The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Annotated Bibliographies

What this handout is about.

This handout will explain why annotated bibliographies are useful for researchers, provide an explanation of what constitutes an annotation, describe various types of annotations and styles for writing them, and offer multiple examples of annotated bibliographies in the MLA, APA, and CBE/CSE styles of citation.


Welcome to the wonderful world of annotated bibliographies! You’re probably already familiar with the need to provide bibliographies, reference pages, and works cited lists to credit your sources when you do a research paper. An annotated bibliography includes descriptions and explanations of your listed sources beyond the basic citation information you usually provide.

Why do an annotated bibliography?

One of the reasons behind citing sources and compiling a general bibliography is so that you can prove you have done some valid research to back up your argument and claims. Readers can refer to a citation in your bibliography and then go look up the material themselves. When inspired by your text or your argument, interested researchers can access your resources. They may wish to double check a claim or interpretation you’ve made, or they may simply wish to continue researching according to their interests. But think about it: even though a bibliography provides a list of research sources of all types that includes publishing information, how much does that really tell a researcher or reader about the sources themselves?

An annotated bibliography provides specific information about each source you have used. As a researcher, you have become an expert on your topic: you have the ability to explain the content of your sources, assess their usefulness, and share this information with others who may be less familiar with them. Think of your paper as part of a conversation with people interested in the same things you are; the annotated bibliography allows you to tell readers what to check out, what might be worth checking out in some situations, and what might not be worth spending the time on. It’s kind of like providing a list of good movies for your classmates to watch and then going over the list with them, telling them why this movie is better than that one or why one student in your class might like a particular movie better than another student would. You want to give your audience enough information to understand basically what the movies are about and to make an informed decision about where to spend their money based on their interests.

What does an annotated bibliography do?

A good annotated bibliography:

  • encourages you to think critically about the content of the works you are using, their place within a field of study, and their relation to your own research and ideas.
  • proves you have read and understand your sources.
  • establishes your work as a valid source and you as a competent researcher.
  • situates your study and topic in a continuing professional conversation.
  • provides a way for others to decide whether a source will be helpful to their research if they read it.
  • could help interested researchers determine whether they are interested in a topic by providing background information and an idea of the kind of work going on in a field.

What elements might an annotation include?

  • Bibliography according to the appropriate citation style (MLA, APA, CBE/CSE, etc.).
  • Explanation of main points and/or purpose of the work—basically, its thesis—which shows among other things that you have read and thoroughly understand the source.
  • Verification or critique of the authority or qualifications of the author.
  • Comments on the worth, effectiveness, and usefulness of the work in terms of both the topic being researched and/or your own research project.
  • The point of view or perspective from which the work was written. For instance, you may note whether the author seemed to have particular biases or was trying to reach a particular audience.
  • Relevant links to other work done in the area, like related sources, possibly including a comparison with some of those already on your list. You may want to establish connections to other aspects of the same argument or opposing views.

The first four elements above are usually a necessary part of the annotated bibliography. Points 5 and 6 may involve a little more analysis of the source, but you may include them in other kinds of annotations besides evaluative ones. Depending on the type of annotation you use, which this handout will address in the next section, there may be additional kinds of information that you will need to include.

For more extensive research papers (probably ten pages or more), you often see resource materials grouped into sub-headed sections based on content, but this probably will not be necessary for the kinds of assignments you’ll be working on. For longer papers, ask your instructor about her preferences concerning annotated bibliographies.

Did you know that annotations have categories and styles?

Decisions, decisions.

As you go through this handout, you’ll see that, before you start, you’ll need to make several decisions about your annotations: citation format, type of annotation, and writing style for the annotation.

First of all, you’ll need to decide which kind of citation format is appropriate to the paper and its sources, for instance, MLA or APA. This may influence the format of the annotations and bibliography. Typically, bibliographies should be double-spaced and use normal margins (you may want to check with your instructor, since he may have a different style he wants you to follow).

MLA (Modern Language Association)

See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for basic MLA bibliography formatting and rules.

  • MLA documentation is generally used for disciplines in the humanities, such as English, languages, film, and cultural studies or other theoretical studies. These annotations are often summary or analytical annotations.
  • Title your annotated bibliography “Annotated Bibliography” or “Annotated List of Works Cited.”
  • Following MLA format, use a hanging indent for your bibliographic information. This means the first line is not indented and all the other lines are indented four spaces (you may ask your instructor if it’s okay to tab over instead of using four spaces).
  • Begin your annotation immediately after the bibliographic information of the source ends; don’t skip a line down unless you have been told to do so by your instructor.

APA (American Psychological Association)

See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for basic APA bibliography formatting and rules.

  • Natural and social sciences, such as psychology, nursing, sociology, and social work, use APA documentation. It is also used in economics, business, and criminology. These annotations are often succinct summaries.
  • Annotated bibliographies for APA format do not require a special title. Use the usual “References” designation.
  • Like MLA, APA uses a hanging indent: the first line is set flush with the left margin, and all other lines are indented four spaces (you may ask your instructor if it’s okay to tab over instead of using four spaces).
  • After the bibliographic citation, drop down to the next line to begin the annotation, but don’t skip an extra line.
  • The entire annotation is indented an additional two spaces, so that means each of its lines will be six spaces from the margin (if your instructor has said that it’s okay to tab over instead of using the four spaces rule, indent the annotation two more spaces in from that point).

CBE (Council of Biology Editors)/CSE (Council of Science Editors)

See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for basic CBE/CSE bibliography formatting and rules.

  • CBE/CSE documentation is used by the plant sciences, zoology, microbiology, and many of the medical sciences.
  • Annotated bibliographies for CBE/CSE format do not require a special title. Use the usual “References,” “Cited References,” or “Literature Cited,” and set it flush with the left margin.
  • Bibliographies for CSE in general are in a slightly smaller font than the rest of the paper.
  • When using the name-year system, as in MLA and APA, the first line of each entry is set flush with the left margin, and all subsequent lines, including the annotation, are indented three or four spaces.
  • When using the citation-sequence method, each entry begins two spaces after the number, and every line, including the annotation, will be indented to match the beginning of the entry, or may be slightly further indented, as in the case of journals.
  • After the bibliographic citation, drop down to the next line to begin the annotation, but don’t skip an extra line. The entire annotation follows the indentation of the bibliographic entry, whether it’s N-Y or C-S format.
  • Annotations in CBE/CSE are generally a smaller font size than the rest of the bibliographic information.

After choosing a documentation format, you’ll choose from a variety of annotation categories presented in the following section. Each type of annotation highlights a particular approach to presenting a source to a reader. For instance, an annotation could provide a summary of the source only, or it could also provide some additional evaluation of that material.

In addition to making choices related to the content of the annotation, you’ll also need to choose a style of writing—for instance, telescopic versus paragraph form. Your writing style isn’t dictated by the content of your annotation. Writing style simply refers to the way you’ve chosen to convey written information. A discussion of writing style follows the section on annotation types.

Types of annotations

As you now know, one annotation does not fit all purposes! There are different kinds of annotations, depending on what might be most important for your reader to learn about a source. Your assignments will usually make it clear which citation format you need to use, but they may not always specify which type of annotation to employ. In that case, you’ll either need to pick your instructor’s brain a little to see what she wants or use clue words from the assignment itself to make a decision. For instance, the assignment may tell you that your annotative bibliography should give evidence proving an analytical understanding of the sources you’ve used. The word analytical clues you in to the idea that you must evaluate the sources you’re working with and provide some kind of critique.

Summary annotations

There are two kinds of summarizing annotations, informative and indicative.

Summarizing annotations in general have a couple of defining features:

  • They sum up the content of the source, as a book report might.
  • They give an overview of the arguments and proofs/evidence addressed in the work and note the resulting conclusion.
  • They do not judge the work they are discussing. Leave that to the critical/evaluative annotations.
  • When appropriate, they describe the author’s methodology or approach to material. For instance, you might mention if the source is an ethnography or if the author employs a particular kind of theory.

Informative annotation

Informative annotations sometimes read like straight summaries of the source material, but they often spend a little more time summarizing relevant information about the author or the work itself.

Indicative annotation

Indicative annotation is the second type of summary annotation, but it does not attempt to include actual information from the argument itself. Instead, it gives general information about what kinds of questions or issues are addressed by the work. This sometimes includes the use of chapter titles.


Evaluative annotations don’t just summarize. In addition to tackling the points addressed in summary annotations, evaluative annotations:

  • evaluate the source or author critically (biases, lack of evidence, objective, etc.).
  • show how the work may or may not be useful for a particular field of study or audience.
  • explain how researching this material assisted your own project.


An annotated bibliography may combine elements of all the types. In fact, most of them fall into this category: a little summarizing and describing, a little evaluation.

Writing style

Ok, next! So what does it mean to use different writing styles as opposed to different kinds of content? Content is what belongs in the annotation, and style is the way you write it up. First, choose which content type you need to compose, and then choose the style you’re going to use to write it

This kind of annotated bibliography is a study in succinctness. It uses a minimalist treatment of both information and sentence structure, without sacrificing clarity. Warning: this kind of writing can be harder than you might think.

Don’t skimp on this kind of annotated bibliography. If your instructor has asked for paragraph form, it likely means that you’ll need to include several elements in the annotation, or that she expects a more in-depth description or evaluation, for instance. Make sure to provide a full paragraph of discussion for each work.

As you can see now, bibliographies and annotations are really a series of organized steps. They require meticulous attention, but in the end, you’ve got an entire testimony to all the research and work you’ve done. At the end of this handout you’ll find examples of informative, indicative, evaluative, combination, telescopic, and paragraph annotated bibliography entries in MLA, APA, and CBE formats. Use these examples as your guide to creating an annotated bibliography that makes you look like the expert you are!

MLA Example

APA Example

CBE Example

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

American Psychological Association. 2010. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Bell, I. F., and J. Gallup. 1971. A Reference Guide to English, American, and Canadian Literature . Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzburg. 1991. Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Writing , 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford Books.

Center for Information on Language Teaching, and The English Teaching Information Center of the British Council. 1968. Language-Teaching Bibliography . Cambridge: Cambridge University.

Engle, Michael, Amy Blumenthal, and Tony Cosgrave. 2012. “How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography.” Olin & Uris Libraries. Cornell University. Last updated September 25, 2012.

Gibaldi, Joseph. 2009. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 7th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Grasso, Michael. 2004. “Speech Recognition Annotated Bibliography” (Website). University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Department of Computer Science. .

Huth, Edward. 1994. Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers . New York: University of Cambridge.

Kilborn, Judith. 2004. “MLA Documentation.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. Last updated March 16, 2004.

Spatt, Brenda. 1991. Writing from Sources , 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin’s.

Memorial University. n.d. “How to Write Annotated Bibliographies.” Memorial University Libraries. Accessed June 14, 2019. .

University of Kansas. 2018. “Bibliographies.” KU Writing Center. Last updated April 2018. .

University of Wisconsin-Madison. 2019. “Annotated Bibliography.” The Writing Center. Accessed June 14, 2019. .

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Annotated Bibliography Samples

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This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.

Below you will find sample annotations from annotated bibliographies, each with a different research project. Remember that the annotations you include in your own bibliography should reflect your research project and/or the guidelines of your assignment.

As mentioned elsewhere in this resource, depending on the purpose of your bibliography, some annotations may summarize, some may assess or evaluate a source, and some may reflect on the source’s possible uses for the project at hand. Some annotations may address all three of these steps. Consider the purpose of your annotated bibliography and/or your instructor’s directions when deciding how much information to include in your annotations.

Please keep in mind that all your text, including the write-up beneath the citation, must be indented so that the author's last name is the only text that is flush left.

Sample MLA Annotation

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life . Anchor Books, 1995.

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.

In the sample annotation above, the writer includes three paragraphs: a summary, an evaluation of the text, and a reflection on its applicability to his/her own research, respectively.

For information on formatting MLA citations, see our MLA 9th Edition (2021) Formatting and Style Guide .

Sample APA Annotation

Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America . Henry Holt and Company.

In this book of nonfiction based on the journalist's experiential research, Ehrenreich attempts to ascertain whether it is currently possible for an individual to live on a minimum-wage in America. Taking jobs as a waitress, a maid in a cleaning service, and a Walmart sales employee, the author summarizes and reflects on her work, her relationships with fellow workers, and her financial struggles in each situation.

An experienced journalist, Ehrenreich is aware of the limitations of her experiment and the ethical implications of her experiential research tactics and reflects on these issues in the text. The author is forthcoming about her methods and supplements her experiences with scholarly research on her places of employment, the economy, and the rising cost of living in America. Ehrenreich’s project is timely, descriptive, and well-researched.

The annotation above both summarizes and assesses the book in the citation. The first paragraph provides a brief summary of the author's project in the book, covering the main points of the work. The second paragraph points out the project’s strengths and evaluates its methods and presentation. This particular annotation does not reflect on the source’s potential importance or usefulness for this person’s own research.

For information on formatting APA citations, see our APA Formatting and Style Guide .

Sample Chicago Manual of Style Annotation

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess . London: Routledge, 1998.

Davidson's book provides a thorough examination of the major roles filled by the numerous pagan goddesses of Northern Europe in everyday life, including their roles in hunting, agriculture, domestic arts like weaving, the household, and death. The author discusses relevant archaeological evidence, patterns of symbol and ritual, and previous research. The book includes a number of black and white photographs of relevant artifacts.

This annotation includes only one paragraph, a summary of the book. It provides a concise description of the project and the book's project and its major features.

For information on formatting Chicago Style citations, see our Chicago Manual of Style resources.

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources, each of which is followed by a brief note or “annotation.”

These annotations do one or more of the following:

  • describe the content and focus of the book or article
  • suggest the source’s usefulness to your research
  • evaluate its method, conclusions, or reliability
  • record your reactions to the source.

How do I format the bibliographic citations?

Check with your instructor to determine which documentation style is required for your class: APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, CBE, Numbered References, APSA, etc.

Then, remember that the bibliography is an organized list of sources used. The annotation may immediately follow the bibliographic information on the same line, or it may begin on a new line, two lines below the publication information.

But, since style manuals differ, check with your instructor about which one to use concerning form, spacing, and consistency.

If you are using APA documentation, the Writing Center offers a short workshop called “APA Documentation”.

What goes into the content of the annotations?

Below are some of the most common forms of annotated bibliographies. Click on the links to see examples of each.

This form of annotation defines the scope of the source, lists the significant topics included, and tells what the source is about.

This type is different from the informative entry in that the informative entry gives actual information about its source.

In the indicative entry there is no attempt to give actual data such as hypotheses, proofs, etc. Generally, only topics or chapter titles are included.

Indicative (descriptive–tell us what is included in the source) Griffin, C. Williams, ed. (1982). Teaching writing in all disciplines. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Ten essays on writing-across-the-curriculum programs, teaching writing in disciplines other than English, and teaching techniques for using writing as learning. Essays include Toby Fulwiler, “Writing: An Act of Cognition”; Barbara King, “Using Writing in the Mathematics Class: Theory and Pratice”; Dean Drenk, “Teaching Finance Through Writing”; Elaine P. Maimon, “Writing Across the Curriculum: Past, Present, and Future.” (Bizzell and Herzberg, 1991, p. 47)


Simply put, this form of annotation is a summary of the source.

To write it, begin by writing the thesis; then develop it with the argument or hypothesis, list the proofs, and state the conclusion.

Informative (summary–tell us what the main findings or arguments are in the source) Voeltz, L.M. (1980). Children’s attitudes toward handicapped peers. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 84, 455-464. As services for severely handicapped children become increasingly available within neighborhood public schools, children’s attitudes toward handicapped peers in integrated settings warrant attention. Factor analysis of attitude survey responses of 2,392 children revealed four factors underlying attitudes toward handicapped peers: social-contact willingness, deviance consequation, and two actual contact dimensions. Upper elementary-age children, girls, and children in schools with most contact with severely handicapped peers expressed the most accepting attitudes. Results of this study suggest the modifiability of children’s attitudes and the need to develop interventions to facilitate social acceptance of individual differences in integrated school settings. (Sternlicht and Windholz, 1984, p. 79)

In this form of annotation you need to assess the source’s strengths and weaknesses.

You get to say why the source is interesting or helpful to you, or why it is not. In doing this you should list what kind of and how much information is given; in short, evaluate the source’s usefulness.

Evaluative (tell us what you think of the source) Gurko, Leo. (1968). Ernest Hemingway and the pursuit of heroism. New York: Crowell. This book is part of a series called “Twentieth Century American Writers”: a brief introduction to the man and his work. After fifty pages of straight biography, Gurko discussed Hemingway’s writing, novel by novel. There’s an index and a short bibliography, but no notes. The biographical part is clear and easy to read, but it sounds too much like a summary. (Spatt, 1991, p. 322) Hingley, Ronald. (1950). Chekhov: A biographical and critical study. London: George Allen & Unwin. A very good biography. A unique feature of this book is the appendix, which has a chronological listing of all English translations of Chekhov’s short stories. (Spatt, 1991, p. 411)


Most annotated bibliographies are of this type.

They contain one or two sentences summarizing or describing content and one or two sentences providing an evaluation.

Combination Morris, Joyce M. (1959). Reading in the primary school: An investigation into standards of reading and their association with primary school characteristics. London: Newnes, for National Foundation for Educational Research. Report of a large-scale investigation into English children’s reading standards, and their relation to conditions such as size of classes, types of organisation and methods of teaching. Based on enquiries in sixty schools in Kent and covering 8,000 children learning to read English as their mother tongue. Notable for thoroughness of research techniques.

Which writing style should I use in the annotations?

The most important thing to understand is that entries should be brief.

Only directly significant details will be mentioned and any information apparent in the title can be omitted from the annotation.

In addition, background materials and references to previous work by the same author usually are not included.

Listed below are three writing styles used in annotated bibliographies. Click on a link to see examples of each.


(phrases, non-sentences)

Get the information out, quickly and concisely. Be clear, but complete and grammatically correct sentences are unnecessary.

Telegraphic (phrases, non-sentences) Vowles, Richard B. (1962). Psychology and drama: A selected checklist. Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature, 3,(1), 35-48. Divided by individual authors. Reviews the research between 1920 and 1961. (Bell and Gallup, 1971, p. 68)

Complete sentences

In this style you must always use complete sentences.

The length of the sentences varies. Subjects and conjunctions are not eliminated even though the tone may be terse. Avoid long and complex sentences.

Complete sentences Kinter, W. R., and R L. Pfaltzgraff. (1972). Assessing the Moscow SALT agreements. Orbis, 16, 34l-360. The authors hold the conservative view that SALT can not halt the slipping nuclear advantage of the United States. They conclude that the United States needs a national reassessment of defense policy. They further conclude that the only utility of SALT is in developing a dialogue with the Soviets. This is a good conservative critique of SALT I. (Strenski and Manfred, 1981, p. 165)

When using this form of annotation, you must write a full, coherent paragraph.

Sometimes this can be similar to the form of a bibliographic essay. It goes without saying that you need to use complete sentences.

Paragraph (a little more formal) Voeltz, L.M. (1980). Children’s attitudes toward handicapped peers. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 84, 455-464. As services for severely handicapped children become increasingly available within neighborhood public schools, children’s attitudes toward handicapped peers in integrated settings warrant attention. Factor analysis of attitude survey responses of 2,392 children revealed four factors underlying attitudes toward handicapped peers: social- contact willingness, deviance consequation, and two actual contact dimensions. Upper elementary-age children, girls, and children in schools with most contact with severely handicapped peers expressed the most accepting attitudes. Results of this study suggest the modifiability of children’s attitudes and the need to develop interventions to facilitate social acceptance of individual differences in integrated school settings. (Sternlicht and Windholz, 1984, p. 79)

Additional information

If you have additional questions, ask your course instructor or consider scheduling an appointment with a Writing Center instructor.

The Writing Center also has information on different documentation systems, such as MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, CBE, Numbered References, and APSA styles of citation.

If you are using APA documentation, you are in luck! The Writing Center offers a short class called “The Basics of APA Documentation”!

References for examples used

Bell, Inglis F., and Jennifer Gallup. (1971). A reference guide to English, American, and Canadian literature . Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzberg. (1991). Bedford bibliography for teachers of writing . 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press.

Center for Information on Language Teaching and The English Teaching Information Center of the British Council. (1968). A Language-teaching bibliography . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spatt, Brenda. (1991). Writing from sources . 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Sternlicht, Manny, and George Windholz. (1984). Social behavior of the mentally retarded. New York and London: Garland Press.

Strenski, Ellen, and Madge Manfred. (1981). The research paper workbook . 2nd ed. New York and London: Longman.

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  • How to create an MLA style annotated bibliography

MLA Style Annotated Bibliography | Format & Examples

Published on July 13, 2021 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on June 14, 2022.

An annotated bibliography is a special assignment that lists sources in a way similar to the MLA Works Cited list, but providing an annotation for each source giving extra information.

You might be assigned an annotated bibliography as part of the research process for a paper , or as an individual assignment.

MLA provides guidelines for writing and formatting your annotated bibliography. An example of a typical annotation is shown below.

Kenny, Anthony. A New History of Western Philosophy: In Four Parts . Oxford UP, 2010.

You can create and manage your annotated bibliography with Scribbr’s free MLA Citation Generator. Choose your source type, retrieve the details, and click “Add annotation.”

Generate accurate MLA citations with Scribbr

Table of contents, mla format for annotated bibliographies, length and content of annotations, frequently asked questions about annotated bibliographies.

The list should be titled either “Annotated Bibliography” or “Annotated List of Works Cited.” You may be told which title to use; “bibliography” is normally used for a list that also includes sources you didn’t cite in your paper or that isn’t connected to a paper at all.

Sources are usually organized alphabetically , like in a normal Works Cited list, but can instead be organized chronologically or by subject depending on the purpose of the assignment.

The source information is presented and formatted in the same way as in a normal Works Cited entry:

  • Double-spaced
  • Left-aligned
  • 0.5 inch hanging indent

The annotation follows on the next line, also double-spaced and left-aligned. The whole annotation is indented 1 inch from the left margin to distinguish it from the 0.5 inch hanging indent of the source entry.

  • If the annotation is only one paragraph long, there’s no additional indent for the start of the paragraph.
  • If there are two or more paragraphs, indent the first line of each paragraph , including the first, an additional half-inch (so those lines are indented 1.5 inches in total).

MLA annotated bibliography

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dissertation annotated bibliography

MLA gives some guidelines for writing the annotations themselves. They cover how concise you need to be and what exactly you should write about your sources.

Phrases or full sentences?

MLA states that it’s acceptable to use concise phrases rather than grammatically complete sentences in your annotations.

While you shouldn’t write this way in your main text, it’s acceptable in annotations because the subject of the phrase is clear from the context. It’s also fine to use full sentences instead, if you prefer.

  • Broad history of Western philosophy from the ancient Greeks to the present day.
  • Kenny presents a broad history of Western philosophy from the ancient Greeks to the present day.

Always use full sentences if your instructor requires you to do so, though.

How many paragraphs?

MLA states that annotations usually aim to be concise and thus are only one paragraph long. However, it’s acceptable to write multiple-paragraph annotations if you need to.

If in doubt, aim to keep your annotations short, but use multiple paragraphs if longer annotations are required for your assignment.

Descriptive, evaluative, or reflective annotations?

MLA states that annotations can describe or evaluate sources, or do both. They shouldn’t go into too much depth quoting or discussing minor details from the source, but aim to write about it in broad terms.

You’ll usually write either descriptive , evaluative , or reflective annotations . If you’re not sure what kind of annotations you need, consult your assignment guidelines or ask your instructor.

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 .

No, in an MLA annotated bibliography , you can write short phrases instead of full sentences to keep your annotations concise. You can still choose to use full sentences instead, though.

Use full sentences in your annotations if your instructor requires you to, and always use full sentences in the main text of your paper .

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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / APA Format / APA Annotated Bibliography Format

APA Annotated Bibliography Format

The American Psychological Association states that your instructor should set the guidelines for your annotated bibliography, but does ask that the list be formatted according to their standard reference page rules (see Section 9.51 of the  Publication Manual ). Since there are no set rules for creating one, you may be wondering how to create an annotated APA bibliography. If your teacher or professor requests one, don’t worry, here are our recommendations:

  • Make sure you create your references according to APA’s guidelines. If you need some help, here’s a great  APA citation website , which shows how to create references for electronic sources. We also have a page on developing a reference for an  APA journal . Need other source types? Check out the other helpful pages on
  • Annotations should be kept short and are usually not more than one paragraph.
  • For more information on writing an annotation, visit the general  annotated bibliography guide .

Here’s a run-through of everything this page includes:

  • Quick APA formatting guidelines

Annotation example

Visual example, using the easybib annotation tool, troubleshooting, quick  apa  formatting guidelines:.

  • Use 1-inch page margins on all sides.
  • The entire page should be double-spaced.
  • Title your page, “Annotated Bibliography”. Center and bold it.
  • Left-align references. If a reference runs over more than one line, any line(s) that comes after the first should be indented a ½ inch from the left margin.
  • Organize your references alphabetically by the first word in the reference. (See further details in this  APA Reference Page  guide).
  • Add the annotations on the line right after their corresponding reference.
  • Indent annotations ½ inch from the left margin.
  • Include a page number in the upper right corner; if this is a professional paper, it should be a running head.

For an annotated bibliography APA example, we’re using the same description as above. The only thing we’re going to change is the structure of the reference. For an APA bibliography, the reference needs to be an  APA citation , and the description can be formed the same way as above.

Here’s what the  APA book citation  for  The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase  looks like:

Forsyth, M. (2014).  The elements of eloquence: Secrets of the perfect turn of phrase.  Penguin Books.

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.

dissertation annotated bibliography

The EasyBib citation generator has an annotation tool that can help you easily add your annotation to a citation.

  • To do this, begin creating a citation in the EasyBib citation generator. Already have a citation on Go to the citation, open your citation options and select “Edit citation.”
  • Once you get to the citation form (where you review found information), scroll to the bottom until you see the sections “More options.”
  • Under that section, click on the “Add annotation” link to open the annotation box.
  • Copy and paste your annotation into the box.
  • Complete your citation.
  • Your annotation will automatically be included and formatted with your citation. You can copy and paste directly into your paper!

Annotated bibliography tool

Again, even though the APA style does not support the creation of bibliographies that include annotations, many schools and professors expect their students to include summaries or commentary alongside their citations in APA style.

Solution #1: How to write an annotation

Annotations are brief paragraph summaries of your source and may include details about how you plan to use the information in your paper, or the quality of information in your source. Take these steps:

  • Read through the source.
  • Identify the main thesis theme of the source then consider how you would summarize the article and its purpose in one sentence.
  • Evaluate the source. Is the author(s) qualified? Is the source and its arguments credible? Well-written? Why or why not?
  • How does the source relate to your paper?
  • Write your annotation based on the above steps. Choose only the points that would most help you or your reader gain an understanding of the source and its significance.

Here are writing tips:

  • Avoid describing every event, statistic, or detail that occurs in your source.
  • Focus on details that are relevant to your topic or your paper. Help the reader understand why the source was selected and is importance.
  • Think about how the information impacts your perspective, how it contributes to your topic, and the effect on your overall paper.

Annotated paragraph example:

Solution #2: How to correctly format an annotation with multiple paragraphs

  • Indent the entire annotated paragraph at ½ of an inch. When done correctly, the left edge of the annotated paragraph will look entirely straight, as in the first example below.
  • If there are multiple paragraphs, follow step one but use a second 0.5-inch indention on the second and following paragraphs.
  • Avoid indenting the paragraph at 0.5 inch like a regular essay paragraph, as shown in the third example.

Single annotated paragraph example:

Multiple annotated paragraphs example:

In his novel, “A True Story of John Doe,” Samuel Smith outlines his life through the eyes of a fictional character. His recollection outlines the immigrant experience and demonstrates how modern life in England came to be.

          Chapters two and three outline the novelty of moving to a new location by describing the eventual progression to culture shock. Smith describes life as beautiful and wonderous in chapter two by emphasizing sensory experiences. However, in chapter three, he slowly gains awareness of the differences between his current and previous lives and of how the locals treat him. Smith nullifies the sensory experiences and, instead, focuses on the depth of the human emotion. I intend to use this source to compare to my own experience as an immigrant.

APA Formatting Guide

APA Formatting

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Block Quotes
  • et al Usage
  • In-text Citations
  • Multiple Authors
  • Paraphrasing
  • Page Numbers
  • Parenthetical Citations
  • Reference Page
  • Sample Paper
  • APA 7 Updates
  • View APA Guide

Citation Examples

  • Book Chapter
  • Journal Article
  • Magazine Article
  • Newspaper Article
  • Website (no author)
  • View all APA Examples

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To create an annotated APA bibliography, follow the below recommendations:

  • 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 new paragraph below the reference entry. The entire annotation is indented 0.5 inches from the left margin.

For example:

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. Lim 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 creating our understanding of what thinking and rationality are.

To format an annotated bibliography in APA, follow the recommendations given below:

  • Set the left, right, top, and bottom margins as 1 inch.
  • Use 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 inches 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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Annotated bibliography

Writing an annotated bibliography.

dissertation annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a list of information sources (e.g. journal articles or book chapters) on a particular topic with a reference accompanied by a brief commentary on each source, known as an annotation . There are two main ways to organise your information sources:

  • alphabetically like a reference list; or
  • in order of most importance in terms of ‘key texts’ or dominant perspectives in the chosen research field.

The specific elements that you need to incorporate, as well as the structures required, vary between units. This includes the number and type of sources, the referencing styles, as well as what you need to discuss in the annotation. In addition to a descriptive summary, the annotation requires critical reading, which means you analyse and evaluate the text:

  • to make an informed judgement about the usefulness of the source content to your topic,
  • to identify the contribution it makes and
  • to describe its strengths and limitations.

It is important that you carefully check the specific requirements of your task so that you understand exactly what is required.

This resource will outline some of the basic elements of an annotated bibliography, including the purpose of an annotated bibliography and how to structure one.

The purpose of an annotated bibliography

The purpose is to:

  • learn about a particular topic through critically reviewing the literature
  • provide an overview of the main issues, arguments and research within a particular area
  • identify potential variations in interpretations and theoretical perspectives on that topic and/or critiques of dominant perspectives
  • identify connections between the information sources
  • encourage deeper engagement with individual sources in order to develop your analytical and critical reading skills

An annotated bibliography is sometimes given as an assessment task at the beginning of a research project, or, as an assessment task in the lead up to an essay, to encourage you to survey and reflect on what has already been discovered about your topic. However, it might also be given as a stand-alone assignment to develop your research and critical thinking skills .

Structuring an annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography is made up of two parts: a reference (in some faculties this is referred to as a citation), and an annotation.

It is important to note that what is included in the reference and annotation will vary between disciplines, so it is essential to check with your assignment instructions or lecturer as to what is expected.

dissertation annotated bibliography


  • How to Write Annotated Bibliography
  • How to Write Annotated Bibliography: Useful Information

How to Write Annotated Bibliography: Useful Information

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

How does it function, why should you write it, why is an annotated bibliography important, basic steps to write your annotated bibliography, what is the scope of an annotated bibliography, why do you need source cards, take reasonable notes, what format to choose for your annotated bibliography, useful annotated bibliography tips, should you ask for annotated bibliography help.

Students have to encounter many challenges during their academic career. How to write annotated bibliography? Answering this question is one of the trickiest and most challenging tasks, but it’s impossible to write good essays without it. A simple list of your used sources isn’t enough. An annotated bibliography is an extremely helpful tool because it does the following:

  • Provides a concise summary of relevant sources on a particular topic;
  • Informs readers of important data;
  • Helps you avoid plagiarism ;
  • Highlights the main purpose or objective of a title;
  • Determines if a specific source, such as a book or an article, is suitable for your project;
  • Focuses on major points that the author addresses.
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books , articles, and documents. 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. Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

It’s an expanded version of a standard bibliography, but the main difference is that you need to summarize sources and explain their importance for your research. It’s a brief list that includes every citation that you use followed by a separate explanatory paragraph or your annotation.

An annotated bibliography functions as:

  • A summary of your sources;
  • A summary and a critical evaluation of the usefulness of a particular work;
  • Their combination;
  • A deep analysis of every source you find.

It’s an integral part of your academic assignment. Search for a helpful sample that will provide you with more information on how to write annotated bibliography and what style to choose when you reference all sources.

You may wonder why you need to write an annotated bibliography in your academic paper, especially if you’re dealing with it for the first time. It links to the following tasks:

  • Allowing readers to evaluate the quality of your essay;
  • Helping you organize all sources according to their relevance to your topic;
  • Allowing you to get familiar with the relevant literature.

As you already know, students need to use it for several things, including:

  • A brief description (the main purpose is to provide readers with the most important information, unlike a traditional style);
  • A summary (highlight the basic scope of sources, their conclusions, and hypotheses);
  • An evaluation (compare different sources in the same category to evaluate the effectiveness of overall objectives or results);
  • An analysis (think about the role of sources in support your major argument and give your critical standpoint).

An annotated bibliography has many goals. To get high grades and impress your university or college teachers, stick to it instead of a traditional format because it helps you make your academic papers more informative and attractive.

Instructors often request it to help students to construct effective research papers and eliminate unnecessary sources of information. It’s a comprehensive guide to the relevant literature. When planning your annotated bibliography, outline everything ahead and make sure that you have enough time to meet all requirements. Take a few basic steps:

  • Identify its scope and purpose;
  • Organize all sources with special cards;
  • Take reasonable notes.

Identify the titles that you need to read. Determine where you should start and stop. If you don’t read irrelevant materials and off-topic sources, you can save a lot of time and finish your assignment faster. Teachers usually give a clear idea of their expectations.

To identify the purpose of your annotated bibliography, provide a summary of each source and evaluate its worth for a specific academic project. It can act as a literature review in college papers because it demonstrates your authority and competence on a given subject. Provide the audience with a full list of your sources.

Source cards provide the information necessary to reference materials. You need this information even if you don’t quote from sources directly (place them in the middle of your cards and use the right format, such as APA or MLA ).

Excellent note taking is an important skill and it takes some time and enough practice to master it. What is a hard part? Many students find it difficult to record enough data, provide a comprehensive and brief summary, and avoid missing important bibliographical details. Write down a quick summary right after reading a specific source to provide its accurate description and avoid bias opinions. Note only essential claims and statements.

Before you start forming on a list of your sources and their annotations, learn specific rules to format everything correctly. There are different formats that you can use:

  • Informative (highlight the most important points, objectives, or arguments);
  • Descriptive (describe works and their basic elements, such as key features, chapter headings, and notable sections);
  • Critical or analytical (examine and critically analyze your sources of information).

What else can you do? When writing commentaries for every source, include these helpful things to end up with an impressive annotated bibliography:

  • Its basic purpose;
  • The author’s central argument;
  • Additional elements (diagrams, charts, appendices, or glossaries);
  • Major conclusions, points, and findings;
  • The targeted audience;
  • Significant points about the author’s background;
  • How its title fits with other similar sources;
  • How useful it is in answering a particular research question.

Not all students have the skills necessary to cope with the challenge of writing an annotated bibliography because of their part-time jobs or other important responsibilities such as preparation to their dissertation defense . Get professional help if you’re one of them. Online writers know all formatting rules and guidelines. If you need expert assistance with your annotated bibliography, don’t hesitate to contact them and get access to a number of benefits, such as time savings and your improved grades.


  • Effective Teaching Strategies

What’s on Your Bib? Annotated Bibliographies, Changing by Degrees

  • December 20, 2019
  • Donna Graham, PhD, and John Bryan, DBA

Series of books all laid out with pages open

The purpose of this article is to present an overview of why annotated bibliographies are needed in higher education, especially in doctoral education programs. The necessity for emerging scholars to build an annotated bibliography is paramount to the development of their research study. However, there are numerous types of annotated bibliographies. This article will discuss the different types of annotations and which format best facilitates the development of a ­­­­dissertation.

An annotated bibliography is a list of references supplemented with an analysis of the content of the source to reflect the utility of that source for a specific purpose (Capella University Writing Center, 2008; Stacks et al., 2018). The analysis can be focused notes, facts, or a critique of the quality or efficacy of the source. The reference information should include enough information that the reader can locate the source.

The purpose of the annotations always remains the same. An annotated bibliography develops, supports, and provides argumentation for developing a thesis. However, the annotated bibliography at the doctoral level is often used to prepare for writing a literature review and developing a research design as part of a dissertation. In this article, we present the need for doctoral annotations to be analytical in design, in order to facilitate dissertation writing.

Annotations in Higher Education

A bachelor’s degree provides foundational knowledge of broad and specific topical areas (U.S. Department of Education, 2008a). A bachelor’s-level annotated bibliography may gather foundational information from reviewed articles, books, and other sources. In some respects, the bachelor’s-level annotated bibliography is like a collection of brief book reports that describe what article, book, or other source contributed to a discussion of the theme. Annotation bibliographies at the undergraduate level should relate to a specific topic. The annotations should explain how the reviewed source relates to the topic. Karakey (2012) noted that, at a minimum, an annotated bibliography should identify the thesis and main claims or arguments of the source along with the relevance of the source to the topic of the annotated bibliography.

A master’s degree provides knowledge of broad and specific topical areas, often for application, and may be classified as professional or research-based degrees (U.S. Department of Education, 2008b). The master’s-level annotated bibliography typically gathers foundational information from reviewed articles, books, and other sources, including or adding relevant nuances for application. They often include foundational theories, models, or concepts and relevant topical background to demonstrate scope of knowledge of the topic (Torpey & Terrell, 2015).

A doctoral dissertation adds to the academic body of knowledge, including empirical research and foundational theories, models, or concepts, reflecting broad and specific topical areas (U.S. Department of Education, 2008c).   A doctoral-level annotated bibliography differs from an undergraduate and graduate annotated bibliography in that the annotation at this level includes elements of the research methodology, design, and foundational literature. Typically, a doctoral degree annotation should include sample size and strategy, assumptions and limitations, and opportunities for future research.

Types of Annotation

There are at least two major types of annotated bibliographies: descriptive and analytical (UMUCL, 2019). A descriptive annotation, sometimes referred to as a summative annotation, provides an overview or summary of the source. Descriptive annotations do not analyze the findings of the content. However, they should describe the methodology and design. These types of annotations may be stand-alone entries, or they may be comparative, referencing the other entries to give a total picture of how different articles on the topic are in conversation with each other.

An analytical, also referred to as evaluative, annotation summarizes the content, as well as analyzes the findings of the research. The author should present a narrative that includes the quality of the source and the argumentative position of the researcher. Length of annotations can also vary, from approximately 150-word paragraph to one- or two-page annotations, depending on the purpose. Doctoral level annotations typically are longer entries, given the depth of the annotation and analysis.

Annotation Format

Descriptive annotations often include three paragraphs, one for each summary element; analytical annotations are longer, depending on the purpose of the evaluation. Each annotation is for one source and should interpret the article within the theme or context. In a descriptive annotated bibliography, the annotation for each source should begin with a summary of the context and the key points of that source. The topic, method, design, foundational theory, model, or concept, and the conclusions of the study are included in this section.

Table 2 may be useful as a guide for the types of data a researcher might collect prior to drafting an annotated bibliography or literature review for an article or dissertation.

Table 2: Examples of columns that may be included in a data collection tool for an annotated bibliography

Knowing the purpose of the annotation is essential to compiling data from articles, books, and other sources for use in an annotated bibliography or literature review. If the purpose is to substantiate the need for a proposed empirical study or to craft a literature review for a dissertation, then more detail will be useful.

Dr. Donna Graham is a university professor and dissertation chair.   Dr. Graham holds a B.A. in Psychology and Education from Rosemont College, a M.S. in Counseling from Villanova University, a M.Ed. in Educational Technology from Rosemont College and a Doctorate in Philosophy from Capella University. 

Dr. John Bryan is a university professor, editor, and dissertation chair. Dr. Bryan holds a BA in Chemistry from University of California, San Diego, an MBA in Operations and Marketing from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey,  and a DBA in Leadership from the University of Phoenix.


Capella University. (2008). Annotated Bibliographies . Minneapolis, MN: Self. Retrieved from

Kansas University. (2017). Bibliographie s. Retrieved from

Karakey, G. (2012). Annotated bibliography: Why you should prepare one [weblog]. Retrieved May 20, 2018 from

Stacks, G., Karper, E., Bisignani, D., & Brizee, A. (2018). Annotated bibliographies . Purdue University. Retrieved May 20, 2018 from

Torpey, E., & Terrell, D.(2015). Should I get a master’s degree? Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from

University of New England. (n.d.). Writing an annotated bibliography . Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education. (2008a). Structure of the U.S. Education System: Bachelor’s Degrees . U.S. Department of Education: self. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education. (2008b). Structure of the U.S. Education System: Master’s Degrees . U.S. Department of Education: self. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education. (2008c). Structure of the U.S. Education System: Research Doctorate Degrees . U.S. Department of Education: self. Retrieved from

University of Maryland University College Library (UMUCL). (2019). How to write an annotated bibliography. Largo, MD: Self. Retrieved from

University Writing Center. (2018). Annotated bibliographies . Texas A&M University: self. Retrieved May 29, 2018 from

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Writing an annotated bibliography.

Annotated Bibliography provides an organized list of citations to articles, books, websites, and documents along with a short but well descriptive annotated paragraph. These sources can be text based or they could also be online resources in the form of video clips or audio recording.  Each statement is followed by an evaluative and brief descriptive paragraph. The sole purpose of these annotations is to guide the reader of the accuracy, relevance, and quality of the sources mentioned (Corenel University 2020).

An annotated bibliography provides a number of purposes which includes following but not limited to:

  • Represent the quality of Research work that you have done
  • Provide the types of sources available in that particular subject
  • Describe other content on a topic that may be of interest to the learner
  • Inspire the reader for further research in that subject

The annotated bibliography may be comprehensive or selective in its coverage. A selective Annotated Bibliography contains only those contents that are more suitable for the subject while an exhaustive annotated bibliography tries to discover all that is available to us on a subject (Studybay 2020).

Annotations in an annotated bibliography used to perform two functions, evaluate the source and describe the source. The annotation is an accurate and concise description of a specific source, including vital aspects of content not obvious in the title. It provides opportunity to the researcher to establish the relevance of a particular journal article, research report, book, or government document, etc. and to decide whether to refer the complete text of the work. Abstracts, such as those found in individual periodical databases or those found in scholarly journal articles are generally just descriptive summaries (Dominican University 2018).

How to write a perfect annotated bibliography?

As majority of people do not have proper knowledge of drafting an annotated bibliography? Don’t worry; I have written the perfect guide that will benefit you to nail this task easily.

Follow these points conscientiously to draft   annotated bibliographies   in less time and submit flawless Assignments .

1. Mention about the qualifications of the writer of the source

In usual bibliographies, students only have to mention the name of the writer in the bibliography section. However, in order to write an annotated bibliography, you must mention about the qualifications of the writer of your source. This helps the future aspirant Researchers as well as professors to evaluate and analysis the credibility of your project/assignments as well.

At times, many research assignments demand the researchers to get in contact with the author directly to gather more knowledge on a particular topic. So it becomes important to select your source materials from genuine websites. Ask these questions which are mentioned below for the prior assessment of your sources:

  • Is the writer qualified enough to write on this particular subject?
  • Is the writer associated with an eminent institution in this discipline?
  • Is the writer an expert in this domain?
  • Is this the latest and reliable edition of the source?

2. Write a brief summary of your work

To score the maximum marks in the assignments, you must draft a well-crafted  summary of your overall text in the bibliography section. The main objective of including this summary is to aware the readers about the vital elements they are about to seek from the assignment. This summary also helps the readers to determine the sections whether the writer have added new Information to the Research pool apart from iterating the pre-existing information.

Attempts to summarize the core theme and scope of the article or book in this section and touch on how this research work highlights your bibliography topic.

3. Comment on the readers of your assignment

Don’t forget to discuss about the readers of your assignment in the annotated bibliography. This makes your professors understood that you know who you are writing for. Knowledge of your target audience will keep the state of affairs of your assignment precise and focused. So do not miss to check the relevancy of the context of your assignment with your target audience

Also, institutes ask you to maintain a specific format while writing your bibliographies. In case you are not sure about the various formats like MLA Chicago, APA etc. use an online annotated bibliography generator to simplify the task (Peter Redman 2013).

The sole purpose of an annotated bibliography is to work as a memory support during the research process. In writing assignment and other academic  projects, professors often use annotated bibliographies as a tool for students to check how their research work is going, but think of it as that memory support even when you’re writing assignment  for a class.

An annotated bibliography is a list of reference cited in assignment where each source has both short paragraph and a properly formatted bibliographic entry.

Annotation is that sums up the source, notes the content specifically interesting about the source and it may include a short overview of how you’ll use the source.

If you’re writing it for an assignment work then discuss with your professor to be certain of what content the professor wants (Westernsydney 2017).

Being a full version of the references page, the Annotated Bibliography could be a comprehensive list of literature utilized in the Essay or Research Paper meant to prove the author’s point. It consists of the complete references to the used sources, furthermore as their summaries, which is what makes it different from a typical bibliography.

The topics for an annotated bibliography should match the titles of the analyzed material so as to supply a close answer to the research question. Usually, the scholars are encouraged to cite two basic sorts of sources: Primary and Secondary . While secondary sources, like interview or survey, aren’t that critical, the first sources are obligatory to read and cite. They include:

  • Books and e-Books
  • Academic journals
  • Scholarly articles

It is essential to cite and reference every source correctly. In fact, the author is required to try to do that every time they add an indirect or direct in-text citation (Barthélemy and Geyer 2005).

  • Barthélemy, Jérôme, and Dominique Geyer. 2005. “An Empirical Investigation of IT Outsourcing versus Quasi-Outsourcing in France and Germany.” Information & Management 42(4): 533–42.
  • Corenel University. 2020. “How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: The Annotated Bibliography.”
  • Dominican University. 2018. “How to Write an Annotated Bibliography.”
  • Peter Redman. 2013. “Good Essay Writing: A Social Sciences Guide (SAGE Study Skills Series).”
  • 2020. “Annotated Bibliography Writing Help Online.” an annotated bibliography&type_id=14&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzNP8tL_76AIVwYaPCh1h8AojEAAYASAAEgL_VfD_BwE.
  • 2017. Annotated Bibliography .

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Annotated Bibliography

Caleb S.

Annotated Bibliography - An Easy Guide With Examples & Topics

20 min read

Published on: Sep 3, 2018

Last updated on: Feb 22, 2023

writing an annotated bibliography

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Are you a research student in the initial stages of your research? 

Then you must deal with the annotated bibliography assignment first. An annotated bibliography is an important part of any research paper or project. It provides a comprehensive overview of the sources used by the writer and can be used to assess how well they have researched their topic. 

However, many new students don't know how to write one. That's why we've prepared this comprehensive guide.

This guide aims to help you create an effective annotated bibliography. We have also gathered good examples that you can follow.

So let's dive in!

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources that includes a brief explanation. Unlike your average reference, it also contains more detailed information about each individual source.

Here is a short annotated bibliography definition:

“Annotated bibliography is a list of sources which contains a short description for each source”

Watch this video to learn more about annotated bibliographies:

What Does an Annotated Bibliography Do?

An annotation is an evaluation or summary of the given reference. Based on what you are writing, an annotated bibliography can do several things or all of the things given below.

The length of your annotation will depend on how well you have explained the source.

  • Assess -  After you summarize a source, it is helpful to think about how useful the source is. Is this a good source? Does it have any bias or distortion in the information that this author provides? What do other sources say about this topic?
  • Reflect -  Once you have summarized and assessed a source, think about how it helps your research. For example, does the source help you shape an argument? Does it change the way you think about your topic?

Your annotated bibliography could include other things also. Make sure that you discuss everything with your instructor before you work on your assignment.

Why Should I Write an Annotated Bibliography?

Many students do not know the purpose of writing an annotated bibliography. Why do the teachers assign such assignments? What is there to learn? How do they help you learn better?

An annotated bibliography is helpful in the following ways.

  • It helps you learn your topic better -  An annotated bibliography is a list of sources used for research. If you make an annotated bibliography, you will have to read the sources closely instead of just collecting them. This is good practice because it forces you to think critically about what you are reading and not just taking information from the source. It also allows you to see what others have done in this field and where your own work can fit in with what has been done already. An annotated bibliography can help you see what other people think about your topic. Then you can make up your own opinion.
  • It will help other researchers also -  Extensive and scholarly annotated bibliographies provide a list of everything important that has been said about that topic. It is not necessary that your annotated bibliography is published, but as a researcher, you might be interested in finding one for your topic.

Abstract vs Annotation vs Literature Review: What’s the Difference

An abstract is a brief summary of the paper, which informs the readers of what is discussed in the source.

On the other hand, the annotated bibliography is different from the abstract. It is the overall summary and analysis of the source. Moreover, it also provides an insight into how the source is helpful for the respective and future research.

Meanwhile, a literature review is an evaluation and synthesis of existing scholarly works that are related to the topic being investigated. It is more like a complete essay where existing literature on the topic is analyzed.

An annotation, on the contrary, is a description or explanation of each source used in the research paper. It’s aim is to present the relevance of the source for the research.

Here are the differences between literature review and annotated bibliography.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography Step by Step?

One of the basic and essential questions of most of the students is how to write an annotated bibliography, which also means that you are not the only one who is looking for an answer.

Here are the steps involved in creating an annotated bibliography.

Step 1: Select the Sources

The very first step is to select the sources which would be used for doing the thesis, dissertation, or even the term paper.

‘ How many sources should I add? ’ If you are writing a research essay of three pages, it would be safe to pick four sources for your annotated bibliography unless your professor has instructed you to a specific number of references.

The sources should be scholarly and peer-reviewed. Or, in other words, you cannot just randomly pick sources or bibliographic information for your annotated bibliography or paper.

Step 2: Do Background Research

Doing the background research of the sources means that you have to find the suitability of the sources. Moreover, you will need to see if they are relevant to your research question.

If the source seems irrelevant, change it. The purpose of the annotated bibliography is to explain how the source would help you in writing your paper and this is why the selected sources should be relevant.

Step 3: Select the Writing Style

Usually, students have to format their assignments according to one of the most common writing styles;  Chicago ,  MLA , or  APA . However, students studying in Chemistry, Physics, Medical and other specialty fields may have to follow different writing styles.

Read the guidelines again and make sure that you follow the instructed writing or referencing style.

Step 4: Choose the Type of Annotated Bibliography   There are four main types of annotated bibliographies. All of these types have distinct features, and knowing about them will help you understand your teacher’s instructions in a better manner.

We have discussed and explained all four types below:

1. Descriptive Annotated Bibliography 

A descriptive type of annotated bibliography is also known as an indicative annotated bibliography. It provides a brief summary and explanation of the given citation or reference.

It includes:

  • Main theme and content of the citation
  • A brief summary of the significant and main points

This type of annotated bibliography is quite simple and will take less time to write and create.

2. Evaluative Annotated Bibliography 

An evaluative bibliography judges the content. They are very detailed, and they judge whether the source is good or bad. It provides a detailed analysis and includes everything from summarizing the main ideas to critical judgment and opinions about the work.

This kind of annotation starts with discussing the main focus and theme of the citation and moves on to more in-depth details. As a final word, the writer, or student, adds his personal views regarding the citation.

Below are some important points that you should consider when writing this kind of annotated bibliography:

  • How does the citation add to the study of the respective topic’s literature?
  • How does it compare with other works and research?
  • What are the qualifications of the writer or the author?
  • How biased or neutral is the writer?
  • What are the strong and weak points of the study?
  • How accurate is the information presented in it?
  • Is it suitable for your intended audience?
  • How useful is it for your essay and research paper?

Answer all of these questions before adding a source to your paper.

3. Informative Annotated Bibliography 

Like the indicative type of annotated bibliography, this kind of bibliography also provides a summary of the source. However, it does not give any views or comments about the content of the source. In simple terms, it presents the actual information, including the hypothesis, proof and the researched data.

This kind of annotation is completely neutral and includes the following things only:

  • The thesis of the study
  • The main argument or hypothesis of the selected study
  • The proofs that have been added to the study
  • Results of the study

This kind of annotation does not include the writer’s personal views as it is completely based on what the study is about.

4. Combination Annotated Bibliography 

Most of the annotated bibliographies are a combination of two or more kinds of annotated bibliographies. Since many of them include the writer’s personal view at the end of it, they combine at least two kinds of annotations.

Step 5: Edit and Proofread

An annotated bibliography has two parts; citation and annotation. The citation is the reference that you will explain in the following part, and the annotation is the explanation and analysis of the given citation.

To know how to format and write both the parts, read on.

The citation of the source that you will analyze in the annotation part. The reference will be as per the paper’s chosen writing style and will contain:

  • Full name of the works, i.e., book, article, etc.
  • Names of the authors who contributed to the work
  • Name of the publisher
  • Date when the work was published
  • Date when you accessed the source

The sequence of the details will vary in the writing and reference style.

Annotation is the detailed description of the source, in addition to how it is relevant to the paper. Annotation consists of four essential parts, which are:

This section will include the summarized details of the data, arguments, facts, or findings presented by the author(s) in their research work. Be careful about the length of this part; it should be half of the length of the entire annotation.

In the analysis section, you will discuss the expertise or qualifications of the authors, which prove their credibility and make them eligible to write about the topic or subject.

In short, the purpose of this section is to show some layman is not sharing his views in the article or book. Instead, the thought and knowledge are coming from an expert.

You will evaluate the claims, arguments, and findings of the author in this section. Explain what you have learned from the respective source and explain how it is relevant to your research.

The length of this part should not exceed two to three sentences. However, if your instructor has told you to add more details here, you can increase its length.

The last part of the annotation, as well as the annotated bibliography, is the description of the relevance of the selected source. How well is it relevant to your research? How has it helped your research? What new information has it added to your paper?

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Annotated Bibliography Examples

Composing an annotated bibliography is not very simple. As complicated as it might seem, it becomes easy with proper guidance. Below, we have added some sample annotated bibliographies to help you understand how to write one properly.

Annotated Bibliography -  MLA 9th Style H3

Here’s an example of an annotation of journal article in MLA 9th edition:

Here’s how you write an annotation of a book: 

Here is a template for your annotated bibliography MLA format;

MLA style annotated bibliography template

MLA 8th Annotated Bibliography

Here is an example of an annotation in the older edition of MLA, which is still used and required at some universities.

Annotated Bibliography - APA 7th Examples

Here is an annotated bibliography example APA of a book:

Here is another annotation example, this time of a journal article:

Annotated Bibliography - Chicago Style

Here is a Chicago style annotated bibliography template:

Chicago style annotated bibliography template

Some more  annotated bibliography examples  will help you get started with your assignment and complete it successfully and on time.

Annotated Bibliography Topics

If you are set to write your annotated bibliography, following are some topics that might help:

  • Thesis based Masters is more beneficial than coursework based. Discuss the statement.
  • Water pollution is damaging marine life. How true is the statement?
  • Eating alkaline foods is more beneficial for the human body.
  • Strengthening our immune system is the best way of fighting off diseases.
  • Crash dieting is the reason for a number of health issues in teenagers and young adults.
  • Reading helps our brains to improve and develop. Discuss.
  • Pros and cons of taking writing as a profession.
  • Role reversal is one of the significant themes in gender studies. Discuss.
  • Investing in education and healthcare is optimal for a nation's development.
  • Role of cottage industries in the improvement of the economy.

We also have an extensive list of other topics if you like to read more. Check out this blog on annotated bibliography essay topics . 

Helpful Vocabulary for Writing Annotated Bibliographies

Here is a common set of terminologies that will help you out when creating annotated bibliographies. 

  • Citation: The information necessary to identify and locate a source, such as author, title, and publication details. 
  • Summary: A brief overview of the content found in a source. 
  • Evaluation: An assessment of the usefulness, accuracy, and relevance of a source based on its content. 
  • Reflection: An opportunity to consider how the source fits into your research project or course objectives. 
  • Synthesis: The process of combining multiple sources to form a new understanding. 
  • Critique: A critical analysis that assesses the strengths and weaknesses of a source. 
  • Argumentation: An effort to support a claim or position by using evidence from multiple sources.
  • Scholarly Sources: Sources written by experts in the field, often found through academic or professional research databases. 
  • Analysis: The process of breaking down complex information into its component parts to gain a greater understanding. 
  • Relevance: The degree to which a source is pertinent to the research topic or course goals. 
  • Primary Sources : Sources that present first-hand accounts of an event, such as letters and interviews.

Writing an annotated bibliography could be a challenging task for many students. It is more detail-oriented, and the teacher expects you to explain the research sources and citations used in your work.

If you are having any difficulties, get help from a professional essay writer service. Professional  annotated bibliography writers  can solve your worries!  provides a great  annotated bibliography writing service that can help you cite your sources properly to submit your assignment on time. 

Get in touch to get our best writing services .

Frequently Asked Questions

Does an annotated bibliography go at the end of a paper.

Yes, an annotated bibliography will go at the end of the paper. It is like any other page of references or bibliography, with the only difference that it will accompany an explanation paragraph. Otherwise, an annotated bibliography is your paper’s detailed list of references. 

Does an annotated bibliography need a conclusion?

No, you do not need to add a separate conclusion in your annotated bibliography. It will have a single and well-detailed paragraph only that speaks of the given source. But it is quite possible that your teacher asks you to add a short conclusion of 1 to 2 lines with your annotation. 

What is the main advantage of writing an annotated bibliography?

By writing an annotated bibliography, you can evaluate the credibility and authority of your sources. It is helpful because when it comes time for writing a paper or any other project, you will know which sources can help provide accurate information. 

An annotated bibliography works for both research-based and personal kinds of papers. 

It also gives people who do not have experience with certain subjects insight into what is going on by allowing them to read about past thought processes behind these ideas as well as their influences. 

What is the difference between an annotated bibliography and works cited?

An annotated bibliography is a detailed list of references or works cited. The works cited, references, and bibliography would include the list of works only. However, in a bibliography, all the works that you have studied while writing your paper, whether you have cited them in your paper or not. 

Is an annotated bibliography double-spaced?

Yes, annotated bibliographies are double-spaced. This includes a space between the title and first entry as well as spaces in between entries. The spacing makes it easier to read, saving time because you don't have to reread what's been written before continuing. 

Should an annotated bibliography have a title page?

If you are making an annotated bibliography as a standalone assignment, yes, it must include a title page. The title page would be according to the chosen referencing style. To make sure that you do not miss anything, check with your instructor and follow the guidelines carefully. 

What are the annotation techniques?

Here are the four common ways of annotating the texts. 

  • Highlighting and underlining 
  • Paraphrasing and summarizing 
  • Descriptive outline 
  • Comments and responses 

Text annotating is a great way of making the most out of your reading. It is an easy way to find important information quickly and look back to what you have learned from the text. 

What can you learn from an annotated bibliography?

Writing an annotated bibliography can help you develop critical reading and synthesizing skills which are important in a variety of fields. 

By identifying the key points of research studies, organizing them accordingly, and writing about their effects on society and individuals. It also helps the students gain valuable knowledge without having to conduct their own study. 

Who is the audience of an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a work created by students for faculty and colleagues. It usually includes the copyright, publication date, and ISBN of an original source document, as well as any annotations or comments on its content.

When writing an annotated bibliography, never copy and paste any of the information from a source. This is considered plagiarism and intellectual dishonesty, which will be frowned upon by faculty members as well as your peers. 

How do you evaluate a source for an annotated bibliography?

Here are the things to consider when evaluating a source;

  • The importance and contribution of the work in the respective field.
  • The writer’s tone and writing style.
  • The authority of the writer.
  • The credibility and accuracy of the source.
  • The limitations of the work.

All of these things will help you evaluate the source properly.

What is the difference between a literature review and an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography helps the reader see which sources might offer helpful information for their topic of interest while also giving them an overview of each source. A literature review examines as many relevant sources as possible to determine where there is agreement or disagreement about the research topic. 

An annotated bibliography and a literature review are both types of research that can be used to answer different questions, but they serve very specific purposes. 

How long should an annotation be for an annotated bibliography?

Annotations should not be too long. They should be short, clear, and easy to read. They should be no more than 150 words and be well-written and concise. 

Are annotated bibliographies alphabetized?

The annotated bibliography will be alphabetized like a regular Works Cited, References, and Bibliography. It is formatted with the last name of the lead author or, if there is no author, by the first word in the work’s title. 

What is the difference between annotation and summary?

An annotation is a short and critical summary of a text or the source. A summary is more detailed and longer than an annotation and includes quotes and paraphrased content. It can also contain sub-arguments and sub-claims. 

What is the difference between annotation and analysis?

An analysis includes dismantling a piece of content or source and study its different elements like its nature, meaning, significance, and function. An annotation, on the other hand, is a critical analysis of a source. 

What are the three parts of an annotation?

An annotation typically consists of three parts: a citation, a summary, and a reflection. The citation allows readers to locate the source material. The summary is a brief description of the main points of the source text, while the reflection section can be used to provide personal thoughts on how this material relates to your research.

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