Creating an Annotated Bibliography
What is an annotated bibliography?
An annotated bibliography is a list of sources such as books, articles, and documents. Each source in the bibliography is represented by a citation that includes the author (if given), title, and publication details of the source. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to help the reader evaluate whether the work cited is relevant to a specific research topic or line of inquiry.
Annotations versus abstracts
Abstracts are brief statements that present the main points of the original work. They normally do not include an evaluation of the work itself.
Annotations could be descriptive or evaluative, or a combination of both. A descriptive annotation summarizes the scope and content of a work whereas an evaluative annotation provides critical comment.
What an annotation usually includes?
Generally, annotations should be no more than 150 words (or 4-6 sentences long). They should be concise and well-written. Depending on your assignment, annotations may include some or all of the following information:
- Main focus or purpose of the work,
- Intended audience for the work,
- Usefulness or relevance to your research topic (or why it did not meet your expectations)
- Special features of the work that were unique or helpful
- Background and credibility of the author
- Conclusions or observations reached by the author
- Conclusions or observations reached by you
Which citation style to use
There are many style manuals with specific instructions on how to format your annotated bibliography. The style you use may depend on your subject discipline or the preference of your instructor. Whatever the format, be consistent with the same style throughout the bibliography.
Consult our sample style sheets for various Style Guides for examples of how to format citations in MLA, APA, or other style formats.
Annotated Bibliography Samples - MLA
Below are 2 sample annotations in MLA style (7th ed., 2009).
Book citation example with brief evaluative annotation (MLA)
Fryer, Sarah Beebe. "Beneath the Mask: The Plight of Daisy Buchanan." Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Ed. Scott Donaldson. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1984. 153-166. This is a feminist essay that argues that Daisy is trapped in cultural constructions of Rich Wife and Pretty Girl -- she chooses the "unsatisfactory stability" of her marriage because of those constructions. Fryer's only mention of Jordan is a foil to Daisy -- "Like Jordan, Daisy is affected" (156).
Journal article citation example with evaluative annotation (MLA)
Mandel, Jerome. "The Grotesque Rose: Medieval Romance and The Great Gatsby." Modern Fiction Studies 34(1988): 541-558. Mandel argues that Gatsby follows many of the conventions of medieval romance, and analyzes East and West Egg as competing courts, Buchanan as a prince/Lord with Daisy as unattainable queen/fair lady. Gatsby and Nick are both construed as knights; Jordan is only mentioned in passing as a sort of attendant figure on Queen Daisy. This whole analysis seems somewhat farfetched.
Annotated Bibliography Samples - APA
Below are 2 sample annotations. (The citations are in APA Style and are based on the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th edition.)
Book citation example with brief descriptive annotation (APA)
Liroff, R. A., & G. G. Davis. (1981). Protecting open space: Land use control in the Adirondack Park. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger.
This book describes the implementation of regional planning and land use regulation in the Adirondack Park in upstate New York. The authors provide program evaluations of the Adirondack Park Agency’s regulatory and local planning assistance programs.
Journal article citation example with evaluative annotation (APA)
Gottlieb, P. D. (1995). The “golden egg” as a natural resource: Toward a normative theory of growth management. Society and Natural Resources, 8, (5): 49-56.
This article explains the dilemma faced by North American suburbs, which demand both preservation of local amenities (to protect quality of life) and physical development (to expand the tax base). Growth management has been proposed as a policy solution to this dilemma. An analogy is made between this approach and resource economics. The author concludes that the growth management debate raises legitimate issues of sustainability and efficiency.
Need More Help?
Further information on writing annotated bibliographies may be found in:
- Harner, J.L. (2000). On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography. New York: The Modern Language Association of America. Reference Room Z1001 .H33 2000
- Ikeda, A. (2002). Writing Annotated Bibliographies. Claremont, California: Claremont Graduate University Writing Center. Retrieved 7th September 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://www.cgu.edu/pages/836.asp.
- Stacks, G. and Karper, E. (2001). Annotated Bibliographies. West Lafayette, Indiana: Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University. Retrieved 11th July 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/01/