When your instructor assigns you to write one of these papers for your essay or research paper, then having an initial understanding of what a bibliography is. An Annotated Bibliography is a list of used sources on a selected topic provided with a brief summary and evaluation of each source. While doing research for your paper, it helps you keep track of how you can use those sources in your essay.
When the bibliography is attached to the final paper, the purpose of the annotation is to tell the reader how relevant, accurate, and qualitative the source is. It is also important to note that this type of writing is different from an abstract. An abstract is a descriptive summary in the beginning of your paper or essay. While an annotated bibliography has the same purpose, it usually appears at the end of the paper and is used to gain a further understanding of what each citation was used for.
Table Of Contents
Creation of the Masterpiece
When taking the first steps to assimilating your bibliography, make sure you look in a wide field of sources. Try to snoop in encyclopedias and textbooks for a more credible secondary source and use literature in your selected field as primary sources.
Before doing the bibliography, read your documents and select the ones that you will most likely use in writing your paper. During that research period, brainstorm topics for the paper.
Proceed to cite it right away! Citing things can be really tedious, but if you do it in the very beginning, then it’s much easier in the end. Then, you can proceed to your annotation. Make sure to include:
- Author’s background and who the author is;
- Comment on the intended audience of the article;
- Explain how the article is useful and highlights your bibliography topic.
How it Should be Formatted?
Before embarking on the writing process, make sure to check with your instructor and find out which citation style he prefers. The two most common types of citation styles are MLA (Modern Language Association) format and APA (American Psychological Association).
APA Style Format
If you choose an APA style it would include a typical APA citation followed by a short annotation. Here’s an APA example:
This article is from The Guardian. Monbiot is a researcher on environmental and political problems. In his article “The Age of Loneliness is Killing Us” he talks about the effect of depression and social collapse due to the technological revolution.
The annotated bibliography in the MLA style includes an MLA citation followed by a short annotation. Here is the EssayPro example:
This article comes from Huffington Post Taste and is written by Julie R. Thomson, an editor at HuffPost Taste. The article discusses the importance of looking at labels of a Korean dish called Kimchi, as it does contain animal products.
If your instructor asks you to write in Chicago style, then here is an example:
This is a primary source of an interview with a famous and influential band member. This could be useful if I were to write about an insight on a band’s life and drama, along with the complications of being in an alternative rock band.
Check that the citation is properly formatted according to the style you are using. List the author; use the full title of the book or the article you are citing; give the full name of the publisher; note the date of publication or the latest revision date if the source is a web page.
Annotate each source you are using. An annotation is a short description of a particular source. It helps the reader place the citation in context. As you have summarized everything, take a fresh look once again and answer these questions:
- Is this information reliable?
- Are these sources fresh or outdated?
- What is the value of these sources for my research?
When writing one of these papers, it might be helpful to look at other examples before embarking on your own. Notice the way they write about their sources and how they split the annotation into the background, context, and analysis.
Here is a sample annotated bibliography that you can use to compare with your work and make sure that what you’re writing is correct. The citations are MLA style, so if your professor asked for annotations in the APA format or any other citation style, then you might want to pay attention to the annotations only. You can also use this as a template.
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The examples given in this article are a prime example of how long an annotation should be. One thing professors hate is tryhards that make them or their TA’s read pages upon pages of summary. To create a strong paper, highlight key information that includes the main ideas. If you’re annotating a longer piece of work, take notes as you go but don’t use all of them in your summary or synthesis. You only need the most important parts. A handy tool to show your professor that you read very carefully is to take direct quotations from the source. An annotated bibliography is very rarely a standalone piece. When a client tells me that they were required to write one, they often want an annotated bibliography for a research paper or a term paper. In that case, your bibliography should be focused on the usefulness and summary of the articles. However, if it is a standalone assignment, then you will want to focus on synthesis and be brief with the summary.
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Annotated Bibliography Samples
This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.
Contributors: Geoff Stacks, Erin Karper, Dana Bisignani, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-20 13:19:26
For a sample of an entry from an annotated bibliography entry in PDF, click on the downloadable file in the media box above.
Below you will find sample annotations from annotated bibliographies, each with a different research project. Remember that the annotations you include in your own bibliography should reflect your research project and/or the guidelines of your assignment.
As mentioned elsewhere in this resource, depending on the purpose of your bibliography, some annotations may summarize, some may assess or evaluate a source, and some may reflect on the source’s possible uses for the project at hand. Some annotations may address all three of these steps. Consider the purpose of your annotated bibliography and/or your instructor’s directions when deciding how much information to include in your annotations.
Please keep in mind that all your text, including the write-up beneath the citation, must be indented so that the author's last name is the only text that is flush left.
Sample MLA Annotation
Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor Books, 1995.
Lamott's book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecuritiesand failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters inLamott's book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one's own internal critic.
In the process, Lamottincludes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun. Lamott offers sane advice for those struggling with the anxieties of writing, but her main project seems to be offering the reader a reality check regarding writing, publishing, and struggling with one's own imperfect humanity in the process. Rather than a practical handbook to producing and/or publishing, this text is indispensable because of its honest perspective, its down-to-earth humor, and its encouraging approach.
Chapters in this text could easily be included in the curriculum for a writing class. Several of the chapters in Part 1 address the writing process and would serve to generate discussion on students' own drafting and revising processes. Some of the writing exercises would also be appropriate for generating classroom writing exercises. Students should find Lamott's style both engaging and enjoyable.
In the sample annotation above, the writer includes three paragraphs: a summary, an evaluation of the text, and a reflection on its applicability to his/her own research, respectively.
For information on formatting MLA citations, see our MLA 2016 Formatting and Style Guide.
Sample APA Annotation
Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
In this book of nonfiction based on the journalist's experiential research, Ehrenreich attempts to ascertain whether it is currently possible for an individual to live on a minimum-wage in America. Taking jobs as a waitress, a maid in a cleaning service, and a Walmart sales employee, the author summarizes and reflects on her work, her relationships with fellow workers, and her financial struggles in each situation.
An experienced journalist, Ehrenreich is aware of the limitations of her experiment and the ethical implications of her experiential research tactics and reflects on these issues in the text. The author is forthcoming about her methods and supplements her experiences with scholarly research on her places of employment, the economy, and the rising cost of living in America. Ehrenreich’s project is timely, descriptive, and well-researched.
The annotation above both summarizes and assesses the book in the citation. The first paragraph provides a brief summary of the author's project in the book, covering the main points of the work. The second paragraph points out the project’s strengths and evaluates its methods and presentation. This particular annotation does not reflect on the source’s potential importance or usefulness for this person’s own research.
For information on formatting APA citations, see our APA Formatting and Style Guide.
Sample Chicago Manual of Style Annotation
Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess. London: Routledge, 1998.
Davidson's book provides a thorough examination of the major roles filled by the numerous pagan goddesses of Northern Europe in everyday life, including their roles in hunting, agriculture, domestic arts like weaving, the household, and death. The author discusses relevant archaeological evidence, patterns of symbol and ritual, and previous research. The book includes a number of black and white photographs of relevant artifacts.
This annotation includes only one paragraph, a summary of the book. It provides a concise description of the project and the book's project and its major features.
For information on formatting Chicago Style citations, see our Chicago Manual of Style resources.