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Writing Center Annotated Bibliographies: Annotated Bibliographies

Annotated Bibliographies

A bibliography is a list of references for works (books, articles, reports, government documents, etc.) on a specific topic. In an annotated bibliography, each reference is followed by an annotation: 1-2 paragraphs that summarize and evaluate the source. An annotation can help a researcher determine the value of each work on the topic and the contribution it might make to further research.

Writing Annotated Bibliographies

Keep the following tips in mind when constructing Annotated Bibliographies:
  • The purpose of the annotation is to summarize or describe the source, evaluate the source’s credibility and quality, and reflect on the relevance of the source by explaining how it connects to other sources you’ve found and where it fits into your argument overall.
  • When summarizing each source, consider the following characteristics of the work:
    • Main purpose, idea, or argument
    • The author’s intended audience
    • Research methods
    • Findings and conclusions
    • Any special features of the work, like maps, illustrations, etc.
  • When evaluating the quality of the source, consider the following:
    • Credibility of the author: Is the author an expert on this topic? Do they have credentials and experience in this field and on this subject?
    • Conflict of interest: Does the author have any conflicts of interest that would call the reliability of the findings into question?
    • Timeliness: How recently was the source published? For example, older works on a rapidly changing and developing topic may be less relevant if their findings are outdated.
    • Publisher: Is the publisher of the source reputable? Sources published by university presses are generally considered scholarly.
  • When reflecting on the relevance of the source to your topic and project overall, consider the following:
    • Synthesis: How does this source connect to other sources included in your annotated bibliography? Does this source corroborate or contradict the findings in your other sources?
    • Purpose: What is the role this source will play in your larger research paper or project? What does this source contribute? How useful is this source?
  • You are expected to evaluate the credibility of each source and its usefulness for understanding your topic and for your research project overall. When needed, use in-text citations in your annotations if you are directly quoting or paraphrasing the source material.
  • When summarizing the source and evaluating its credibility, the use of third person is appropriate. When expressing your own views and discussing the relevance of the source to your own research and argument, the use of first person is appropriate because it avoids ambiguity and confusion in attribution.

Formatting Annotated Bibliographies

APA outlines specific formatting requirements for annotated bibliographies.
  • Include a title page with your annotated bibliography.
  • The title of the paper should be the first line of the page after the title page. The title should be centered and bolded, with major words capitalized.
  • Arrange your references in alphabetical order, like you would for a typical references page.
  • Below each reference entry, include an annotation as a new paragraph. The annotation should be indented half an inch from the left margin. Do not indent the first line of the annotation.
  • If your annotation is more than one paragraph, then indent the first line of the second paragraph an additional half inch.

Annotated Bibliography Example

This sample annotated bibliography will give you an idea of what your bibliography should look like.