Writing an Annotated Bibliography

What is an Annotated Bibliography? 

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents used for researching a topic. Each citation (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.) is followed by a brief summary and/or evaluative paragraph — the annotation — usually about 150 words.

The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

If you're creating an annotated bibliography for a specific class, you should get guidelines from your instructor. Check with your instructor to find out which citation style is preferred. Online citation guides for AMA, APA, CSE and MLA are available on our Writing the Paper webpage.

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 topic or helps you shape your argument.

Remember that the annotations you include in your own bibliography should reflect your research project and/or the guidelines of your assignment.

Examples

APA Style

The following example uses APA citation style and comes from Cornell University Library’s How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography:

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

CSE Style

The following example uses CSE (formerly CBE) citation style and comes from the YouTube video tutorial How to Write an Annotated Bibliography:

Bingham RA, Ranker TA. 2000. Genetic diversity in alpine and foothill populations of Campanula Rotundifolia (Campanulaceae). Int J Plant Sci 161(3):403-411.

Bingham, a biology professor at Western State College of Colorado, writes that, because of highly effective pollination by bumblebees, some trees do not experience a decrease in genetic variability even when they grow at high elevation. This idea is supported by better research here than in other articles that I found. The research is important to me as I investigate the degree to which hummingbirds migrate the negative effects of cold, high altitude, environments on the pollination of Apache Paintbrush flowers.


Resources

Permission to adapt and reproduce portions of the Cornell University Library Research Guide, titled How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography, is granted in Research Guides Use Conditions by: Research & Learning Services, Olin Library, Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY.

The video tutorial How to Write an Annotated Bibliography was originally created by Larry Sheret (Marshall University) on May 4, 2012, and is licensed to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution license.