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An annotated bibliography is the same as a “regular” bibliography (also known as a Works Cited or References list), with the addition of annotations (short paragraphs about each source). Two types of annotated bibliographies are the most common:

  • Descriptive: annotations describe the content of a source
  • Evaluative: annotations describe AND critically evaluate the source

What is an annotation? 

short paragraph (50-200 words) that describes and/or evaluates each citation (source of information listed in your bibliography). An evaluative annotation judges, in your opinion, the relevance, quality, and accuracy of each citation, in addition to describing the work. Annotations usually consist of the answers to a number of questions. 


Do I have to read the entire book/article?

Not necessarily! Look for information in:

  • introductions/conclusions
  • abstracts
  • book reviews
  • websites
  • table of contents
  • first and last paragraphs
  • Annotations are typically 100-200 words. In this case, less is more. 
  • Abstracts are summaries of the entirety of a resource, annotations are shorter and are meant to convey the most important pieces of the larger resource they are describing. 
  • It can often be easier to annotate your sources after you have incorporated them into your papers, as you will theoretically have a better understanding of their content at this time.
  • Unless otherwise instructed by your professor, your annotated bibliography should be on its own page with the header being "Annotated Bibliography." Be sure to follow typical APA or MLA formatting for size (12-point) and font (Times New Roman).

While you are researching your topic you will compile a list of sources. Once you have your sources, create complete citations for them. After you have read through your sources think about these questions, as they relate to your research:

Questions to Answer: Examples:
What is the material? Book, chapter, scholarly article, web page
What is the work about? Topics and subjects covered
What is the purpose of the work? Introduction, update, research report
 Who is the intended audience? Scholars, general public
Who is/are the author(s)? What are their qualifications? Academic qualifications, research background
 Authority of the source? Peer-reviewed journal, reputable publisher
Are there any clear biases? Personal/corporate agenda, unbalanced discussion
What are the deficiencies or limitations of the work? Dubious research methods; information that is clearly missing
 What are the strengths of the work? Thorough discussion, extensive research, major work in field

Unless otherwise advised, make sure your Annotated Bibliography is in alphabetical order. Start each annotation with a correct citation in the required citation style (e.g., APA, MLA).

The specific requirements for annotated bibliographies are usually set by your instructor. However, here are some suggested guidelines for both APA & MLA formatting:

  1. References in an annotated bibliography should be in alphabetical order, the same as you would order entries in a reference list/works cited list.
  2. Each annotation should be a new paragraph below its reference entry.
  3. The annotation should be indented 0.5 in. from the left margin.
  4. Do not indent the first line of the annotation. If the annotation spans multiple paragraphs, indent the first line of subsequent paragraphs.

For more information on annotated bibliographies, check out the resources linked below. As always, if you need more help, please ask a librarian.

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Except where otherwise noted, content in these research guides is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Creative Commons Attribution License