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Writing Center: Annotated Bibliographies

A guide to information to help you research and write more effectively.

FAQs About Annotated Bibliographies

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography provides a citation for each source used in the paper and a summary and assessment of each source. 

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

A bibliography lists all the sources that a researcher used in researching and writing their paper. Each citation entry in a bibliography only includes all the bibliographic information about the source, such as the author, title, publisher, publication date, etc. Similar to a bibliography, an annotated bibliography includes citation entries for all the sources that a researcher used. An annotated bibliography also includes a summary and/or evaluation of  these sources. 

What is the purpose of including annotated bibliographies? 

Annotated bibliographies allow you to learn more about your topic. When you create a bibliography, you may just skim over your sources. However, annotated bibliographies require you to carefully read and evaluate each of your sources. Annotated bibliographies also help you develop your thesis. The careful evaluation of all your sources allows you to gain a better perspective on the topic and form an argument within this topic. Annotated bibliographies help other researchers reading your paper. These researchers can quickly understand your sources by reading your entries in your annotated bibliography. 

What information should be included in an annotated bibliography? 

An annotated bibliography typically includes a summary of the source, an evaluation of the source’s credibility, reliability, and usefulness, and a reflection of how the source will contribute to the paper. 

What citation style are annotated bibliographies typically written in? 

Annotated bibliographies are typically written in APA or MLA citation style. 

What format should the annotations be written in? 

The annotations in an annotated bibliography should be written in paragraph form. These paragraphs can vary from a few sentences to multiple pages, depending on your purpose and needs in writing an annotation. 

Sections Of Annotated Bibliographies

Annotated bibliographies usually include a summary, evaluation, and reflection. The purpose of the summary is to describe the content and purpose of the source. The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the source’s credibility and reliability and the purpose of the reflection is to analyze the source’s usefulness to your research. The following questions will help you decide what information to include in each section: 

Summary: 

  • What is the main argument in the source? 
  • What are the key points used to prove the main argument? 
  • What topics does the source cover? 
  • What does the author want the audience to learn? 
  • How would I explain this source to someone else in a few sentences? 

Evaluation: 

  • Is the source useful? 
  • How does the source compare to the others in your bibliography? 
  • Is the source credible and reliable?
  • Is the source biased or objective? 
  • What is the author’s purpose in creating this source?  
  • Did you learn anything? 
  • Did the authors discover anything new about the topic? 
  • Is the author’s argument logical? Does the author jump to conclusions? 

Reflect: 

  • How does this source fit into your research? 
  • Was this source helpful to you? 
  • How does this source shape your argument and/or research? 
  • How can you use this source in your project? 
  • Is this source helpful or harmful to your topic? 
  • Has this source changed how you think about your topic? 

Note: Your annotated bibliography may not include all of these sections and you may include other sections in your annotated bibliography. To decide what to include in your annotated bibliography, you should evaluate your purpose and needs in including an annotated bibliography and the guidelines from your professor. 

Tips For Annotated Bibliographies

Collecting Sources

  • Know your argument before you begin collecting sources for your annotated bibliography 
    • A narrowed focus will help you collect the most useful sources and avoid only collecting broad information 
    • A clear focus will help you determine what to include in your source and what not to include
  • To make the process of collecting sources easier, follow this process: 
    • As you begin researching, write down all the sources that you believe could be useful. After you gather a significant amount of sources, select which sources are most relevant to your research and include these sources in your annotated bibliography
  • Remind yourself to only include the sources most relevant to your research
    • You don’t need to include every source you encountered while researching your topic
  • Utilize the library’s resources and Google Scholar to find credible sources for your paper

Reading, Summarizing, and Evaluating Sources

  • Some of the information you need to collect are found in the same locations of each source. You can find: 
    • The qualifications of the author on the first page of the article
      • These qualifications typically list the author’s advanced degrees and affiliations with colleges or universities
    • The purpose of the source in the abstract 
    • The main points throughout the article
  • Keep track of the author’s key points and your reaction to these key points as you read 
    • This information will make writing your annotated bibliography easier
    • To keep track with your reactions, ask yourself: 
      • What was memorable from this source?  
      • What made this source stand out from the rest? 
      • Did something strike you as a mistake in the source? 
      • Do you agree with what the author said? 
  • To help create your summary of the source, 
    • Pay attention to repeated terms or ideas. This repetition means the information is important to the source
    • Notice how the information is organized and laid out
    • Highlight the thesis and evaluate how each paragraph contributes to the thesis 
  • To help create your evaluation of the source, 
    • Utilize the TRAAP method to determine the credibility and reliability of sources
      • TRAAP evaluates the timeliness, relevance, accuracy, authority, and purpose of the source. More can be found about the TRAAP method in the reference list below. 
    • Compare the source’s credibility, reliability, content, and argument to other sources
    • Determine the author’s purpose and evaluate whether this purpose creates bias

Formatting Annotated Bibliography 

  • Source entries should be listed in alphabetical order and follow the formatting required by paper’s citation style
  • Annotations should be written underneath the respective source entries in paragraph form 
  • The entire annotation should be indented
  • One line space should separate each paragraph in the annotation 
  • Ensure that formatting is consistent throughout the entire annotated bibliography 

Creating Entries in Annotated Bibliography 

  • Write your annotation in your own words and avoid quoting the source
  • Provide an in-depth analysis of the source 
    • Go beyond just a quick summary and evaluation of the source
    • The more in-depth you go with your annotation, the more useful this annotation will be as you write your paper
  • Refer back to your professor’s suggestions to ensure that you are including the information they are requiring you to 
  • Use transitions to connect each of the sections

Checklist For Annotated Bibliographies

Formatting

  • Each source citation adheres to the rules of the citation style 
  • Sources are listed alphabetically
  • First line of each citation is flushed to the left and subsequent lines are indented 
  • Formatting of sources, include spacing between the citation entry and annotation, are consistent throughout the entire annotated bibliography 
  • Annotations are written in paragraph form 
  • Every line in the annotation is indented 
  • One line space separates each paragraph of the annotation 

Content

  • Each annotation is brief and concise
    • Only significant information is mentioned
    • Any information that apparent in the title is omitted 
  • Each annotation uses clear and direct language 
  • Annotations are written in the author’s own words and avoid quoting the source

Summary (if included)

  • States the main point (thesis) of the source 
  • Summarizes the supporting points and important details used to discuss the main point
  • Mentions the conclusions and key findings of the source
  • Only includes the most important information from the source 
  • Omits any information that is not significant to the main point and purpose the source
  • Background materials and references from the source are not included in the annotation unless necessary 

Evaluation (if included)

  • Evaluates the credibility and reliability of the source 
    • Includes an assessment of the timeliness, reliability, accuracy, authority, and purpose of the source
  • Examines any bias and limitations in the source
    • States the effectiveness of the source based on the bias and limitations 
  • Compares the source to others in the bibliography 

Reflection (if included) 

  • Examines how the source fits into your research and/or thesis 
  • Explains how the source will be used in your paper
  • Expresses your thoughts and opinions on the source

Additional Resources For Annotated Bibliographies