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Cite Your Sources: Annotated Bibliography


What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and other sources. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

You will summarize the relevant information you're getting from that source (but remember, this isn't your paper – you are summarizing, not presenting all the information itself) as well as how this well help you in your research (by providing background information, by exploring a certain angle, by presenting a contrary idea...).

How are annotations different from abstracts?

Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they expose the author's point of view and authority.

Why do I need an annotated bibliography?

Creating an annotated bibliography is not simply an academic exercise. An annotated bibliography is a tool to help you summarize your source content and evaluate its place within your research. If a source satisfies your "usefulness" criteria, that source belongs on your annotated bibliography. Of course, evaluation of sources goes beyond "usefulness" to the other elements of authority, credibility, currency, and purpose.

This process begins the transition from reading sources to incorporating content (ideas, quotes, paraphrasing) into your work. It is time to "make sense" of the knowledge you have gained from your research. This knowledge is the foundation on which to build your own voice, explain your methodology, discuss your conclusions, and report on your new knowledge.

How do I craft an annotated bibliography?

Crafting an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

  • First, locate and record citations to books, articles, and other sources that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose the works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.
  • Cite the source using APA Style. Refer to the page in this guide entitled References for guidelines and examples.
  • Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the source. 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 bibliography topic.

What are the components of an annotated bibliography?

  • Begin with an APA reference list-style citation.
    • Refer to the page in this guide entitled References for guidelines and examples
  • Add an annotation, a brief and concise statement about the source. Think in terms of a "note" consisting of 5-6 sentences:
    • One sentence to evaluate why the author is an expert on the topic (authority)
    • A sentence on the intended audience of the source (purpose)
    • A few sentences (perhaps a paraphrase) that explain how this source will illuminate your topic and how you will use the content in your paper (usefulness or relevance)
    • Any other criteria of note for this topic or discipline
  • Organize entries (citation + annotation) just as you would your Reference List:
    • Double space and use hanging indentation
    • Alphabetize reference list entries by the last name of the first author of each work
    • For multiple sources by the same author(s), list entries in chronological order from earliest to most recent

Example of an APA-style annotated bibliography entry

Where can I find more resources about annotated bibliographies?