Annotated Bibliography

bibliography is an alphabetized list of sources showing the author, date, and publication information for each source.

An annotation is like a note; it’s a brief paragraph that explains what the writer learned from the source.

Annotated bibliographies combine bibliographies and brief notes about the sources.

Writers often create annotated bibliographies as a part of a research project, as a means of recording their thoughts and deciding which sources to actually use to support the purpose of their research. Some writers include annotated bibliographies at the end of a research paper as a way of offering their insights about the source’s usability to their readers.

Instructors in college often assign annotated bibliographies as a means of helping students think through their source’s quality and appropriateness to their research question or topic. (23)

Formatting the Annotated Bibliography

The citations (bibliographic information – title, date, author, publisher, etc.) in the annotated bibliography are formatted using the particular style manual (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) that your discipline requires.

Annotations are written in paragraph form, usually 3-7 sentences (or 80-200 words). Depending on your assignment your annotations will generally include the following:

  1. Summary: Summarize the information given in the source. Note the intended audience. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say?
  2. Evaluate/Assess: Is this source credible? Who wrote it? What are their credentials? Who is the publisher? Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
  3. Reflect/React: Once you’ve summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. State your reaction and any additional questions you have about the information in your source. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic? Compare each source to other sources in your annotated bibliography in terms of its usefulness and thoroughness in helping answer your research question. (24)

Annotated Bibliography Examples

In the following examples, the bold font indicates the reflection component of the annotation that is sometimes required in an assignment.

APA style 6 th edition for the journal citation:

Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review , 51, 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living. (25)

MLA 8 style for a website citation:

Anderson, L.V. “Can You Libel Someone on Twitter?”, The Slate Group, A Graham Holdings. Company, 26 Nov. 2012, Accessed 2 Apr. 2018.

This article provides an overview of defamation law in the United States compared to the United Kingdom, in layman’s terms. It also explains how defamation law applies to social media platforms and individuals who use social media. Libelous comments posted on social media can be subject to lawsuit, depending on the content of the statement, and whether the person is a public or private figure. The article is found on the website,, which is a web-based daily magazine that focuses on general interest topics. While the writer’s credentials are unavailable, she does thank Sandra S. Baron, Executive Director of the Media Law Resource Center and Jeff Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project for providing information. She also links to the United States laws that she cites. I would use the article to compare United States law to United Kingdom law and for background information. (1)

In Summary

Information creation is a process. Scholars produce information in the forms of peer-reviewed journal articles, books, and conference presentations, to name a few. As a student researcher, you will be expected to create research projects such as essays, reports, visual presentations, and annotated bibliographies. Most scholarly writing makes an argument—whether it is to persuade your readers that your claim is true or to act on it. In order to create a sound argument, you must gather sources that will argue and counter-argue your claims.

When creating an argument, the researcher typically organizes their report or presentation with the claim/thesis at the beginning, which answers their research question. Then they provide reasons and supporting evidence to validate their claim. They acknowledge and respond to counter-arguments by citing sources that disagree with them, and refuting or conceding those counter-claims. Their conclusion restates their thesis and discusses why their research is important to the scholarly conversation, as well as potential areas for further research.

A Roman numeral outline is one way to organize your argument before you begin writing. It helps to identify sources for each section of your outline, so you know if you need further research to support your argument.

An annotated bibliography is one way to present research, and can be used as a cumulative assignment, or a precursor to your actual research paper. A good annotated bibliography will provide a variety of sources that met all your research needs—background, evidence, argument, and method. In other words, you should be able to take your annotated bibliography and write a complete research report based on those sources. (1)