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Lucy Scribner Library

Annotated Bibliography: Home

What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (may be any variety of materials, books, documents, videos, articles, web sites, CD-ROMs, etc.) with an accompanying paragraph that describes, explains, and/or evaluates each entry in terms of quality, authority, and relevance.


What Is the Purpose of an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography may serve a number of purposes, including but not limited to:

  • A review of the literature on a particular subject
  • Illustrate the quality of research that you have done
  • Provide examples of the types of sources available
  • Describe other items on a topic that may be of interest to the reader
  • Explore the subject for further research

The annotated bibliography may be selective or comprehensive in its coverage. A selective annotated bibliography includes just those items that are best for the topic while an exhaustive annotated bibliography attempts to identify all that is available on a subject.


Annotations vs. Abstracts

Annotations in an annotated bibliography usually perform two functions, describe the source and evaluate the source. The annotation is a concise description of a particular source, including important aspects of content not evident in the title. It enables the researcher to establish the relevance of a specific journal article, book, research report, or government document, etc. and to decide whether to consult the full text of the work. Abstracts, such as those found in various periodical databases or those accompanying scholarly journal articles are usually just descriptive summaries.


What Goes Into an Annotation?

While including a brief summary of an article, an annotation is meant to more critically analyze a work. An annotation is also more personal to the researcher writing it, because it's meant to allow the researcher to look at how this source fits within their overall research, what it lacks/provides, and how or where it might be used in the research.  Many times an annotation only provides the argument, conclusions, assessment, and reflection for a source.  Moreover, the order that these parts appear may be different for your own annotation. 

Here are some of the elements that could go into an annotation.  Remember to always check with your professor on what they'd like included in an annotation.

  • Author: Who are the authors?  What are their credentials?
  • Bias: Does the author have a bias in relation to the topic? Do they have any affiliations that should be noted? There may or may not be author bias or affiliations of note depending on the topic and the author's background.
  • Reader: Who is the intended audience? Is this primarily a scholarly or popular source?
  • Argument: What is the main argument of the work?
  • Research: How was the research conducted (methodologies used, data analyzed, and/or a particular theory/theories applied)?
  • Conclusions: What were the author’s conclusions? Were they supported by the research/evidence?
  • Assessment: What type of information does this resource provide that is relevant to your topic? How does this work compare to other scholarship in its field? If it differs greatly, how and why?
  • Reflection: How does this source inform (e.g. support or contradict) your argument? How will it be used in your research?

Citation Format 

The bibliography portion of the annotated bibliography usually follows one of the standard citation formats, APA, MLA, Chicago, etc. Citation format information is available from the library's Citing & RefWorks guide.


Organization of an Annotated Bibliography

Annotated bibliographies are usually organized in alphabetical order by citation (like a typical works cited or references list), but annotated bibliographies could be organized in other ways like date of publication or by period of subject matter (century, era, decade, event, year), subtopic, format (articles, books, government documents, media, web pages, etc.), language, etc.

Annotated Bibliography Tutorial