well as insecurities.


Ex. Of APA annotation: “Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America. Henry Holt and Company.”

Here, the book is nonfiction and is based on the writer’s research. Here, he wants to ascertain whether anyone can live with the minimum earnings in the USA.


Ex. Of Chicago annotation: “Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess. London: Routledge, 1998.”

This book provides a lengthy explanation of the min roles fulfilled by the numerous pagan goddesses of Northern Europe in daily life, like agriculture, hunting, domestic arts, music, etc.




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