Skip to Main Content

Writing an Annotated Bibliography: Tips

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources (books, articles, websites, etc.) with a short descriptive paragraph about each source. It is sometimes a useful step before writing a research paper or it can stand alone as an overview of the research available on a topic. 


Each source in the annotated bibliography starts with a citation - the information necessary for finding the original source, in a consistent format, such as MLA or APA style. Annotations are usually 4- 6 sentences long and roughly 150 words. 


Annotations include:


          The main focus or purpose of the cited work

          Usefulness or relevance to your research topic. It's value and significance as a contribution to your research.

          Background and credibility of the author

          Possible shortcomings or bias in the work

          Intended audience for the work

          Any significant special features of the work (eg. glossary, appendices, index)

           Conclusions or observations reached by the author

          Your own brief impression of the work including your own conclusions and observations



Process for Preparing an Annotated Bibliography:

  • First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic.
  • Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose works that provide a variety of perspectives on your  topic.
  • Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.
  • Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the work and include the information listed above.          

Annotations versus Abstracts

Many scholarly articles start with an abstract, which is the author's summary of the article to help you decide whether you should read the entire article. This abstract is not the same thing as an annotation. The annotation needs to be in your own words, to explain the relevance of the source to your particular assignment or research question.


Examples of Well-Crafted Annotated Bibliographies:


The following examples use APA format for a journal and a book citation:

Goldschneider, F. K., Waite, L. J., & 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 nonfamily 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 nonfamily living.


Graybosch, A., Scott, G.M. & Garrison, S. (1998).The Philosophy Student Writer's Manual. Upper Saddle River,NJ: Prentice Hall.
Designed to serve as either as a writing guide or as a primary textbook for teaching philosophy through writing, the Manual is an excellent resource for students new to philosophy. Like other books in this area, the Manual contains sections on grammar, writing strategies, introductory informal logic and the different types of writing encountered in various areas of philosophy. Of particular note, however, is the section on conducting research in philosophy. The research strategies and sources of information described there are very much up-to-date, including not only directories and periodical indexes, but also research institutes, interest groups and Internet resources.


Examples of What Your Bibliography Should Not Look Like:


Marieb, Elaine N. (1992).Human Anatomy and PhysiologyRedwood City,CA : The Benjamin/ Cummings Co.

I use this book to get the basic information about arthritis, it was very informative.

            Keefe FJ., (1996) Pain in Arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy,  24, 279-290.
           I got all the facts about exercising with arthritis and the different types of exercise.