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A Complete Guide to Annotated Bibliographies


This page provides an in-depth explanation on annotated bibliographies. Included are detailed instructions on how to do an annotated bibliography, how to write an annotated bibliography, and an annotated bibliography example.

What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

Annotated bibliography definition: An annotated bibliography is a comprehensive listing of sources related to a specific topic or area of study.

Annotated bibliographies provide:

  • Evidence of your ability to locate, analyze, and compile a list of high-quality resources associated with a topic
  • Readers with a full, extensive inventory of the best and highest-quality resources to use when researching the same topic

Annotated bibliographies include three items:

  • A brief introduction, found at the beginning of the bibliography, which provides the reader with an overview of what they’ll see in the annotated bib
  • Citations for books, journal articles, websites, and many other sources that relate to the research topic
  • A summary or critique of each source, which is added directly below each citation

To see an annotated bibliography example, scroll down to section 3, titled “Creating Annotations.”

Continue reading this page for further detailed instructions on creating an annotated bibliography.

Still wondering, “What is an annotated bibliography?” Need help understanding how to define annotated bibliography? If so, click here for further reading.

Step 1: Choosing Your Topic & Exploring Resources

The first step in developing an annotated bibliography is choosing a research topic or area of study the bibliography will focus on. This might be a topic assigned by your professor, or, if you’re lucky, a topic you’ve chosen yourself. Once you have your topic, the next step is to seek out resources related to it.

The best sources to include in annotated bibliographies are scholarly and academic in nature. Locate superb sources that are high-quality, credible, and valid. Scholarly journal articles, dissertations, books, and websites and materials from trustworthy companies and organizations are all acceptable to include in annotated bibliographies. These source types are highly regarded as credible and authoritative.

Once you’ve determined your topic and the types of sources to include in the bibliography, it’s time to actively seek out materials. Public and school libraries subscribe to databases and other online resources that are beneficial. Librarians are extremely helpful in this step of the process. They can guide you to helpful sources and provide you with access to them, if possible. They may even provide you with further resources if you’re learning how to do an annotated bibliography, or provide you with an annotated bibliography template. Most librarians know how to make an annotated bibliography, so take advantage of this helpful resource!

This process of creating a bibliography is time consuming, especially if you’re not organized. Don’t wait until the last minute to begin your search. Keep track of the search terms and keywords used throughout the process. Upon locating and accessing a source that seems worthy of including in the bibliography, read it in its entirety before determining if it’s acceptable.

Step 2: Creating Citations

Once you’ve found a source that matches your research topic, create a citation and an annotation for it.

Determine the right citation style.. When your teacher or professor assigns your project, they will tell you to format your bibliography in a specific citation style. This will affect the way your citations look.

Citations include various pieces of information including the title of the source, the author’s name, the date the source was published, and other information. Readers look at citations to understand the sources included in the bibliography. Readers may even be interested in finding the source themselves. They can use the information in the citations to locate sources.

To create your citations in MLA, use the following format:

Author’s Last name, First name, Middle name. “Title of the Article or Webpage.” Title of the Journal or Website, Names of others who contributed to the source (such as an editor), Vol. and issue No., Name of the Publisher, Publication date, URL or DOI number.

Your citations may look different depending on the type of source and the number of authors. If you need help, refer to Citation Machine’s MLA format Guide.

The American Psychological Association’s Publication Manual does not include any information about creating APA bibliographies. If your teacher or professor asks you create an annotated bib in this citation style, Citation Machine recommends following your school’s guidelines or following your school’s annotated bibliography template. Citation Machine has an APA format citation guide and other helpful tools.

Citations in this style are formatted differently depending on the source type used. If you’re citing a scholarly journal article, use this format:

Author’s Last name, First initial. Middle initial. (Year published). Article title. Title of Journal, Volume number(Issue Number), Page range. DOI number or URL

To cite other types of sources, and for further instructions on this citation style, check out the directions and suggestions in the link found above.

Citation Machine will help you cite your sources. To help you create your citations quickly and easily, use Citation Machine’s citation generator and click here for more citation styles.

Citation Machine also has an annotated bibliography maker. Add your written annotation at the bottom of the citation form and Citation Machine will help you format the citation and the annotation.

Step 3: Creating Annotations

Below each citation is an annotation, which is an explanation of the source. This explanation should be either a brief summary of the source or a critique of it.

If choosing to annotate summaries, make them as brief as possible. It should be a heavily condensed version of the entire source. Exclude any unnecessary fluff or extra details. Use full sentences and make sure that it reads and flows well.

If choosing to write critiques, include an evaluation of the source as it pertains to the research topic. It is not necessary to write in full sentences.

Choose to write annotations in summary style or critique style. It is not recommended to mix the two styles together. Mixing both annotation styles can be confusing for the reader as they become accustomed to the flow of your bibliography.

Sample Annotated Bibliography:

Below is an annotated bibliography sample for both types of bibliographies. One annotated bibliography example is in summary format and the other is in critique format. They are for the children’s novel Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling.

Example of Annotated Bibliography in summary form:

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Scholastic, 1998.

Harry, a young wizard, is the main character in this fantasy novel. Harry is summoned to Hogwarts, a school specifically for wizards. He spends the school year meeting new friends, studying wizardry, and learning the true past of his parents and the enemies who are after him.

Example of Annotated Bibliography in critique form:

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Scholastic, 1998.

Introduces good and evil to young children. Bullying, fighting, and death are seen throughout. Another major theme is discovering one’s true self and growing up. Easy-to-read format, accompanied by clever concepts and fantasy elements.

For another example of an annotated bibliography or a sample annotated bibliography, click here.

Step 4: How to Format Your Annotated Bibliography

The citations and annotations can be organized in the following ways:

  • Alphabetical order by the authors’ last names
  • By subject (if your bibliography is broken up into different categories or sections)
  • Chronological order by the date the sources were published

Step 5: Developing the Introduction

Believe it or not, the introduction should be the last item written for the bibliography. The introduction should be somewhat brief. It should include information about the research topic, a rationale as to why the topic was chosen, an overview of the types of sources included in the bibliography, and the methods used to locate the sources.

The introduction should be the first item in the bibliography. Follow it with the citations and annotations.

If you’re still wondering how to write an annotated bibliography, click here for more information.

Step 6: Final Checklist

Prior to handing in the bibliography, check for the following:

  • Are the citations correct? Check to ensure that all names of individuals, titles, and publication information are correct.
  • Are the citations in their proper citation style format? Use Citation Machine’s citation generator to check.
  • Do the annotations follow the guidelines found in the annotated bibliography sample section? Remember, choose one style for all of your citations: summary form or critique form.
  • Use the Internet to search for another sample of annotated bibliography. See if your bibliography is similar.

Still wondering, “What is an annotated bibliography?” Need help understanding how to define annotated bibliography? If so, click here for further reading.

Citation Machine’s citation generator form has a place to add your written annotations. Add the text to the form and Citation Machine will help you generate the citation and add the annotation below it. This is a big time saver! Try our annotated bibliography maker.


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