How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: The Annotated Bibliography

  • The Annotated Bibliography
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Explanation, Process, Directions, and Examples

What is an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

Annotations vs. Abstracts

Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they may describe the author's point of view, authority, or clarity and appropriateness of expression.

The Process

Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.

Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

Critically Appraising the Book, Article, or Document

For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, see How to Critically Analyze Information Sources . For information on the author's background and views, ask at the reference desk for help finding appropriate biographical reference materials and book review sources.

Choosing the Correct Citation Style

Check with your instructor to find out which style is preferred for your class. Online citation guides for both the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) styles are linked from the Library's Citation Management page .

Sample Annotated Bibliography Entries

The following example uses APA style ( Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , 7th edition, 2019) for the journal citation:

Waite, L., Goldschneider, F., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51 (4), 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.

This example uses MLA style ( MLA Handbook , 9th edition, 2021) for the journal citation. For additional annotation guidance from MLA, see 5.132: Annotated Bibliographies .

Waite, Linda J., et al. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review, vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 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.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Annotated Bibliographies

What this handout is about.

This handout will explain why annotated bibliographies are useful for researchers, provide an explanation of what constitutes an annotation, describe various types of annotations and styles for writing them, and offer multiple examples of annotated bibliographies in the MLA, APA, and CBE/CSE styles of citation.

Introduction

Welcome to the wonderful world of annotated bibliographies! You’re probably already familiar with the need to provide bibliographies, reference pages, and works cited lists to credit your sources when you do a research paper. An annotated bibliography includes descriptions and explanations of your listed sources beyond the basic citation information you usually provide.

Why do an annotated bibliography?

One of the reasons behind citing sources and compiling a general bibliography is so that you can prove you have done some valid research to back up your argument and claims. Readers can refer to a citation in your bibliography and then go look up the material themselves. When inspired by your text or your argument, interested researchers can access your resources. They may wish to double check a claim or interpretation you’ve made, or they may simply wish to continue researching according to their interests. But think about it: even though a bibliography provides a list of research sources of all types that includes publishing information, how much does that really tell a researcher or reader about the sources themselves?

An annotated bibliography provides specific information about each source you have used. As a researcher, you have become an expert on your topic: you have the ability to explain the content of your sources, assess their usefulness, and share this information with others who may be less familiar with them. Think of your paper as part of a conversation with people interested in the same things you are; the annotated bibliography allows you to tell readers what to check out, what might be worth checking out in some situations, and what might not be worth spending the time on. It’s kind of like providing a list of good movies for your classmates to watch and then going over the list with them, telling them why this movie is better than that one or why one student in your class might like a particular movie better than another student would. You want to give your audience enough information to understand basically what the movies are about and to make an informed decision about where to spend their money based on their interests.

What does an annotated bibliography do?

A good annotated bibliography:

  • encourages you to think critically about the content of the works you are using, their place within a field of study, and their relation to your own research and ideas.
  • proves you have read and understand your sources.
  • establishes your work as a valid source and you as a competent researcher.
  • situates your study and topic in a continuing professional conversation.
  • provides a way for others to decide whether a source will be helpful to their research if they read it.
  • could help interested researchers determine whether they are interested in a topic by providing background information and an idea of the kind of work going on in a field.

What elements might an annotation include?

  • Bibliography according to the appropriate citation style (MLA, APA, CBE/CSE, etc.).
  • Explanation of main points and/or purpose of the work—basically, its thesis—which shows among other things that you have read and thoroughly understand the source.
  • Verification or critique of the authority or qualifications of the author.
  • Comments on the worth, effectiveness, and usefulness of the work in terms of both the topic being researched and/or your own research project.
  • The point of view or perspective from which the work was written. For instance, you may note whether the author seemed to have particular biases or was trying to reach a particular audience.
  • Relevant links to other work done in the area, like related sources, possibly including a comparison with some of those already on your list. You may want to establish connections to other aspects of the same argument or opposing views.

The first four elements above are usually a necessary part of the annotated bibliography. Points 5 and 6 may involve a little more analysis of the source, but you may include them in other kinds of annotations besides evaluative ones. Depending on the type of annotation you use, which this handout will address in the next section, there may be additional kinds of information that you will need to include.

For more extensive research papers (probably ten pages or more), you often see resource materials grouped into sub-headed sections based on content, but this probably will not be necessary for the kinds of assignments you’ll be working on. For longer papers, ask your instructor about their preferences concerning annotated bibliographies.

Did you know that annotations have categories and styles?

Decisions, decisions.

As you go through this handout, you’ll see that, before you start, you’ll need to make several decisions about your annotations: citation format, type of annotation, and writing style for the annotation.

First of all, you’ll need to decide which kind of citation format is appropriate to the paper and its sources, for instance, MLA or APA. This may influence the format of the annotations and bibliography. Typically, bibliographies should be double-spaced and use normal margins (you may want to check with your instructor, since they may have a different style they want you to follow).

MLA (Modern Language Association)

See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for basic MLA bibliography formatting and rules.

  • MLA documentation is generally used for disciplines in the humanities, such as English, languages, film, and cultural studies or other theoretical studies. These annotations are often summary or analytical annotations.
  • Title your annotated bibliography “Annotated Bibliography” or “Annotated List of Works Cited.”
  • Following MLA format, use a hanging indent for your bibliographic information. This means the first line is not indented and all the other lines are indented four spaces (you may ask your instructor if it’s okay to tab over instead of using four spaces).
  • Begin your annotation immediately after the bibliographic information of the source ends; don’t skip a line down unless you have been told to do so by your instructor.

APA (American Psychological Association)

See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for basic APA bibliography formatting and rules.

  • Natural and social sciences, such as psychology, nursing, sociology, and social work, use APA documentation. It is also used in economics, business, and criminology. These annotations are often succinct summaries.
  • Annotated bibliographies for APA format do not require a special title. Use the usual “References” designation.
  • Like MLA, APA uses a hanging indent: the first line is set flush with the left margin, and all other lines are indented four spaces (you may ask your instructor if it’s okay to tab over instead of using four spaces).
  • After the bibliographic citation, drop down to the next line to begin the annotation, but don’t skip an extra line.
  • The entire annotation is indented an additional two spaces, so that means each of its lines will be six spaces from the margin (if your instructor has said that it’s okay to tab over instead of using the four spaces rule, indent the annotation two more spaces in from that point).

CBE (Council of Biology Editors)/CSE (Council of Science Editors)

See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for basic CBE/CSE bibliography formatting and rules.

  • CBE/CSE documentation is used by the plant sciences, zoology, microbiology, and many of the medical sciences.
  • Annotated bibliographies for CBE/CSE format do not require a special title. Use the usual “References,” “Cited References,” or “Literature Cited,” and set it flush with the left margin.
  • Bibliographies for CSE in general are in a slightly smaller font than the rest of the paper.
  • When using the name-year system, as in MLA and APA, the first line of each entry is set flush with the left margin, and all subsequent lines, including the annotation, are indented three or four spaces.
  • When using the citation-sequence method, each entry begins two spaces after the number, and every line, including the annotation, will be indented to match the beginning of the entry, or may be slightly further indented, as in the case of journals.
  • After the bibliographic citation, drop down to the next line to begin the annotation, but don’t skip an extra line. The entire annotation follows the indentation of the bibliographic entry, whether it’s N-Y or C-S format.
  • Annotations in CBE/CSE are generally a smaller font size than the rest of the bibliographic information.

After choosing a documentation format, you’ll choose from a variety of annotation categories presented in the following section. Each type of annotation highlights a particular approach to presenting a source to a reader. For instance, an annotation could provide a summary of the source only, or it could also provide some additional evaluation of that material.

In addition to making choices related to the content of the annotation, you’ll also need to choose a style of writing—for instance, telescopic versus paragraph form. Your writing style isn’t dictated by the content of your annotation. Writing style simply refers to the way you’ve chosen to convey written information. A discussion of writing style follows the section on annotation types.

Types of annotations

As you now know, one annotation does not fit all purposes! There are different kinds of annotations, depending on what might be most important for your reader to learn about a source. Your assignments will usually make it clear which citation format you need to use, but they may not always specify which type of annotation to employ. In that case, you’ll either need to pick your instructor’s brain a little to see what they want or use clue words from the assignment itself to make a decision. For instance, the assignment may tell you that your annotative bibliography should give evidence proving an analytical understanding of the sources you’ve used. The word analytical clues you in to the idea that you must evaluate the sources you’re working with and provide some kind of critique.

Summary annotations

There are two kinds of summarizing annotations, informative and indicative.

Summarizing annotations in general have a couple of defining features:

  • They sum up the content of the source, as a book report might.
  • They give an overview of the arguments and proofs/evidence addressed in the work and note the resulting conclusion.
  • They do not judge the work they are discussing. Leave that to the critical/evaluative annotations.
  • When appropriate, they describe the author’s methodology or approach to material. For instance, you might mention if the source is an ethnography or if the author employs a particular kind of theory.

Informative annotation

Informative annotations sometimes read like straight summaries of the source material, but they often spend a little more time summarizing relevant information about the author or the work itself.

Indicative annotation

Indicative annotation is the second type of summary annotation, but it does not attempt to include actual information from the argument itself. Instead, it gives general information about what kinds of questions or issues are addressed by the work. This sometimes includes the use of chapter titles.

Critical/evaluative

Evaluative annotations don’t just summarize. In addition to tackling the points addressed in summary annotations, evaluative annotations:

  • evaluate the source or author critically (biases, lack of evidence, objective, etc.).
  • show how the work may or may not be useful for a particular field of study or audience.
  • explain how researching this material assisted your own project.

Combination

An annotated bibliography may combine elements of all the types. In fact, most of them fall into this category: a little summarizing and describing, a little evaluation.

Writing style

Ok, next! So what does it mean to use different writing styles as opposed to different kinds of content? Content is what belongs in the annotation, and style is the way you write it up. First, choose which content type you need to compose, and then choose the style you’re going to use to write it

This kind of annotated bibliography is a study in succinctness. It uses a minimalist treatment of both information and sentence structure, without sacrificing clarity. Warning: this kind of writing can be harder than you might think.

Don’t skimp on this kind of annotated bibliography. If your instructor has asked for paragraph form, it likely means that you’ll need to include several elements in the annotation, or that they expect a more in-depth description or evaluation, for instance. Make sure to provide a full paragraph of discussion for each work.

As you can see now, bibliographies and annotations are really a series of organized steps. They require meticulous attention, but in the end, you’ve got an entire testimony to all the research and work you’ve done. At the end of this handout you’ll find examples of informative, indicative, evaluative, combination, telescopic, and paragraph annotated bibliography entries in MLA, APA, and CBE formats. Use these examples as your guide to creating an annotated bibliography that makes you look like the expert you are!

MLA Example

APA Example

CBE Example

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

American Psychological Association. 2010. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Bell, I. F., and J. Gallup. 1971. A Reference Guide to English, American, and Canadian Literature . Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzburg. 1991. Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Writing , 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford Books.

Center for Information on Language Teaching, and The English Teaching Information Center of the British Council. 1968. Language-Teaching Bibliography . Cambridge: Cambridge University.

Engle, Michael, Amy Blumenthal, and Tony Cosgrave. 2012. “How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography.” Olin & Uris Libraries. Cornell University. Last updated September 25, 2012. https://olinuris.library.cornell.edu/content/how-prepare-annotated-bibliography.

Gibaldi, Joseph. 2009. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 7th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Huth, Edward. 1994. Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers . New York: University of Cambridge.

Kilborn, Judith. 2004. “MLA Documentation.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. Last updated March 16, 2004. https://leo.stcloudstate.edu/research/mla.html.

Spatt, Brenda. 1991. Writing from Sources , 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin’s.

University of Kansas. 2018. “Bibliographies.” KU Writing Center. Last updated April 2018. http://writing.ku.edu/bibliographies .

University of Wisconsin-Madison. 2019. “Annotated Bibliography.” The Writing Center. Accessed June 14, 2019. https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/annotatedbibliography/ .

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Writing an Annotated Bibliography

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What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography gives an account of the research that has been done on a given topic. Like any bibliography, an annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of research sources. In addition to bibliographic data, an annotated bibliography provides a concise summary of each source and some assessment of its value or relevance. Depending on your assignment, an annotated bibliography may be one stage in a larger research project, or it may be an independent project standing on its own.

Selecting the sources:

The quality and usefulness of your bibliography will depend on your selection of sources. Define the scope of your research carefully so that you can make good judgments about what to include and exclude. Your research should attempt to be reasonably comprehensive within well-defined boundaries. Consider these questions to help you find appropriate limits for your research:

  • What problem am I investigating? What question(s) am I trying to pursue? If your bibliography is part of a research project, this project will probably be governed by a research question. If your bibliography is an independent project on a general topic (e.g. aboriginal women and Canadian law), try formulating your topic as a question or a series of questions in order to define your search more precisely ( e.g. How has Canadian law affecting aboriginal women changed as a result of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? How have these changes affected aboriginal women? How have aboriginal women influenced and responded to these legal developments?).
  • What kind of material am I looking for? (academic books and journal articles? government reports or policy statements? articles from the popular press? primary historical sources? etc.)
  • Am I finding essential studies on my topic? (Read footnotes in useful articles carefully to see what sources they use and why. Keep an eye out for studies that are referred to by several of your sources.)

Summarizing the argument of a source:

An annotation briefly restates the main argument of a source. An annotation of an academic source, for example, typically identifies its thesis (or research question, or hypothesis), its major methods of investigation, and its main conclusions. Keep in mind that identifying the argument of a source is a different task than describing or listing its contents. Rather than listing contents (see Example 1 below), an annotation should account for why the contents are there (see Example 2 below).

Example 1: Only lists contents:

McIvor, S. D. (1995). Aboriginal women’s rights as “existing rights.” Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 2/3 , 34-38. This article discusses recent constitutional legislation as it affects the human rights of aboriginal women in Canada: the Constitution Act (1982), its amendment in 1983, and amendments to the Indian Act (1985). It also discusses the implications for aboriginal women of the Supreme Court of Canada’s interpretation of the Constitution Act in R. v. Sparrow (1991).

Example 2: Identifies the argument:

McIvor, S. D. (1995). Aboriginal women’s rights as “existing rights.” Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 2/3 , 34-38. This article seeks to define the extent of the civil and political rights returned to aboriginal women in the Constitution Act (1982), in its amendment in 1983, and in amendments to the Indian Act (1985). * This legislation reverses prior laws that denied Indian status to aboriginal women who married non-aboriginal men. On the basis of the Supreme Court of Canada’s interpretation of the Constitution Act in R. v. Sparrow (1991), McIvor argues that the Act recognizes fundamental human rights and existing aboriginal rights, granting to aboriginal women full participation in the aboriginal right to self-government. ** * research question ** method & main conclusions

The following reading strategies can help you identify the argument of your source:

  • Identify the author’s thesis (central claim or purpose) or research question. Both the introduction and the conclusion can help you with this task.
  • Look for repetition of key terms or ideas. Follow them through the text and see what the author does with them. Note especially the key terms that occur in the thesis or research question that governs the text.
  • Notice how the text is laid out and organized. What are the main divisions or sections? What is emphasized? Why? Accounting for why will help you to move beyond listing contents and toward giving an account of the argument.
  • Notice whether and how a theory is used to interpret evidence or data. Identify the method used to investigate the problem/s addressed in the text.
  • Pay attention to the opening sentence(s) of each paragraph, where authors often state concisely their main point in the paragraph.
  • Look for paragraphs that summarize the argument. A section may sometimes begin or conclude with such a paragraph.

Assessing the relevance and value of sources:

Your annotation should now go on to briefly assess the value of the source to an investigation of your research question or problem. If your bibliography is part of a research project, briefly identify how you intend to use the source and why. If your bibliography is an independent project, try to assess the source’s contribution to the research on your topic.

  • Are you interested in the way the source frames its research question or in the way it goes about answering it (its method)? Does it make new connections or open up new ways of seeing a problem? (e.g. bringing the Sparrow decision concerning aboriginal fishing rights to bear on the scope of women’s rights)
  • Are you interested in the way the source uses a theoretical framework or a key concept? (e.g. analysis of existing, extinguished, and other kinds of rights)
  • Does the source gather and analyze a particular body of evidence that you want to use? (e.g. the historical development of a body of legislation)
  • How do the source’s conclusions bear on your own investigation?

In order to determine how you will use the source or define its contribution, you will need to assess the quality of the argument: why is it of value? what are its limitations? how well defined is its research problem? how effective is its method of investigation? how good is the evidence? would you draw the same conclusions from the evidence?

Keep the context of your project in mind. How is material assessed in your course or discipline? What models for assessing arguments are available in course materials?

Various kinds of annotated bibliographies:

Annotated bibliographies do come in many variations. Pay close attention to the requirements of your assignment. Here are some possible variations:

  • Some assignments may require you to summarize only and not to evaluate.
  • Some assignments may want you to notice and comment on patterns of similarity and dissimilarity between sources; other assignments may want you to treat each source independently.
  • If the bibliography is long, consider organizing it in sections. Your categories of organization should help clarify your research question.
  • Some assignments may require or allow you to preface the bibliography (or its sections) with a paragraph explaining the scope of your investigation and providing a rationale for your selection of sources.

Some language for talking about texts and arguments:

It is sometimes challenging to find the vocabulary in which to summarize and discuss a text. Here is a list of some verbs for referring to texts and ideas that you might find useful:

To learn more on referring to texts and ideas, visit our file on reporting verbs .

This handout and many others are available in Writing in the Health Sciences: a comprehensive guide .

Based on materials originally developed for the Equity Studies Program, New College.

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Extended Essay: Create an Annotated Bibliography

  • Extended Essay- The Basics
  • Step 1. Choose a Subject
  • Step 2. Educate yourself!
  • Using Brainstorming and Mind Maps
  • Identify Keywords
  • Do Background Reading
  • Define Your Topic
  • Conduct Research in a Specific Discipline
  • Step 5. Draft a Research Question
  • Step 6. Create a Timeline
  • Find Articles
  • Find Primary Sources
  • Get Help from Experts
  • Search Engines, Repositories, & Directories
  • Databases and Websites by Subject Area
  • Create an Annotated Bibliography
  • Advice (and Warnings) from the IB
  • Chicago Citation Syle
  • MLA Works Cited & In-Text Citations
  • Step 9. Set Deadlines for Yourself
  • Step 10. Plan a structure for your essay
  • Evaluate & Select: the CRAAP Test
  • Conducting Secondary Research
  • Conducting Primary Research
  • Formal vs. Informal Writing
  • Presentation Requirements
  • Evaluating Your Work

Using an Annotated Bibliography

List on clipboard - Britannica ImageQuest

  • What was in the source?
  • How was the source useful?
  • [and sometimes] How has the source changed your thinking?

It is excellent preparation for carrying out independent research.This page has information on using an annotated bibliography for your Extended Essay:

What Is an Annotated Bibliography - and Why Write it at the Beginning of Your Research? How Can a Good Annotated Bibliography Help With My EE? What Should an Annotation Include? How Do I Write an Annotation? What Do Sample Annotations Look Like?

For other resources, see:

annotated bibliography meaning essay

What Is an Annotated Bibliography - and Why Write it at the Beginning of Your Research?

An annotated bibliography is a bibliography that includes a summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources. Each citation is followed by a brief note – or annotation – that describes various aspects of the source such as a summary, an evaluation of the content, and applicability to your topic.

Why should an annotated bibliography come at the BEGINNING of your research assignment?   A researcher can use an annotated bibliography to do a critical summary of each source: its importance, its strengths and weaknesses, and the ways in which the source will fit into your research. When doing an annotated bibliography, researchers analyze and don't summarize.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography . Narrated by Melissa Wehler, 2020.        YouTube , youtu.be/rUax6rIiwgA. Accessed 4 Sept. 2021.

How Can a Good Annotated Bibliography Help Me With My EE?

The process is not just a matter of listing possible sources. It also requires you to think critically. Consider your sources in terms of:

  • what has already been written about their chosen topic and
  • how your own research will fit into this.

As you examine each source, you will need to identify the issues and different perspectives of others. This will help you to develop a reasoned argument.

Clock face of wall clock - Britannica ImageQuest

  • allow you to keep track of your reading
  • encourage you to think critically about the sources you are using in relation to your research area
  • allow you, quite early on in the process, to become aware of possible concerns about using certain sources
  • help you determine whether a source is of use to you in your research
  • help you to justify your use of particular sources, both to your supervisor and to the IB examiner who will be reading your essay
  • help you with the planning of your research, and ultimately save you time
  • enable you to develop critical-thinking skills in selecting and evaluating source material.

What Should an Annotation Include?

Books and papers - Britannica ImageQuest

  • the bibliographic information
  • the annotations (a concise summary of the source).

The annotations will vary in length depending on whether you are writing a summary of the source or analyzing it.

A summary should include:         

  • a concise summary of the content and theme(s) of the source
  • a comment on the authority of the author
  • a comment on the purpose of the source
  • a comment on how this source might be useful.         

What Do Sample Annotations Look Like?

The following are examples of annotations in several IB disciplines.

Social and cultural anthropology

What Should the Annotation Include?

This video tutorial from Champlain College Library explains what an annotated bibliography is and what each annotation should include.  The short paragraphs describing each source on the list should summarize the source, evaluate it, and discuss how it would fit into your topic.

Champlain College Library, prod. What's an Annotated Bibliography? YouTube.       Champlain College Lib., 2 Feb. 2012. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.       <https://youtu.be/RZoIXuRyTgI>. 

How Do I Write an Annotation?

The Cornell University Library has defined an annotated bibliography as: a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief  (usually about 150 words)  descriptive and evaluative paragraph. This means you are creating a paragraph that others may read to get a general idea of what your sources are about. The hardest part is being concise with your information. Annotations take practice but once you get the hang of it they are easy. Here are the steps to follow:   Step 1: Talk about the author. (1 sentence) Is this a professor? Maybe this is a professional in the field? Or is this person a hobbyist? Tell the audience about the author in the first part of the annotation. Step 2: Explain what the article is about. (1-3 sentences) Tell the audience what is in the article. This is the most difficult part of the annotation because it requires you to be very succinct. Don’t rewrite the article; just write the base facts and important notes about the article here. Step 3: Explain how this article illuminates your bibliography topic. (1-2 sentences) What about this article makes it relevant to your topic? Why did you select it? What pertinent bit of information makes this article stand out among the others? Step 4: Compare or contrast this work with another you have cited. (1-2 sentences) How does this specific article relate to another article in your annotated bibliography? Do they agree or not? Why not? What makes them unique?  

See the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University for Annotated Bibliography Samples.

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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography - MLA Style

What is an annotation, how is an annotation different from an abstract, what is an annotated bibliography, types of annotated bibliographies, descriptive or informative, analytical or critical, to get started.

An annotation is more than just a brief summary of an article, book, website, or other type of publication. An annotation should give enough information to make a reader decide whether to read the complete work. In other words, if the reader were exploring the same topic as you, is this material useful and if so, why?

While an abstract also summarizes an article, book, website, or other type of publication, it is purely descriptive. Although annotations can be descriptive, they also include distinctive features about an item. Annotations can be evaluative and critical and the two major types of annotations included here demonstrate the difference.

An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (like a reference list). It differs from a straightforward bibliography in that each reference is followed by a paragraph length annotation, usually 100–200 words in length.

Depending on the assignment, an annotated bibliography might have different purposes:

  • Provide a literature review on a particular subject
  • Help to formulate a thesis on a subject
  • Demonstrate the research you have performed on a particular subject
  • Provide examples of major sources of information available on a topic
  • Describe items that other researchers may find of interest on a topic

There are two major types of annotated bibliographies:

A descriptive or informative annotated bibliography describes or summarizes a source as does an abstract; it describes why the source is useful for researching a particular topic or question and its distinctive features. In addition, it describes the author's main arguments and conclusions without evaluating what the author says or concludes.

For example:

Gabbin, Joanne V. "Maya Angelou--The Peoples' Poet Laureate: An Introduction."  Langston Hughes Review , vol. 19, Spring 2005, pp. 3-6.  LION: Literature Online , gateway.proquest.com/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&xri:pqil:res_ver=0.2&res_id=xri:lion&rft_id=xri:lion:ft:criticism:R04012678:0&rft.accountid=14580. This scholarly article is a critical introduction to the works of Maya Angelou, and the criteria surrounding her success as a poet laureate. The author points out Angelou's literary influences, which include William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, Langston Hughes, among others. This article also points out that her poetry lacks cultural boundaries, yet her trademark lies in the secular chants, songs, and games of the black vernacular tradition. The author discusses dialect and vernacular rhythms in several of Angelou's poems, and compares several of her works to the racy dialect of Sterling Brown and Langston Hughes. Also discussed is her political cultural voice and her deep understanding of emotion. This article is distinctive in its discussion of the need for a poet laureate to add to an audience's collective memory.

Please pay attention to the last sentence. While it points out distinctive features about the item it does not analyze the author's conclusions.

An analytical or critical annotation not only summarizes the material, it analyzes what is being said. It examines the strengths and weaknesses of what is presented as well as describing the applicability of the author's conclusions to the research being conducted.

Analytical or critical annotations will most likely be required when writing for a college-level course.

Gabbin, Joanne V. "Maya Angelou--The Peoples' Poet Laureate: An Introduction."  Langston Hughes Review , vol. 19, Spring 2005, pp. 3-6.  LION: Literature Online , gateway.proquest.com/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&xri:pqil:res_ver=0.2&res_id=xri:lion&rft_id=xri:lion:ft:criticism:R04012678:0&rft.accountid=14580. This scholarly article is a critical introduction to the works of Maya Angelou, and the criteria surrounding her success as a poet laureate. The author points out Angelou's literary influences, that include William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, Langston Hughes, among others. This article also points out that her poetry lacks cultural boundaries, yet her trademark lies in the secular chants, songs, and games of the black vernacular tradition. The author discusses dialect and vernacular rhythms in several of Angelou's poems, and compares several of her works to the racy dialect of Sterling Brown and Langston Hughes. Also discussed is her political cultural voice and her deep understanding of emotion. This article is a good resource for those wanting to explore criteria related to the achievement of the award of poet laureate and how Angelou meets the criteria. This article begins to explore the poet's works and suggests her ability to add to an audience's collective memory. The author is a professor of English at James Madison University and has authored a book on Sterling Brown and numerous critical essays.

Please pay attention to the last three sentences. They give information about the author and critique the author's research.

To write an annotated bibliography here are the steps:

  • Choose your sources -  Before writing your annotated bibliography, you must choose your sources. This involves doing research much like for any other project. Locate records to materials that may apply to your topic.
  • Review the items -  Then review the actual items and choose those that provide a wide variety of perspectives on your topic. Article abstracts are helpful in this process.
  • The purpose of the work
  • A summary of its content
  • Information about the author(s)
  • For what type of audience the work is written
  • Its relevance to the topic
  • Any special or unique features about the material
  • Research methodology
  • The strengths, weaknesses or biases in the material

Annotated bibliographies are arranged alphabetically by the first author's last name.

Please see the  MLA Examples Page  for more information on citing in MLA style.

  • Last Updated: Aug 8, 2023 1:53 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.umgc.edu/annotated-bibliography-mla

Frequently asked questions

What is an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is an assignment where you collect sources on a specific topic and write an annotation for each source. An annotation is a short text that describes and sometimes evaluates the source.

Frequently asked questions: Citing sources

A scientific citation style is a system of source citation that is used in scientific disciplines. Some commonly used scientific citation styles are:

  • Chicago author-date , CSE , and Harvard , used across various sciences
  • ACS , used in chemistry
  • AMA , NLM , and Vancouver , used in medicine and related disciplines
  • AAA , APA , and ASA , commonly used in the social sciences

There are many different citation styles used across different academic disciplines, but they fall into three basic approaches to citation:

  • Parenthetical citations : Including identifying details of the source in parentheses —usually the author’s last name and the publication date, plus a page number if available ( author-date ). The publication date is occasionally omitted ( author-page ).
  • Numerical citations: Including a number in brackets or superscript, corresponding to an entry in your numbered reference list.
  • Note citations: Including a full citation in a footnote or endnote , which is indicated in the text with a superscript number or symbol.

A source annotation in an annotated bibliography fulfills a similar purpose to an abstract : they’re both intended to summarize the approach and key points of a source.

However, an annotation may also evaluate the source , discussing the validity and effectiveness of its arguments. Even if your annotation is purely descriptive , you may have a different perspective on the source from the author and highlight different key points.

You should never just copy text from the abstract for your annotation, as doing so constitutes plagiarism .

Most academics agree that you shouldn’t cite Wikipedia as a source in your academic writing , and universities often have rules against doing so.

This is partly because of concerns about its reliability, and partly because it’s a tertiary source. Tertiary sources are things like encyclopedias and databases that collect information from other sources rather than presenting their own evidence or analysis. Usually, only primary and secondary sources are cited in academic papers.

A Wikipedia citation usually includes the title of the article, “Wikipedia” and/or “Wikimedia Foundation,” the date the article was last updated, and the URL.

In APA Style , you’ll give the URL of the current revision of the article so that you’re sure the reader accesses the same version as you.

There’s some disagreement about whether Wikipedia can be considered a reliable source . Because it can be edited by anyone, many people argue that it’s easy for misleading information to be added to an article without the reader knowing.

Others argue that because Wikipedia articles cite their sources , and because they are worked on by so many editors, misinformation is generally removed quickly.

However, most universities state that you shouldn’t cite Wikipedia in your writing.

Hanging indents are used in reference lists in various citation styles to allow the reader to easily distinguish between entries.

You should apply a hanging indent to your reference entries in APA , MLA , and Chicago style.

A hanging indent is used to indent all lines of a paragraph except the first.

When you create a hanging indent, the first line of the paragraph starts at the border. Each subsequent line is indented 0.5 inches (1.27 cm).

APA and MLA style both use parenthetical in-text citations to cite sources and include a full list of references at the end, but they differ in other ways:

  • APA in-text citations include the author name, date, and page number (Taylor, 2018, p. 23), while MLA in-text citations include only the author name and page number (Taylor 23).
  • The APA reference list is titled “References,” while MLA’s version is called “ Works Cited .”
  • The reference entries differ in terms of formatting and order of information.
  • APA requires a title page , while MLA requires a header instead.

A parenthetical citation in Chicago author-date style includes the author’s last name, the publication date, and, if applicable, the relevant page number or page range in parentheses . Include a comma after the year, but not after the author’s name.

For example: (Swan 2003, 6)

To automatically generate accurate Chicago references, you can use Scribbr’s free Chicago reference generator .

APA Style distinguishes between parenthetical and narrative citations.

In parenthetical citations , you include all relevant source information in parentheses at the end of the sentence or clause: “Parts of the human body reflect the principles of tensegrity (Levin, 2002).”

In narrative citations , you include the author’s name in the text itself, followed by the publication date in parentheses: “Levin (2002) argues that parts of the human body reflect the principles of tensegrity.”

In a parenthetical citation in MLA style , include the author’s last name and the relevant page number or range in parentheses .

For example: (Eliot 21)

A parenthetical citation gives credit in parentheses to a source that you’re quoting or paraphrasing . It provides relevant information such as the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number(s) cited.

How you use parenthetical citations will depend on your chosen citation style . It will also depend on the type of source you are citing and the number of authors.

APA does not permit the use of ibid. This is because APA in-text citations are parenthetical and there’s no need to shorten them further.

Ibid. may be used in Chicago footnotes or endnotes .

Write “Ibid.” alone when you are citing the same page number and source as the previous citation.

When you are citing the same source, but a different page number, use ibid. followed by a comma and the relevant page number(s). For example:

  • Ibid., 40–42.

Only use ibid . if you are directing the reader to a previous full citation of a source .

Ibid. only refers to the previous citation. Therefore, you should only use ibid. directly after a citation that you want to repeat.

Ibid. is an abbreviation of the Latin “ibidem,” meaning “in the same place.” Ibid. is used in citations to direct the reader to the previous source.

Signal phrases can be used in various ways and can be placed at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence.

To use signal phrases effectively, include:

  • The name of the scholar(s) or study you’re referencing
  • An attributive tag such as “according to” or “argues that”
  • The quote or idea you want to include

Different citation styles require you to use specific verb tenses when using signal phrases.

  • APA Style requires you to use the past or present perfect tense when using signal phrases.
  • MLA and Chicago requires you to use the present tense when using signal phrases.

Signal phrases allow you to give credit for an idea or quote to its author or originator. This helps you to:

  • Establish the credentials of your sources
  • Display your depth of reading and understanding of the field
  • Position your own work in relation to other scholars
  • Avoid plagiarism

A signal phrase is a group of words that ascribes a quote or idea to an outside source.

Signal phrases distinguish the cited idea or argument from your own writing and introduce important information including the source of the material that you are quoting , paraphrasing , or summarizing . For example:

“ Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker (1994) insists that humans possess an innate faculty for comprehending grammar.”

If you’re quoting from a text that paraphrases or summarizes other sources and cites them in parentheses , APA and Chicago both recommend retaining the citations as part of the quote. However, MLA recommends omitting citations within a quote:

  • APA: Smith states that “the literature on this topic (Jones, 2015; Sill, 2019; Paulson, 2020) shows no clear consensus” (Smith, 2019, p. 4).
  • MLA: Smith states that “the literature on this topic shows no clear consensus” (Smith, 2019, p. 4).

Footnote or endnote numbers that appear within quoted text should be omitted in all styles.

If you want to cite an indirect source (one you’ve only seen quoted in another source), either locate the original source or use the phrase “as cited in” in your citation.

In scientific subjects, the information itself is more important than how it was expressed, so quoting should generally be kept to a minimum. In the arts and humanities, however, well-chosen quotes are often essential to a good paper.

In social sciences, it varies. If your research is mainly quantitative , you won’t include many quotes, but if it’s more qualitative , you may need to quote from the data you collected .

As a general guideline, quotes should take up no more than 5–10% of your paper. If in doubt, check with your instructor or supervisor how much quoting is appropriate in your field.

To present information from other sources in academic writing , it’s best to paraphrase in most cases. This shows that you’ve understood the ideas you’re discussing and incorporates them into your text smoothly.

It’s appropriate to quote when:

  • Changing the phrasing would distort the meaning of the original text
  • You want to discuss the author’s language choices (e.g., in literary analysis )
  • You’re presenting a precise definition
  • You’re looking in depth at a specific claim

To paraphrase effectively, don’t just take the original sentence and swap out some of the words for synonyms. Instead, try:

  • Reformulating the sentence (e.g., change active to passive , or start from a different point)
  • Combining information from multiple sentences into one
  • Leaving out information from the original that isn’t relevant to your point
  • Using synonyms where they don’t distort the meaning

The main point is to ensure you don’t just copy the structure of the original text, but instead reformulate the idea in your own words.

“ Et al. ” is an abbreviation of the Latin term “et alia,” which means “and others.” It’s used in source citations to save space when there are too many authors to name them all.

Guidelines for using “et al.” differ depending on the citation style you’re following:

To insert endnotes in Microsoft Word, follow the steps below:

  • Click on the spot in the text where you want the endnote to show up.
  • In the “References” tab at the top, select “Insert Endnote.”
  • Type whatever text you want into the endnote.

If you need to change the type of notes used in a Word document from footnotes to endnotes , or the other way around, follow these steps:

  • Open the “References” tab, and click the arrow in the bottom-right corner of the “Footnotes” section.
  • In the pop-up window, click on “Convert…”
  • Choose the option you need, and click “OK.”

To insert a footnote automatically in a Word document:

  • Click on the point in the text where the footnote should appear
  • Select the “References” tab at the top and then click on “Insert Footnote”
  • Type the text you want into the footnote that appears at the bottom of the page

Footnotes are notes indicated in your text with numbers and placed at the bottom of the page. They’re used to provide:

  • Citations (e.g., in Chicago notes and bibliography )
  • Additional information that would disrupt the flow of the main text

Be sparing in your use of footnotes (other than citation footnotes), and consider whether the information you’re adding is relevant for the reader.

Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page they refer to. This is convenient for the reader but may cause your text to look cluttered if there are a lot of footnotes.

Endnotes appear all together at the end of the whole text. This may be less convenient for the reader but reduces clutter.

Both footnotes and endnotes are used in the same way: to cite sources or add extra information. You should usually choose one or the other to use in your text, not both.

An in-text citation is an acknowledgement you include in your text whenever you quote or paraphrase a source. It usually gives the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page number of the relevant text. In-text citations allow the reader to look up the full source information in your reference list and see your sources for themselves.

If you are reusing content or data you used in a previous assignment, make sure to cite yourself. You can cite yourself just as you would cite any other source: simply follow the directions for that source type in the citation style you are using.

Keep in mind that reusing your previous work can be considered self-plagiarism , so make sure you ask your professor or consult your university’s handbook before doing so.

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Peer review is a process of evaluating submissions to an academic journal. Utilizing rigorous criteria, a panel of reviewers in the same subject area decide whether to accept each submission for publication. For this reason, academic journals are often considered among the most credible sources you can use in a research project– provided that the journal itself is trustworthy and well-regarded.

Academic dishonesty can be intentional or unintentional, ranging from something as simple as claiming to have read something you didn’t to copying your neighbor’s answers on an exam.

You can commit academic dishonesty with the best of intentions, such as helping a friend cheat on a paper. Severe academic dishonesty can include buying a pre-written essay or the answers to a multiple-choice test, or falsifying a medical emergency to avoid taking a final exam.

Academic dishonesty refers to deceitful or misleading behavior in an academic setting. Academic dishonesty can occur intentionally or unintentionally, and varies in severity.

It can encompass paying for a pre-written essay, cheating on an exam, or committing plagiarism . It can also include helping others cheat, copying a friend’s homework answers, or even pretending to be sick to miss an exam.

Academic dishonesty doesn’t just occur in a classroom setting, but also in research and other academic-adjacent fields.

To apply a hanging indent to your reference list or Works Cited list in Word or Google Docs, follow the steps below.

Microsoft Word:

  • Highlight the whole list and right click to open the Paragraph options.
  • Under Indentation > Special , choose Hanging from the dropdown menu.
  • Set the indent to 0.5 inches or 1.27cm.

Google Docs:

  • Highlight the whole list and click on Format >  Align and indent >  Indentation options .
  • Under  Special indent , choose Hanging from the dropdown menu.

When the hanging indent is applied, for each reference, every line except the first is indented. This helps the reader see where one entry ends and the next begins.

For a published interview (whether in video , audio, or print form ), you should always include a citation , just as you would for any other source.

For an interview you conducted yourself , formally or informally, you often don’t need a citation and can just refer to it in the text or in a footnote , since the reader won’t be able to look them up anyway. MLA , however, still recommends including citations for your own interviews.

The main elements included in a newspaper interview citation across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the names of the interviewer and interviewee, the interview title, the publication date, the name of the newspaper, and a URL (for online sources).

The information is presented differently in different citation styles. One key difference is that APA advises listing the interviewer in the author position, while MLA and Chicago advise listing the interviewee first.

The elements included in a newspaper article citation across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the author name, the article title, the publication date, the newspaper name, and the URL if the article was accessed online .

In APA and MLA, the page numbers of the article appear in place of the URL if the article was accessed in print. No page numbers are used in Chicago newspaper citations.

Untitled sources (e.g. some images ) are usually cited using a short descriptive text in place of the title. In APA Style , this description appears in brackets: [Chair of stained oak]. In MLA and Chicago styles, no brackets are used: Chair of stained oak.

For social media posts, which are usually untitled, quote the initial words of the post in place of the title: the first 160 characters in Chicago , or the first 20 words in APA . E.g. Biden, J. [@JoeBiden]. “The American Rescue Plan means a $7,000 check for a single mom of four. It means more support to safely.”

MLA recommends quoting the full post for something short like a tweet, and just describing the post if it’s longer.

The main elements included in image citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the name of the image’s creator, the image title, the year (or more precise date) of publication, and details of the container in which the image was found (e.g. a museum, book , website ).

In APA and Chicago style, it’s standard to also include a description of the image’s format (e.g. “Photograph” or “Oil on canvas”). This sort of information may be included in MLA too, but is not mandatory.

The main elements included in a lecture citation across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the name of the speaker, the lecture title, the date it took place, the course or event it was part of, and the institution it took place at.

For transcripts or recordings of lectures/speeches, other details like the URL, the name of the book or website , and the length of the recording may be included instead of information about the event and institution.

The main elements included in a YouTube video citation across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the name of the author/uploader, the title of the video, the publication date, and the URL.

The format in which this information appears is different for each style.

All styles also recommend using timestamps as a locator in the in-text citation or Chicago footnote .

Each annotation in an annotated bibliography is usually between 50 and 200 words long. Longer annotations may be divided into paragraphs .

The content of the annotation varies according to your assignment. An annotation can be descriptive, meaning it just describes the source objectively; evaluative, meaning it assesses its usefulness; or reflective, meaning it explains how the source will be used in your own research .

Any credible sources on your topic can be included in an annotated bibliography . The exact sources you cover will vary depending on the assignment, but you should usually focus on collecting journal articles and scholarly books . When in doubt, utilize the CRAAP test !

The elements included in journal article citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the name(s) of the author(s), the title of the article, the year of publication, the name of the journal, the volume and issue numbers, the page range of the article, and, when accessed online, the DOI or URL.

In MLA and Chicago style, you also include the specific month or season of publication alongside the year, when this information is available.

In APA , MLA , and Chicago style citations for sources that don’t list a specific author (e.g. many websites ), you can usually list the organization responsible for the source as the author.

If the organization is the same as the website or publisher, you shouldn’t repeat it twice in your reference:

  • In APA and Chicago, omit the website or publisher name later in the reference.
  • In MLA, omit the author element at the start of the reference, and cite the source title instead.

If there’s no appropriate organization to list as author, you will usually have to begin the citation and reference entry with the title of the source instead.

The main elements included in website citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the author, the date of publication, the page title, the website name, and the URL. The information is presented differently in each style.

When you want to cite a specific passage in a source without page numbers (e.g. an e-book or website ), all the main citation styles recommend using an alternate locator in your in-text citation . You might use a heading or chapter number, e.g. (Smith, 2016, ch. 1)

In APA Style , you can count the paragraph numbers in a text to identify a location by paragraph number. MLA and Chicago recommend that you only use paragraph numbers if they’re explicitly marked in the text.

For audiovisual sources (e.g. videos ), all styles recommend using a timestamp to show a specific point in the video when relevant.

The abbreviation “ et al. ” (Latin for “and others”) is used to shorten citations of sources with multiple authors.

“Et al.” is used in APA in-text citations of sources with 3+ authors, e.g. (Smith et al., 2019). It is not used in APA reference entries .

Use “et al.” for 3+ authors in MLA in-text citations and Works Cited entries.

Use “et al.” for 4+ authors in a Chicago in-text citation , and for 10+ authors in a Chicago bibliography entry.

Check if your university or course guidelines specify which citation style to use. If the choice is left up to you, consider which style is most commonly used in your field.

  • APA Style is the most popular citation style, widely used in the social and behavioral sciences.
  • MLA style is the second most popular, used mainly in the humanities.
  • Chicago notes and bibliography style is also popular in the humanities, especially history.
  • Chicago author-date style tends to be used in the sciences.

Other more specialized styles exist for certain fields, such as Bluebook and OSCOLA for law.

The most important thing is to choose one style and use it consistently throughout your text.

The main elements included in all book citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the author, the title, the year of publication, and the name of the publisher. A page number is also included in in-text citations to highlight the specific passage cited.

In Chicago style and in the 6th edition of APA Style , the location of the publisher is also included, e.g. London: Penguin.

A block quote is a long quote formatted as a separate “block” of text. Instead of using quotation marks , you place the quote on a new line, and indent the entire quote to mark it apart from your own words.

The rules for when to apply block quote formatting depend on the citation style:

  • APA block quotes are 40 words or longer.
  • MLA block quotes are more than 4 lines of prose or 3 lines of poetry.
  • Chicago block quotes are longer than 100 words.

In academic writing , there are three main situations where quoting is the best choice:

  • To analyze the author’s language (e.g., in a literary analysis essay )
  • To give evidence from primary sources
  • To accurately present a precise definition or argument

Don’t overuse quotes; your own voice should be dominant. If you just want to provide information from a source, it’s usually better to paraphrase or summarize .

Every time you quote a source , you must include a correctly formatted in-text citation . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style .

For example, a direct quote in APA is cited like this: “This is a quote” (Streefkerk, 2020, p. 5).

Every in-text citation should also correspond to a full reference at the end of your paper.

A quote is an exact copy of someone else’s words, usually enclosed in quotation marks and credited to the original author or speaker.

The DOI is usually clearly visible when you open a journal article on an academic database. It is often listed near the publication date, and includes “doi.org” or “DOI:”. If the database has a “cite this article” button, this should also produce a citation with the DOI included.

If you can’t find the DOI, you can search on Crossref using information like the author, the article title, and the journal name.

A DOI is a unique identifier for a digital document. DOIs are important in academic citation because they are more permanent than URLs, ensuring that your reader can reliably locate the source.

Journal articles and ebooks can often be found on multiple different websites and databases. The URL of the page where an article is hosted can be changed or removed over time, but a DOI is linked to the specific document and never changes.

When a book’s chapters are written by different authors, you should cite the specific chapter you are referring to.

When all the chapters are written by the same author (or group of authors), you should usually cite the entire book, but some styles include exceptions to this.

  • In APA Style , single-author books should always be cited as a whole, even if you only quote or paraphrase from one chapter.
  • In MLA Style , if a single-author book is a collection of stand-alone works (e.g. short stories ), you should cite the individual work.
  • In Chicago Style , you may choose to cite a single chapter of a single-author book if you feel it is more appropriate than citing the whole book.

Articles in newspapers and magazines can be primary or secondary depending on the focus of your research.

In historical studies, old articles are used as primary sources that give direct evidence about the time period. In social and communication studies, articles are used as primary sources to analyze language and social relations (for example, by conducting content analysis or discourse analysis ).

If you are not analyzing the article itself, but only using it for background information or facts about your topic, then the article is a secondary source.

A fictional movie is usually a primary source. A documentary can be either primary or secondary depending on the context.

If you are directly analyzing some aspect of the movie itself – for example, the cinematography, narrative techniques, or social context – the movie is a primary source.

If you use the movie for background information or analysis about your topic – for example, to learn about a historical event or a scientific discovery – the movie is a secondary source.

Whether it’s primary or secondary, always properly cite the movie in the citation style you are using. Learn how to create an MLA movie citation or an APA movie citation .

To determine if a source is primary or secondary, ask yourself:

  • Was the source created by someone directly involved in the events you’re studying (primary), or by another researcher (secondary)?
  • Does the source provide original information (primary), or does it summarize information from other sources (secondary)?
  • Are you directly analyzing the source itself (primary), or only using it for background information (secondary)?

Some types of source are nearly always primary: works of art and literature, raw statistical data, official documents and records, and personal communications (e.g. letters, interviews ). If you use one of these in your research, it is probably a primary source.

Primary sources are often considered the most credible in terms of providing evidence for your argument, as they give you direct evidence of what you are researching. However, it’s up to you to ensure the information they provide is reliable and accurate.

Always make sure to properly cite your sources to avoid plagiarism .

Common examples of secondary sources include academic books, journal articles , reviews, essays , and textbooks.

Anything that summarizes, evaluates or interprets primary sources can be a secondary source. If a source gives you an overview of background information or presents another researcher’s ideas on your topic, it is probably a secondary source.

Common examples of primary sources include interview transcripts , photographs, novels, paintings, films, historical documents, and official statistics.

Anything you directly analyze or use as first-hand evidence can be a primary source, including qualitative or quantitative data that you collected yourself.

The Scribbr Citation Generator is developed using the open-source Citation Style Language (CSL) project and Frank Bennett’s citeproc-js . It’s the same technology used by dozens of other popular citation tools, including Mendeley and Zotero.

You can find all the citation styles and locales used in the Scribbr Citation Generator in our publicly accessible repository on Github .

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

  • Annotated Bibliography
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An annotated bibliography is a list of cited resources related to a particular topic or arranged thematically that include a brief descriptive or evaluative summary. The annotated bibliography can be arranged chronologically by date of publication or alphabetically by author, with citations to print and/or digital materials, such as, books, newspaper articles, journal articles, dissertations, government documents, pamphlets, web sites, etc., multimedia sources like films and audio recordings, or documents and materials preserved in archival collections.

Beatty, Luke and Cynthia Cochran. Writing the Annotated Bibliography: A Guide for Students and Researchers . New York: Routledge, 2020; Harner, James L. On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography . 2nd edition. New York: Modern Language Association, 2000.

Importance of a Good Annotated Bibliography

In lieu of writing a formal research paper or in preparation for a larger writing project, your professor may ask you to develop an annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography may be assigned for a number of reasons, including :

  • To show that you can identify and evaluate the literature underpinning a research problem;
  • To demonstrate that you can identify and conduct an effective and thorough review of pertinent literature;
  • To develop skills in discerning the most relevant research studies from those which have only superficial relevance to your topic;
  • To explore how different types of sources contribute to understanding the research problem;
  • To be thoroughly engaged with individual sources in order to strengthen your analytical skills; or,
  • To share sources among your classmates so that, collectively, everyone in the class obtains a comprehensive understanding of research about a particular topic.

On a broader level, writing an annotated bibliography can lay the foundation for conducting a larger research project. It serves as a method to evaluate what research has been conducted and where your proposed study may fit within it. By critically analyzing and synthesizing the contents of a variety of sources, you can begin to evaluate what the key issues are in relation to the research problem and, by so doing, gain a better perspective about the deliberations taking place among scholars. As a result of this analysis, you are better prepared to develop your own point of view and contributions to the literature.

In summary, creating a good annotated bibliography...

  • Encourages you to think critically about the content of the works you are using, their place within the broader field of study, and their relation to your own research, assumptions, and ideas;
  • Gives you practical experience conducting a thorough review of the literature concerning a research problem;
  • Provides evidence that you have read and understood your sources;
  • Establishes validity for the research you have done and of you as a researcher;
  • Gives you the opportunity to consider and include key digital, multimedia, or archival materials among your review of the literature;
  • Situates your study and underlying research problem in a continuing conversation among scholars;
  • Provides an opportunity for others to determine whether a source will be helpful for their research; and,
  • Could help researchers determine whether they are interested in a topic by providing background information and an idea of the kind of scholarly investigations that have been conducted in a particular area of study.

In summary, writing an annotated bibliography helps you develop skills related to critically reading and identifying the key points of a research study and to effectively synthesize the content in a way that helps the reader determine its validity and usefulness in relation to the research problem or topic of investigation.

NOTE: Do not confuse annotating source materials in the social sciences with annotating source materials in the arts and humanities. Rather than encompassing forms of synopsis and critical analysis, an annotation assignment in arts and humanities courses refers to the systematic interpretation of literary texts, art works, musical scores, performances, and other forms of creative human communication for the purpose of clarifying and encouraging analytical thinking about what the author(s)/creator(s) have written or created. They are assigned to encourage students to actively engage with the text or creative object.

Annotated Bibliographies. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Annotated Bibliographies. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Annotated Bibliography. The Waldin Writing Center. Waldin University; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . (New York: Routledge, 2008), p. 127-128; Writing an Annotated Bibliography. Assignment Structures and Samples Research and Learning Online, Monash University; Kalir, Remi H. and Antero Garcia. Annotation . Essential Knowledge Series. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2021.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  Types

  • Descriptive : This annotation describes the source without summarizing the actual argument, hypothesis, or message in the content. Like an abstract , it describes what the source addresses, what issues are being investigated, and any special features, such as appendices or bibliographies, that are used to supplement the main text. What it does not include is any evaluation or criticism of the content. This type of annotation seeks to answer the question: Does this source cover or address the topic I am researching? Collectively, this type of annotated bibliography synthesizes prior research about a topic or serves as a review of the literature before conducting a broader research study.
  • Informative/Summative : This type of annotation summarizes what the content, message, or argument of the source is. It generally contains the hypothesis, methodology, and conclusion or findings, but like the descriptive type, you are not offering your own evaluative comments about such content. This type of annotation seeks to answer these types of questions: What are the author's main arguments? What are the key findings? What conclusions or recommended actions did the author state?   Collectively, this type of annotated bibliography summarizes the way in which scholars have studied and documented outcomes about a topic.
  • Evaluative/Critical/Analytical : This annotation includes your own evaluative statements about the content of a source. It is the most common type of annotation your professor will ask you to write. Your critique may focus on describing a study's strengths and weaknesses or it may describe the applicability of the conclusions to the research problem you are studying. This type of annotation seeks to answer these types of questions: Is the reasoning sound? Is the methodology sound? Does this source address all the relevant issues? How does this source compare to other sources on this topic? Collectively, this type of annotated bibliography offers a detailed analysis and critical assessment of the research literature about a topic.

NOTE:   There are a variety of strategies you can use to critically evaluate a source based on its content, purpose, and format. A description of these strategies can be found here .

II.  Choosing Sources for Your Bibliography

There are two good strategies to begin identifying possible sources for your bibliography--one that looks back into the literature and one that projects forward based on tracking sources cited by researchers.

  • The first strategy is to identify several recently published [within the past few years] scholarly books using the USC Libraries catalog or journal articles found by searching a comprehensive, multidisciplinary database like ProQuest Multiple . Review the list of references to sources cited by the author(s). Review these citations to identify prior research published about your topic. For a complete list of scholarly databases GO HERE .
  • The second strategy is to identify one or more books, book chapters, journal articles, or research reports on your topic and paste the title of the item into Google Scholar [e.g., from Negotiation Journal , entering the title of the article, " Civic Fusion: Moving from Certainty through Not Knowing to Curiosity " ]. If it is a short title or it uses a lot of common words, place quotation marks around the title so Google Scholar searches the source as a phrase rather than a combination of individual words. Below the citation may be a "Cited by" reference link followed by a number [e.g., Cited by 45]. This number refers to the number of times a source has subsequently been cited by other authors in other sources after the item you found was published.

Your method for selecting which sources to annotate depends on the purpose of the assignment and the research problem you are investigating . For example, if the course is on international social movements and the research problem you choose to study is to compare cultural factors that led to protests in Egypt with the factors that led to protests against the government of the Philippines in  the 1980's, you should consider including non-U.S., historical, and, if possible, foreign language sources in your bibliography.

NOTE:   Appropriate sources to include can be anything that you believe has value in understanding the research problem . Be creative in thinking about possible sources, including non-textual items, such as, films, maps, photographs, and audio recordings, or archival documents and primary source materials, such as, diaries, government documents, collections of personal correspondence, meeting minutes, or official memorandums. If you want to include these types of sources in your annotated bibliography, consult with a librarian if you're not sure where to locate them.

III.  Strategies to Define the Scope of Your Bibliography

It is important that the scope of sources cited and summarized in your bibliography are well-defined and sufficiently narrow in coverage to ensure that you're not overwhelmed by the number of potential items to consider including. Many of the general strategies used to narrow a topic for a research paper are the same that be applied to framing the scope of sources to include in an annotated bibliography.

  • Aspect -- choose one lens through which to view the research problem, or look at just one facet of your topic [e.g., rather than annotating a bibliography of sources about the role of food in religious rituals, create a bibliography on the role of food in Hindu ceremonies].
  • Time -- the shorter the time period to be covered, the more narrow the focus [e.g., rather than political scandals of the 20th century, cite literature on political scandals during the 1980s].
  • Comparative -- a list of resources that focus on comparing two or more issues related to the broader research topic can be used to narrow the scope of your bibliography [e.g., rather than college student activism during the 20th century, cite literature that compares student activism in the 1930s and the 1960s]
  • Geography -- the smaller the area of analysis, the fewer items there are to consider including in your bibliography [e.g., rather than cite sources about trade relations in West Africa, include only sources that examine, as a case study, trade relations between Niger and Cameroon].
  • Type -- focus your bibliography on a specific type or class of people, places, or things [e.g., rather than health care provision in Japan, cite research on health care provided to the elderly in Japan].
  • Source -- your bibliography includes specific types of materials [e.g., only books, only scholarly journal articles, only films, only archival materials, etc.]. However, be sure to describe why only one type of source is appropriate.
  • Combination -- use two or more of the above strategies to focus your bibliography very narrowly or to broaden coverage of a very specific research problem [e.g., cite literature only about political scandals during the 1980s that took place in Great Britain].

IV.  Assessing the Relevance and Value of Sources All the items included in your bibliography should reflect the source's contribution to understanding the research problem . In order to determine how you will use the source or define its contribution, you will need to critically evaluate the quality of the central argument within the source or, in the case of including  non-textual items, determine how the source contributes to understanding the research problem [e.g., if the bibliography lists sources about outreach strategies to homeless populations, a non-textual source would be a film that profiles the life of a homeless person]. Specific elements to assess a research study include an item’s overall value in relation to other sources on the topic, its limitations, its effectiveness in defining the research problem, the methodology used, the quality of the evidence, and the strength of the author’s conclusions and/or recommendations. With this in mind, determining whether a source should be included in your bibliography depends on how you think about and answer the following questions related to its content:

  • Are you interested in the way the author(s) frame the research questions or in the way the author goes about investigating the questions [the method]?
  • Does the research findings make new connections or promote new ways of understanding the problem?
  • Are you interested in the way the author(s) use a theoretical framework or a key concept?
  • Does the source refer to and analyze a particular body of evidence that you want to highlight?
  • How are the author's conclusions relevant to your overall investigation of the topic?

V.  Format and Content

The format of an annotated bibliography can differ depending on its purpose and the nature of the assignment. Contents may be listed alphabetically by author, arranged chronologically by publication date, or arranged under headings that list different types of sources [i.e., books, articles, government documents, research reports, etc.]. If the bibliography includes a lot of sources, items may also be subdivided thematically, by time periods of coverage or publication, or by source type. If you are unsure, ask your professor for specific guidelines in terms of length, focus, and the type of annotation you are to write. Note that most professors assign annotated bibliographies that only need to be arranged alphabetically by author.

Introduction Your bibliography should include an introduction that describes the research problem or topic being covered, including any limits placed on items to be included [e.g., only material published in the last ten years], explains the method used to identify possible sources [such as databases you searched or methods used to identify sources], the rationale for selecting the sources, and, if appropriate, an explanation stating why specific types of some sources were deliberately excluded. The introduction's length depends, in general, on the complexity of the topic and the variety of sources included.

Citation This first part of your entry contains the bibliographic information written in a standard documentation style , such as, MLA, Chicago, or APA. Ask your professor what style is most appropriate, and be consistent! If your professor does not have a preferred citation style, choose the type you are most familiar with or that is used predominantly within your major or area of study.

Annotation The second part of your entry should summarize, in paragraph form, the content of the source. What you say about the source is dictated by the type of annotation you are asked to write [see above]. In most cases, however, your annotation should describe the content and provide critical commentary that evaluates the source and its relationship to the topic.

In general, the annotation should include one to three sentences about the item in the following order : (1) an introduction of the item; (2) a brief description of what the study was intended to achieve and the research methods used to gather information; ( 3) the scope of study [i.e., limits and boundaries of the research related to sample size, area of concern, targeted groups examined, or extent of focus on the problem]; (4) a statement about the study's usefulness in relation to your research and the topic; (5) a note concerning any limitations found in the study; (6) a summary of any recommendations or further research offered by the author(s); and, (7) a critical statement that elucidates how the source clarifies your topic or pertains to the research problem.

Things to think critically about when writing the annotation include:

  • Does the source offer a good introduction on the issue?
  • Does the source effectively address the issue?
  • Would novices find the work accessible or is it intended for an audience already familiar with the topic?
  • What limitations does the source have [reading level, timeliness, reliability, etc.]?
  • Are any special features, such as, appendices or non-textual elements effectively presented?
  • What is your overall reaction to the source?
  • If it's a website or online resource, is it up-to-date, well-organized, and easy to read, use, and navigate?

Length An annotation can vary in length from a few sentences to more than a page, single-spaced. However, they are normally about 300 words--the length of a standard paragraph. The length also depends on the purpose of the annotated bibliography [critical assessments are generally lengthier than descriptive annotations] and the type of source [e.g., books generally require a more detailed annotation than a magazine article]. If you are just writing summaries of your sources, the annotations may not be very long. However, if you are writing an extensive analysis of each source, you'll need to devote more space.

Annotated Bibliographies. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Annotated Bibliographies. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Annotated Bibliography. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Annotated Bibliography. Writing Center. Walden University; Annotated Bibliography. Writing Skills, Student Support and Development, University of New South Wales; Engle, Michael et al. How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography. Olin Reference, Research and Learning Services. Cornell University Library; Guidelines for Preparing an Annotated Bibliography. Writing Center at Campus Library. University of Washington, Bothell; Harner, James L. On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography . 2nd edition. New York: Modern Language Association, 2000; How to Write an Annotated Bibliography. Information and Library Services. University of Maryland; Knott, Deborah. Writing an Annotated Bibliography. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Norton, Donna. Top 32 Effective Tips for Writing an Annotated Bibliography Top-notch study tips for A+ students blog; Writing from Sources: Writing an Annotated Bibliography. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College.

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It's a Strategic Tool!

An annotated bibliography is one of the best tools to help you write your essay. It helps you remember the sources you have consulted and is a good starting point for organizing your argument. Annotated bibliographies can fulfill any and all of these functions:

For guidance on how to create your annotated bibliography, check out these resources:

Creating an Annotated Bibliography (Trinity University)

Writing an Annotated Bibliography (University of Toronto)

How to Prepare an Annotate Bibliography (Cornell University)

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Annotated Bibliography Samples

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This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.

Below you will find sample annotations from annotated bibliographies, each with a different research project. Remember that the annotations you include in your own bibliography should reflect your research project and/or the guidelines of your assignment.

As mentioned elsewhere in this resource, depending on the purpose of your bibliography, some annotations may summarize, some may assess or evaluate a source, and some may reflect on the source’s possible uses for the project at hand. Some annotations may address all three of these steps. Consider the purpose of your annotated bibliography and/or your instructor’s directions when deciding how much information to include in your annotations.

Please keep in mind that all your text, including the write-up beneath the citation, must be indented so that the author's last name is the only text that is flush left.

Sample MLA Annotation

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life . Anchor Books, 1995.

Lamott's book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecurities and failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters in Lamott's book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one's own internal critic.

In the process, Lamott includes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun. Lamott offers sane advice for those struggling with the anxieties of writing, but her main project seems to be offering the reader a reality check regarding writing, publishing, and struggling with one's own imperfect humanity in the process. Rather than a practical handbook to producing and/or publishing, this text is indispensable because of its honest perspective, its down-to-earth humor, and its encouraging approach.

Chapters in this text could easily be included in the curriculum for a writing class. Several of the chapters in Part 1 address the writing process and would serve to generate discussion on students' own drafting and revising processes. Some of the writing exercises would also be appropriate for generating classroom writing exercises. Students should find Lamott's style both engaging and enjoyable.

In the sample annotation above, the writer includes three paragraphs: a summary, an evaluation of the text, and a reflection on its applicability to his/her own research, respectively.

For information on formatting MLA citations, see our MLA 9th Edition (2021) Formatting and Style Guide .

Sample APA Annotation

Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America . Henry Holt and Company.

In this book of nonfiction based on the journalist's experiential research, Ehrenreich attempts to ascertain whether it is currently possible for an individual to live on a minimum-wage in America. Taking jobs as a waitress, a maid in a cleaning service, and a Walmart sales employee, the author summarizes and reflects on her work, her relationships with fellow workers, and her financial struggles in each situation.

An experienced journalist, Ehrenreich is aware of the limitations of her experiment and the ethical implications of her experiential research tactics and reflects on these issues in the text. The author is forthcoming about her methods and supplements her experiences with scholarly research on her places of employment, the economy, and the rising cost of living in America. Ehrenreich’s project is timely, descriptive, and well-researched.

The annotation above both summarizes and assesses the book in the citation. The first paragraph provides a brief summary of the author's project in the book, covering the main points of the work. The second paragraph points out the project’s strengths and evaluates its methods and presentation. This particular annotation does not reflect on the source’s potential importance or usefulness for this person’s own research.

For information on formatting APA citations, see our APA Formatting and Style Guide .

Sample Chicago Manual of Style Annotation

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess . London: Routledge, 1998.

Davidson's book provides a thorough examination of the major roles filled by the numerous pagan goddesses of Northern Europe in everyday life, including their roles in hunting, agriculture, domestic arts like weaving, the household, and death. The author discusses relevant archaeological evidence, patterns of symbol and ritual, and previous research. The book includes a number of black and white photographs of relevant artifacts.

This annotation includes only one paragraph, a summary of the book. It provides a concise description of the project and the book's project and its major features.

For information on formatting Chicago Style citations, see our Chicago Manual of Style resources.

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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

Writing annotations.

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  • Sample Annotated Bibliographies

An annotation is a brief note following each citation listed on an annotated bibliography.  The goal is to briefly summarize the source and/or explain why it is important for a topic.  They are typically a single concise paragraph, but might be longer if you are summarizing and evaluating.

Annotations can be written in a variety of different ways and it’s important to consider the style you are going to use.  Are you simply summarizing the sources, or evaluating them?  How does the source influence your understanding of the topic?  You can follow any style you want if you are writing for your own personal research process, but consult with your professor if this is an assignment for a class.

Annotation Styles

  • Combined Informative/Evaluative Style - This style is recommended by the library as it combines all the styles to provide a more complete view of a source.  The annotation should explain the value of the source for the overall research topic by providing a summary combined with an analysis of the source.  

Aluedse, O. (2006). Bullying in schools: A form of child abuse in schools.  Educational Research Quarterly ,  30 (1), 37.

The author classifies bullying in schools as a “form of child abuse,” and goes well beyond the notion that schoolyard bullying is “just child’s play.” The article provides an in-depth definition of bullying, and explores the likelihood that school-aged bullies may also experience difficult lives as adults. The author discusses the modern prevalence of bullying in school systems, the effects of bullying, intervention strategies, and provides an extensive list of resources and references.

Statistics included provide an alarming realization that bullying is prevalent not only in the United States, but also worldwide. According to the author, “American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million victims.” The author references the National Association of School Psychologists and quotes, “Thus, one in seven children is a bully or a target of bullying.” A major point of emphasis centers around what has always been considered a “normal part of growing up” versus the levels of actual abuse reached in today’s society.

The author concludes with a section that addresses intervention strategies for school administrators, teachers, counselors, and school staff. The concept of school staff helping build students’ “social competence” is showcased as a prevalent means of preventing and reducing this growing social menace. Overall, the article is worthwhile for anyone interested in the subject matter, and provides a wealth of resources for researching this topic of growing concern.

(Renfrow & Teuton, 2008)

  • Informative Style -  Similar to an abstract, this style focuses on the summarizing the source.  The annotation should identify the hypothesis, results, and conclusions presented by the source.

Plester, B., Wood, C, & Bell, V. (2008). Txt msg n school literacy: Does texting and knowledge of text abbreviations adversely affect children's literacy attainment? Literacy , 42(3), 137-144.

Reports on two studies that investigated the relationship between children's texting behavior, their knowledge of text abbreviations, and their school attainment in written language skills. In Study One, 11 to 12 year-old children reported their texting behavior and translated a standard English sentence into a text message and vice versa. In Study Two, children's performance on writing measures were examined more specifically, spelling proficiency was also assessed, and KS2 Writing scores were obtained. Positive correlations between spelling ability and performance on the translation exercise were found, and group-based comparisons based on the children's writing scores also showed that good writing attainment was associated with greater use of texting abbreviations (textisms), although the direction of this association is not clear. Overall, these findings suggest that children's knowledge of textisms is not associated with poor written language outcomes for children in this age range. 

(Beach et al., 2009)

  • Evaluative Style - This style analyzes and critically evaluates the source.  The annotation should comment on the source's the strengths, weaknesses, and how it relates to the overall research topic.

Amott, T. (1993). Caught in the Crisis: Women in the U.S. Economy Today . New York: Monthly Review Press.

A very readable (140 pp) economic analysis and information book which I am currently considering as a required collateral assignment in Economics 201. Among its many strengths is a lucid connection of "The Crisis at Home" with the broader, macroeconomic crisis of the U.S. working class (which various other authors have described as the shrinking middle class or the crisis of de-industrialization).

(Papadantonakis, 1996)

  • Indicative Style - This style of annotation identifies the main theme and lists the significant topics included in the source.  Usually no specific details are given beyond the topic list . 

Example: 

Gambell, T.J., & Hunter, D. M. (1999). Rethinking gender differences in literacy. Canadian Journal of Education , 24(1) 1-16.

Five explanations are offered for recently assessed gender differences in the literacy achievement of male and female students in Canada and other countries. The explanations revolve around evaluative bias, home socialization, role and societal expectations, male psychology, and equity policy.

(Kerka & Imel, 2004)

Beach, R., Bigelow, M., Dillon, D., Dockter, J., Galda, L., Helman, L., . . . Janssen, T. (2009). Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English.  Research in the Teaching of English,   44 (2), 210-241. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27784357

Kerka, S., & Imel, S. (2004). Annotated bibliography: Women and literacy.  Women's Studies Quarterly,  32 (1), 258-271. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/233645656?accountid=2909

Papadantonakis, K. (1996). Selected Annotated Bibliography for Economists and Other Social Scientists.  Women's Studies Quarterly,   24 (3/4), 233-238. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40004384

Renfrow, T.G., & Teuton, L.M. (2008). Schoolyard bullying: Peer victimization an annotated bibliography. Community & Junior College Libraries, 14(4), 251-­275. doi:10.1080/02763910802336407

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What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

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An annotated bibliography is a list of sources (usually articles and books) on a selected topic accompanied by a brief summary and evaluation of each source.

Examples and Observations

An annotated bibliography is really a series of notes about other articles. The purpose of an annotated bibliography is to present an overview of the published literature on a topic by summarizing the key articles. Olin and Uris libraries ([Cornell University] 2008) offers practical advice on preparing an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotations. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy and quality of the sources cited. The annotation is a concise and succinct analysis.

  • "Although preparing an annotated bibliography is time-consuming, it can be very helpful during the drafting or revising stage. If you realize, for instance, that you need more information on a particular topic, your annotations can often direct you to the most useful source."

Basic Features of an Annotated Bibliography

  • "Regardless of the format you choose for your annotated bibliography, your audience will expect to see clear citation formats like MLA, APA, or Chicago . If your readers decide to look up a source, they need to be able to find it easily, so providing them with complete and accurate information in a familiar, readable format is critical. "Your description of sources' content will vary in terms of depth, depending on your purpose and your readers. For some projects, you might merely indicate the topic of a source, while for others you might thoroughly summarize your sources, describing their conclusions or even their methodologies in detail. Comments per source in annotated bibliographies can range in length from a sentence to a paragraph or two. "Annotated bibliographies often go beyond summary to tell the reader something important about their central question or topic, and how each source connects to it. You might help the reader understand the significance of studies in your field generally, or you might evaluate their significance with regard to the question you are researching."

Characteristics of an Excellent Annotated Bibliography

  • "Annotated bibliographies are written alphabetically, by surname of author and should have a consistent format or structure. The annotation is usually quite short, just one or two sentences and comes immediately after the bibliographical source. The actual style and length may vary slightly from one discipline to another or even between institutions, so you should always check for any specific style or format to be used and be consistent in your writing and presentation." "What differentiates an excellent annotated bibliography from an average one? While the criteria may vary between courses, institutions, and subject and disciplinary areas, there are some common points that you should be aware of: a) Relevance to topic. . . . b) Currency of literature. . . . c) Breadth of scholarship. . . . d) Variety of sources. . . . e) Quality of individual annotation. . . ."

​​Excerpts From Collaborative Writing: An Annotated Bibliography

  • In this introduction to the special issue, Beard and Rymer claim that collaborative writing is coming to be viewed as a way of constructing knowledge. They provide a brief overview for the many contexts of collaborative writing discussed in the special issue. Bruffee has observed an increase in the use of collaborative learning strategies in both the classroom and the workplace, and he attributes this increase to the growing discussion of social constructionist theory. In the writing classroom, collaborative learning can take the form of peer editing and reviewing, as well as group projects. The key to success for collaborative learning in any classroom is semi-autonomy for the students. While the teacher serves as the director of group processes, there must be some degree of autonomy for the students so that they may take some responsibility for the direction of their own learning.

Bruce W. Speck et al.,  Collaborative Writing: An Annotated Bibliography . Greenwood Press, 1999

Beard, John D., and Jone Rymer. "The Contexts of Collaborative Writing."  The Bulletin  of the Association for Business Communication 53, no. 2 (1990): 1-3. Special Issue: Collaborative Writing in Business Communication.

Bruffee, Kenneth A. "The Art of Collaborative Learning."  Change  March/April 1987: 42-47. 

Avril Maxwell, "How to Write an Annotated Bibliography."  Score More: Essential Academic Skills for Tertiary Education , ed. by Paul Adams, Roger Openshaw, and Victoria Trembath. Thomson/Dunmore Press, 2006.

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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / APA Format / APA Annotated Bibliography Format

APA Annotated Bibliography Format

The American Psychological Association states that your instructor should set the guidelines for your annotated bibliography, but does ask that the list be formatted according to their standard reference page rules (see Section 9.51 of the  Publication Manual ). Since there are no set rules for creating one, you may be wondering how to create an annotated APA bibliography. If your teacher or professor requests one, don’t worry, here are our recommendations:

  • Make sure you create your references according to APA’s guidelines. If you need some help, here’s a great  APA citation website , which shows how to create references for electronic sources. We also have a page on developing a reference for an  APA journal . Need other source types? Check out the other helpful pages on EasyBib.com.
  • Annotations should be kept short and are usually not more than one paragraph.
  • For more information on writing an annotation, visit the general  annotated bibliography guide .

Here’s a run-through of everything this page includes:

  • Quick APA formatting guidelines

Annotation example

Visual example, using the easybib annotation tool, troubleshooting, quick  apa  formatting guidelines:.

  • Use 1-inch page margins on all sides.
  • The entire page should be double-spaced.
  • Title your page, “Annotated Bibliography”. Center and bold it.
  • Left-align references. If a reference runs over more than one line, any line(s) that comes after the first should be indented a ½ inch from the left margin.
  • Organize your references alphabetically by the first word in the reference. (See further details in this  APA Reference Page  guide).
  • Add the annotations on the line right after their corresponding reference.
  • Indent annotations ½ inch from the left margin.
  • Include a page number in the upper right corner; if this is a professional paper, it should be a running head.

For an annotated bibliography APA example, we’re using the same description as above. The only thing we’re going to change is the structure of the reference. For an APA bibliography, the reference needs to be an  APA citation , and the description can be formed the same way as above.

Here’s what the  APA book citation  for  The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase  looks like:

Forsyth, M. (2014).  The elements of eloquence: Secrets of the perfect turn of phrase.  Penguin Books.

The author, Mark Forsyth, examines the rhetorical devices used in the English language, analyzing the patterns and formats that create memorable quotes. He traces the history of rhetoric to the Ancient Greeks, and provides an abridged timeline, following their use and evolution through to modern day. The author also explores the broader subject of persuasion and maps out the role that the figures of rhetoric play in it. In all, he examines over thirty devices, dissecting notable passages and phrases from pop music, the plays of William Shakespeare, the Bible, and more to explore the figures of rhetoric at work within each of them. Thorough definitions accompany this examination of structure to demonstrate how these formulas have been used to generate famously memorable expressions as well as how to reproduce their effects.

annotated bibliography meaning essay

The EasyBib citation generator has an annotation tool that can help you easily add your annotation to a citation.

  • To do this, begin creating a citation in the EasyBib citation generator. Already have a citation on EasyBib.com? Go to the citation, open your citation options and select “Edit citation.”
  • Once you get to the citation form (where you review found information), scroll to the bottom until you see the sections “More options.”
  • Under that section, click on the “Add annotation” link to open the annotation box.
  • Copy and paste your annotation into the box.
  • Complete your citation.
  • Your annotation will automatically be included and formatted with your citation. You can copy and paste directly into your paper!

Annotated bibliography tool

Again, even though the APA style does not support the creation of bibliographies that include annotations, many schools and professors expect their students to include summaries or commentary alongside their citations in APA style.

Solution #1: How to write an annotation

Annotations are brief paragraph summaries of your source and may include details about how you plan to use the information in your paper, or the quality of information in your source. Take these steps:

  • Read through the source.
  • Identify the main thesis theme of the source then consider how you would summarize the article and its purpose in one sentence.
  • Evaluate the source. Is the author(s) qualified? Is the source and its arguments credible? Well-written? Why or why not?
  • How does the source relate to your paper?
  • Write your annotation based on the above steps. Choose only the points that would most help you or your reader gain an understanding of the source and its significance.

Here are writing tips:

  • Avoid describing every event, statistic, or detail that occurs in your source.
  • Focus on details that are relevant to your topic or your paper. Help the reader understand why the source was selected and is importance.
  • Think about how the information impacts your perspective, how it contributes to your topic, and the effect on your overall paper.

Annotated paragraph example:

Solution #2: How to correctly format an annotation with multiple paragraphs

  • Indent the entire annotated paragraph at ½ of an inch. When done correctly, the left edge of the annotated paragraph will look entirely straight, as in the first example below.
  • If there are multiple paragraphs, follow step one but use a second 0.5-inch indention on the second and following paragraphs.
  • Avoid indenting the paragraph at 0.5 inch like a regular essay paragraph, as shown in the third example.

Single annotated paragraph example:

Multiple annotated paragraphs example:

In his novel, “A True Story of John Doe,” Samuel Smith outlines his life through the eyes of a fictional character. His recollection outlines the immigrant experience and demonstrates how modern life in England came to be.

          Chapters two and three outline the novelty of moving to a new location by describing the eventual progression to culture shock. Smith describes life as beautiful and wonderous in chapter two by emphasizing sensory experiences. However, in chapter three, he slowly gains awareness of the differences between his current and previous lives and of how the locals treat him. Smith nullifies the sensory experiences and, instead, focuses on the depth of the human emotion. I intend to use this source to compare to my own experience as an immigrant.

APA Formatting Guide

APA Formatting

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Block Quotes
  • et al Usage
  • In-text Citations
  • Multiple Authors
  • Paraphrasing
  • Page Numbers
  • Parenthetical Citations
  • Reference Page
  • Sample Paper
  • APA 7 Updates
  • View APA Guide

Citation Examples

  • Book Chapter
  • Journal Article
  • Magazine Article
  • Newspaper Article
  • Website (no author)
  • View all APA Examples

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To create an annotated APA bibliography, follow the below recommendations:

  • Order your reference entries in alphabetical order similar to how you would order entries in the reference list.
  • If you want to add an annotation to an entry, add it as a new paragraph below the reference entry. The entire annotation is indented 0.5 inches from the left margin.

For example:

Lim, L. (2014). Ideology, rationality and reproduction in education: A critical discourse analysis. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 35 (1), 61–76. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2012.739467 Lim focuses on issues of power and ideology dominant in curricular discourses of rationality to study a discourse analysis of the goals of one of the most important curricula in the teaching of thinking. He proves that political and class commitments are reproduced in the forms of thinking that are valued in societies. Through his research, Lim asserts that such curricula engage in creating our understanding of what thinking and rationality are.

To format an annotated bibliography in APA, follow the recommendations given below:

  • Set the left, right, top, and bottom margins as 1 inch.
  • Use double-line spacing.
  • Title the page “Annotated Bibliography.” Set it in bold.
  • The title should be aligned to the center of the page.
  • As you format reference entries, left-align all references in the annotated bibliography section. If any entry runs over more than a line, indent the subsequent lines 0.5 inches from the left margin.
  • Arrange all reference entries alphabetically according to the surname of the authors.
  • Provide your annotations below the reference entry for which you want to give your annotation. Indent annotations 0.5 inches from the left margin.

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VII. Researched Writing

7.7 From Annotated Bibliography to Rough Draft: How to Develop your Position

Terri Pantuso

Now that you’ve completed your annotated bibliography, you may find yourself struggling with how to begin the rough draft of the researched position paper assignment. A researched position paper is simply an argumentative essay in which you take a position on a chosen topic and defend it with secondary sources. While it may be easy for you to state your position and reasons for your argument, you may find it difficult to incorporate your secondary sources into your own draft and still maintain your own voice. Now is the time to break out the scissors.

In this exercise, you are becoming part of the academic discussion, or discourse community, on your chosen topic. Now that you have located sources that either agree or disagree with your position, it’s time to see how those sources inform your thesis . If your annotated bibliography is printed on continuous pages, cut the annotations apart making certain to leave the bibliographical information with each annotation. Once you have done this, arrange the annotations on a table in front of you and imagine that each source is a person standing before you speaking. The topic about which they are speaking is the information contained in your annotation.

Now imagine that your best friend just walked up behind you and asked, “Hey, what are you all discussing?” Your one or two sentence answer is your thesis. That response sums up the gist of the argument being discussed and makes clear your position on the topic. Even if you had a working thesis beforehand, it’s okay to revise it at this point to more clearly match the debate being presented by your sources. It’s still your position – after all, you chose the sources.

Next, in selecting how to arrange the sources to create a rough draft, imagine the conversation again. Which one of the sources provides the strongest support for your position? Which one offers a counterargument? Which one(s) provide evidence which gives the argument logos credibility? As you hear the conversation in your head, arrange your annotations to begin to visualize the outline for your rough draft. However, do not copy/paste the annotations into your rough draft. Instead, incorporate the information you’ve identified into your own argument making sure to be cognizant of syntax .

To enter into a dialogue or conversation about a topic; to consider a subject formally in speech or writing. Public discourse refers to the speeches, publications, media attention, social media posts, and other statements that discuss the public good, the function of government, and the role of the individual in society.

A statement, usually one sentence, that summarizes an argument that will later be explained, expanded upon, and developed in a longer essay or research paper. In undergraduate writing, a thesis statement is often found in the introductory paragraph of an essay. The plural of thesis is theses .

Logos is a rhetorical appeal to reason or logic such that the apparent truth of the argument is what is persuasive. It is one of three types of rhetorical appeals described by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.

The order, pattern, structure, or arrangement of words in a sentence or phrase that is deliberately used by a writer.

7.7 From Annotated Bibliography to Rough Draft: How to Develop your Position Copyright © 2022 by Terri Pantuso is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

IMAGES

  1. MLA annotated bibliography

    annotated bibliography meaning essay

  2. Sample MLA Annotated Bibliography

    annotated bibliography meaning essay

  3. How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

    annotated bibliography meaning essay

  4. ⚡ How to do an apa annotated bibliography. 7 Tips for Writing Annotated

    annotated bibliography meaning essay

  5. Sample Annotated Bibliography in MLA Style

    annotated bibliography meaning essay

  6. How to write an annotated bibliography step-by-step with examples

    annotated bibliography meaning essay

VIDEO

  1. Annotated Bibliography 2

  2. "Annotated Bibliography" (Brief Description/Instructions)

  3. Annotated Bibliography introduction

  4. Annotated Bibliography for ENG 102

  5. Annotated Bibliography

  6. Annotated Bibliography

COMMENTS

  1. What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

    An annotated bibliography is a list of source references that includes a short descriptive text (an annotation) for each source. It may be assigned as part of the research process for a paper, or as an individual assignment to gather and read relevant sources on a topic.

  2. The Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited. Annotations vs. Abstracts

  3. How to Write an Annotated Bibliography, With Examples

    An annotated bibliography is a type of bibliography that includes a comment by the author about the source in addition to the source's publishing information. The author's notes, or annotations, can discuss anything relevant to the topic, such as the source's accuracy, the context in which it was written, or even your personal views on the source.

  4. Annotated Bibliographies

    An annotated bibliography provides specific information about each source you have used. As a researcher, you have become an expert on your topic: you have the ability to explain the content of your sources, assess their usefulness, and share this information with others who may be less familiar with them.

  5. Annotated Bibliographies

    Definitions. A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).

  6. MLA Style Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is a special assignment that lists sources in a way similar to the MLA Works Cited list, but providing an annotation for each source giving extra information. You might be assigned an annotated bibliography as part of the research process for a paper, or as an individual assignment.

  7. Writing an Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography gives an account of the research that has been done on a given topic. Like any bibliography, an annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of research sources. In addition to bibliographic data, an annotated bibliography provides a concise summary of each source and some assessment of its value or relevance.

  8. How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (like a reference list). It differs from a straightforward bibliography in that each reference is followed by a paragraph length annotation, usually 100-200 words in length. Depending on the assignment, an annotated bibliography might have different purposes:

  9. Extended Essay: Create an Annotated Bibliography

    Provided by the Purdue Online Writing Lab at Purdue University. Creating an annotated bibliography. Discusses the purpose and function of an annotated bibliography and provides instruction on compiling one, and gives examples of annotated bibliographic entries. Adapted from 'Extended Essay Guide', International Baccalaureate Organization, 2016.

  10. Annotated bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is a bibliography that gives a summary of each of the entries. [1] The purpose of annotations is to provide the reader with a summary and an evaluation of each source. Each summary should be a concise exposition of the source's central idea (s) and give the reader a general idea of the source's content. [2] [3]

  11. How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (like a reference list). It differs from a straightforward bibliography in that each reference is followed by a paragraph length annotation, usually 100-200 words in length. Depending on the assignment, an annotated bibliography might have different purposes:

  12. What is an annotated bibliography?

    An annotated bibliography is an assignment where you collect sources on a specific topic and write an annotation for each source. An annotation is a short text that describes and sometimes evaluates the source. Frequently asked questions: Citing sources What are scientific citation styles? What are the different types of citation styles?

  13. Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography may be assigned for a number of reasons, including: To show that you can identify and evaluate the literature underpinning a research problem; To demonstrate that you can identify and conduct an effective and thorough review of pertinent literature;

  14. PDF Preparing an Annotated Bibliography

    tion, or essay that falls into one of these categories. If you know enough about it to rank it in the middle or bottom third of your annotated bibliography, then you likely have read enough of it for the purposes of your thesis. Content For each entry, explain how the book, article, dissertation, or essay relates to your provisional argument.

  15. Creating Your Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography is one of the best tools to help you write your essay. It helps you remember the sources you have consulted and is a good starting point for organizing your argument. Annotated bibliographies can fulfill any and all of these functions: summary; analysis; evaluation

  16. Annotated Bibliography Samples

    Consider the purpose of your annotated bibliography and/or your instructor's directions when deciding how much information to include in your annotations. Please keep in mind that all your text, including the write-up beneath the citation, must be indented so that the author's last name is the only text that is flush left. ...

  17. Writing Annotations

    An annotation is a brief note following each citation listed on an annotated bibliography. The goal is to briefly summarize the source and/or explain why it is important for a topic. They are typically a single concise paragraph, but might be longer if you are summarizing and evaluating.

  18. Annotated Bibliography Definition and Examples

    An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotations. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy and quality of the sources cited.

  19. Annotated Bibliography Examples & Step-by-Step Writing Guide

    An annotated bibliography is a list of citations followed by a brief summary or analysis of your sources, aka annotations. The annotation gives information about the relevance and quality of the sources you cited through a 150-250 word description or interpretation of the source. This video is private Watch on Why Write Annotations?

  20. How to Write a Bibliography, With Examples

    An annotated bibliography is a bibliography that includes annotations, which are short notes explaining why the author chose each of the sources. Generally a few sentences long, these notes might summarize or reflect on the source.

  21. Research Proposal and Annotated Bibliography

    An annotated bibliography can also help you avoid accidental plagiarism, which sometimes happens when students forget the sources of ideas or sentences they use in their essays. Annotated bibliographies are thus a common assignment in courses that use research writing, even in alternate forms, such as the common high-school assignment of ...

  22. APA Annotated Bibliography Format

    ( 195) The American Psychological Association states that your instructor should set the guidelines for your annotated bibliography, but does ask that the list be formatted according to their standard reference page rules (see Section 9.51 of the Publication Manual ).

  23. 7.7 From Annotated Bibliography to Rough Draft: How to Develop your

    If your annotated bibliography is printed on continuous pages, cut the annotations apart making certain to leave the bibliographical information with each annotation. Once you have done this, arrange the annotations on a table in front of you and imagine that each source is a person standing before you speaking.

  24. PCC Essay Annotated Bibliography.docx

    1 PCC Essay Annotated Bibliography Jace Kelley Department of Communication, University of Kentucky CIS 111: Composition and Communication II Dr. Raj Gaur 10/2/2023 2 Popular Culture Criticism Artifact Citation Howe Center for Writing Excellence. (2023).