An Introduction to Annotated Bibliographies

What is an annotated bibliography? Annotated bibliographies are aggregated lists of resources that correlate with a research topic. Students and researchers actively seek out exceptional resources about a specific research topic and develop of list of the best resources they’ve found. In addition to information about the source (such as the title, author’s name, publication information, and other identifiable information), writers also include a brief synopsis of each source to provide readers with information about its contents.

Follow the directions below, developed by Cite This For Me, to form a bibliography with annotations.

How to Do an Annotated Bibliography

The act of compiling a bibliography of this type involves:

  • Choosing an annotated bibliography topic. Annotated bibliography topics are sometimes chosen by teachers or professors. There are times, however, when educators allow students or researchers to choose their own topics. Choose a topic which interests you to make the assignment more enjoyable to organize and complete.
  • Seeking out relevant resources that directly correlate with a research topic
  • Creating a citation for each resource. The citation includes the title, author’s name, date of publication, and other identifiable information. Citations can be formatted in MLA format, or another style your teacher or professor recommends.
  • Writing a very brief analysis or summary of each source

In many nonfiction books and texts, authors provide readers with a suggested listing of resources for further reading. This is somewhat similar to an annotated bibliography, except a bibliography of this type takes it one step further and includes a brief write-up (about a paragraph long) about each source.

This specific type of bibliography can stand as an individual assignment or it can be one component of a full research project.

Looking for more information? Need a sample annotated bibliography? In need of another annotated bibliography definition? Click here for further reading.

Why Are Annotated Bibliographies Created?

These specific bibliographies are created for numerous reasons. One reason is to encourage students and researchers to become experts on a topic or area of study. It takes quite a bit of effort and time to access, read, and analyze sources related to a research topic. Scouring the wealth of information available promotes understanding and mastery.

They are also assigned to demonstrate, as well as to advance, information literacy skills. Using accurate keywords and subject headings, accessing databases, and analyzing sources are skills that are necessary in the 21st century. Compiling a bibliography of this type promotes these skills and helps students and researchers demonstrate good practices when it comes to information literacy.

Furthermore, these bibliographies can be helpful to others who are researching the same or a similar topic. Since they provide readers with a brief synopsis, or abstract, of each documented source, readers can determine if they can use it for their own tasks. They may find that the information relates to their own research goals and decide to locate and use the source as well, or they may decide to skip it.

What Elements Are Included in An Annotated Bibliography?

If you’re wondering how to write an annotated bibliography, or need an annotated bibliography template, follow these recommended guidelines from Cite This For Me.

Bibliographies include the following items, in this order:

  1. An introduction:
    The introduction should be the first item. The introduction should include the research topic, the types of sources included, the process used to locate the sources, and any other information related to the scope of the bibliography. Since the sources are the focus of the assignment, not the introduction, keep this part of the bibliography brief and succinct.
  2. A list of the sources and their annotations: This is the heart of the bibliography. Each source should have a full reference citation. Use Cite This For Me’s Citation Generator to instantly develop citations and add them to your assignment. The citations can be placed in alphabetical order by the first item in the citation (most likely the author’s name), in order by publication date, or the citations can be broken up into different categories (by subject categories or source types).

Below each citation, add the annotation. The annotation should be a write-up of about one paragraph, summarizing the source or providing a critique that pertains to the research topic.. For an explanation on the different types of annotations, click here for more.

Annotated Bibliography Examples

Below are a variety of examples and samples to help you understand how to make an annotated bibliography. Please note that only a couple annotations are included to provide an idea of the content and structure. If these were to be complete assignments, the bibliographies below would include more sources.

If you’re still asking yourself, “what is an annotated bibliography?” or wondering what to include in an annotated bibliography, check over here.

Annotated Bibliography Example #1: A MLA style bibliography with summary annotations

Topic: Research Habits of Young Children

This bibliography provides insight into the researching habits of young children. The majority of the resources were found using the ERIC database and include a variety of scholarly articles written in the past two years. These journal articles were peer reviewed.

Karalar, Halit, and Sabri Sidekli. “How Do Second Grade Students in Primary Schools Use and Perceive Tablets?” Universal Journal of Educational Research, vol. 5, no. 6, 2017, pp. 965-71. ERIC, doi: 10.13189/ujer.2017.050609.

This case study examined 60+ second graders in Turkey, seeking to determine how digital natives use tablets. Found that students use tablets to play games, search online, complete homework, and watch videos. Students did not use the tablets to read books, listen to music, or take photos. Students prefer playing outside to using tablets.

Knight, Simon, and Neil Mercer. “Collaborative Epistemic Discourse in Classroom Information-Seeking Tasks.” Technology, Pedagogy and Education, vol. 26, no. 1, 2017, pp. 33-50. ERIC, doi: 10.1080/1475939X.2016.1159978.

Focused on a small group of 11-year-olds who performed various tasks and located answers via search engines. Sought to determine if students regularly discuss their information-seeking practices and findings with one another. Authors found that students did discuss their processes, which ultimately resulted in positive learning outcomes.

Annotated Bibliography Example #2: An APA style bibliography with critique annotations

Note that The American Psychological Association does not provide guidelines or promote the development of annotated bibliographies. However, your teacher or professor may have assigned you one in this specific format. Cite This For Me recommends using the format and structure provided in this guide. Use the example of annotated bibliography below for reference as well.

Topic: Research Habits of Young Children

Understanding the researching habits of young children provides educators with the ability to formulate developmentally appropriate research tasks and understand expectations. In addition, current research allows us to gather information about common misconceptions and to work towards changing them.

This bibliography displays a variety of current scholarly journal articles to help understand students’ research habits. The bibliography is organized by the platform studied and discussed in each article: Research on Desktop Computers and Research on Tablets. Since students’ researching habits can change depending on the platform used, it seemed appropriate to organize the bibliography as such.

Research on Computers

Knight, S., & Mercer, N. (2017). Collaborative epistemic discourse in classroom information-seeking tasks. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 26(1), 33-50.

Concluded that student discussion during information-seeking tasks helps with understanding and completing research tasks. Small sample of students (8), which makes results difficult to compare to whole population. Developmentally appropriate search activity for students. Many students stated they looked for “official websites” in order to trust information.

Research on Tablets

Karalar, H., & Sidekli, S. (2017). How do second grade students in primary schools use and perceive tablets? Universal Journal of Educational Research, 5(6), 965-971.

Attempts to understand how a small sample of 2nd graders in Turkey use their tablets. As an educator, the format of the open-ended written responses seemed developmentally too difficult. However, it stated in the study that students completed it easily. Findings were not surprising. Fourteen out of 63 students stated they use tablets for searching. One student stated, “It knows whatever I asked,” so it can be assumed that perhaps Siri, or some other type of voice recognition software, was used to type in the search strings or keywords.

Click here for an additional annotated bibliography sample/example of an annotated bibliography. This source also explains how to define annotated bibliography and answers the question, “What are the parts of an annotated bibliography?”

Notice the two annotated bibliography samples found above have different structures. The first bibliography is formatted in alphabetical order by the author’s last names, while the second bibliography is organized into different categories. Both are acceptable. If the bibliography is very long, it may be helpful to organize it into different subject headings or categories.

Researchers and students can also organize their bibliographies in chronological order. This is often done when many of the sources are created by the same person. For example, if writing a bibliography about short stories Mark Twain wrote, it would make sense to organize the bibliography by publication date. For further information on the organization and for an example annotated bibliography, click here to get more info. This site also features an annotation worksheet, which can be used as an annotated bibliography maker.

Here are some additional recommendations from Cite This For Me to help format your annotated bib:

If you are creating the bibliography in MLA:

  • Use standard size print or copy paper (8.5 inches x 11 inches). It is not necessary to use a specific finish or texture.
  • Double space everything, even the citations.
  • Choose a commonly used font. Arial and Times New Roman are both good options. For font size, use 12-point.
  • Create a hanging indent for citations. The first line of the citation should align along the left margin. The second line should be indented in half an inch from the left (or use the “Tab” button on your keyboard). Look at the citations above for visual examples.
  • Margins should be 1 inch around the perimeter of the paper.

If you are creating the bibliography using APA format:

  • Use standard size print or copy paper (8.5 inches x 11 inches). It is not necessary to use a specific finish or texture.
  • Double space everything, even the citations.
  • Use Times New Roman only. For font size, use 12-point.
  • Create a hanging indent for citations. The first line of the citation should align along the left margin. The second line should be indented in half an inch from the left (or use the “Tab” button on your keyboard). Look at the citations above for visual examples.
  • Margins should be 1 inch around the perimeter of the paper.

Don’t forget, Cite This For Me generates citations in even more styles. Use Cite This For Me’s citation generator to develop your citations in a few easy steps.

Which elements are included in an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography contains three parts: 1. the title at the top; 2. the bibliographic citation; and 3. the annotation following each citation. Some style formats may also include an introduction to the topic. While the citation provides standard details about the work, the annotation following it is generally summary, analysis, or evaluation. A summary or analysis may also include an evaluation.

The annotated bibliography may be organized alphabetically by authors’ last names, by category, or chronologically.

Elements of an Annotated Bibliography

Title: Annotated Bibliography (centered)

Citation (per APA or MLA or Chicago format)

Annotation (150 to 250 words in summary, analysis, or evaluation)

Why should I create an annotated bibliography?

You should create an annotated bibliography for the following reasons:

  • To help you evaluate the credibility, authenticity, and authority of your sources before you start writing your paper
  • To help you understand the depth of your topic
  • To help you decide if you have enough information on your topic based on your research
  • To assess whether your research is adequate or if you need more research to come to a conclusion

These points are discussed in detail below.

Evaluating the credibility, authenticity, and authority of your sources

When you assess a source’s credibility, authenticity, and authority, you become genuinely knowledgeable on whether that source is trustworthy and reliable enough to base your research on. This is of paramount importance when the paper bases its findings on your sources.

Understanding a Topic in Depth

A source can either provide information at a shallow level or at a much deeper level. By creating an annotated bibliography, you can evaluate at what level a resource provides information. Most importantly, the resource enables you to fathom your level of understanding of the subject and transfer that knowledge to future readers of your paper.

Assessing the Need for Further Research

By compiling an annotated bibliography, you can assess if the sourced ideas are enough and relevant or if you need to dig deeper to get more information on your chosen area of focus. While you may get information from all your sources, the ideas and conclusions that you derive from those sources are to be your own. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you to arrive at a final conclusion more easily when you synthesize your ideas and conclusions in a cohesive manner.