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Learn To Cite

Learn to cite your sources and format your paper in MLA, APA, Chicago, and other styles.

What is an Annotated Bibliography & Why Write One

What is an Annotated Bibliography

A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) you used for researching your topic. Bibliographies are called "Works Cited" (in MLA Style) and "References" (in APA Style)  Your bibliography will include the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.) that your reader would need to identify and locate the original source you're citing.

An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation of a source.

Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes your citation followed by a summary and/or evaluation of each of your sources. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following.

  • Summarize: Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say?
  • Assess: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
  • Reflect: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?

Your annotated bibliography may include some of these, all of these, or even others.

If you're doing this for a class, you should get specific guidelines from your instructor.


Why Write an Annotated Bibliography

Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So, a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.

Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information.

 

Example of MLA Annotated Bibliography

You can click on the paper or the link to view the entire annotated bibliography.


 

Example of APA Annotated Bibliography

Formatting Rules

  • Order your references in alphabetical order as you would in your References.
  • Each annotation should be a new paragraph below its reference entry. Indent the entire annotation 0.5 in. from the left margin.
  • Do not indent the first line of the annotation.
  • If the annotation spans multiple paragraphs, indent the first line of the second and any subsequent paragraphs an additional 0.5 in.

Because your teachers generally set all the other requirements for your annotated bibliography, ask your teacher for specific instructions. For example, ask if your annotated bibliography should include a title page.

Sample Annotated Bibliography using APA Style