The Parts of an Annotation

What Should I Include in an Annotation?

While each citation entry of an annotated bibliography must include bibliographical information and an annotation, what each annotation includes depends on the specific requirements of the assignment’s description and/or instructor’s guidelines. Often, annotations include all or some of the following: summary (which may take the form of a rhetorical précis, described below), analysis, and/or reflection.

Bibliographical Information

The bibliographic information of the source (the author, date, title, publisher, etc.) must be written in APA format for this course (unless otherwise instructed or permitted). For more help with APA formatting, refer to the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s APA Style pages.

Rhetorical Précis

A rhetorical précis is a structured, four-sentence paragraph that includes a rhetorically situated summary of its respective source. Each of the four sentences fulfills a specific goal within the structure of the précis.

  • The first sentence includes the name of author, [optional: a phrase describing the author], the genre and title of the work, date in parentheses, a rhetorically accurate verb (such as “assert,” “argue,” “suggest,” “imply,” “claim,” etc.), and a THAT clause containing the major assertion (thesis statement) of the work.
  • The second sentence includes an explanation of how the author develops and/or supports the thesis, usually in chronological order.
  • The third sentence includes a statement of the author’s apparent purpose, followed by an “in order to” phrase.
  • The fourth (final) sentence includes a description of the intended audience and/or the relationship the author establishes with the audience (Woodsworth, 1988, p. 156-64).

Rhetorical précis Shortcut

Here’s a quick way to reference the purposes of the sentences in a rhetorical précis:

Sentence #1: Deals with the “WHAT?
Sentence #2: Deals with the “HOW?
Sentence #3: Deals with the “WHY?
Sentence #4: Deals with the “WHO?

(These sentences should not be numbered, but they should be in paragraph form.)


  • Any analysis included in an annotation should emphasize how skillfully the source explains, maintains, and supports its claims, reasons, and evidence. You can also analyze how and why this source is useful as it relates to your research topic.
  • You may choose to compare a source with other sources in your bibliography.
  • Analysis might also determine if and how information in a source is reliable, whether the source is biased or objective, how you know that, and what the goal or agenda (if one is identifiable) of the source is.


  • Reflection included in an annotation might outline how and why a source is specifically helpful to your research.
  • You might explain how the source helps shape, or otherwise engages with, your argument, such as how you might use the source (specifically) in your research project and/or if or how the source changed your thinking on your topic.
  • You can also reflect on how you will specifically use a source, be it for quantitative/qualitative evidence, methodology, background context on your topic, argument structure, etc.
  • Reflecting on a source may also involve addressing whether it led you to other sources through its own references or bibliography.
  • You might choose to reflect on how other researchers may use the source or how it relates to other sources in your own annotated bibliography.