What is an annotated bibliography?

This is an organized list of sources (references cited), such as books, journals, newspapers, magazines, web pages, etc., each of which is followed by an annotation or description of each item.

Annotations may consist of all or part of the following list of items, depending on the purpose of the bibliography: 

  • describe the content (focus) of the item
  • describe the usefulness of the item
  • discuss any limitations that the item may have, e.g. grade level, timeliness etc.
  • describe what audience the item is intended for
  • evaluate the methods (research) used in the item
  • evaluate the reliability of the item
  • discuss the author’s background
  • discuss any conclusions the author(s) may have made
  • describe your reaction to the item

What is the purpose of an annotated bibliography?

Depending on the assignment the annotated bibliography may serve a number of purposes. Including but not limited to:

  • a review of the literature on a particular subject
  • illustrate the quality of research that you have done
  • provide examples of the types of sources available
  • describe other items on a topic that may be of interest to the reader
  • explore the subject for further research

How is an annotation different than an abstract?

Abstracts are typically descriptive summaries of academic articles or other scholarly publications. Annotations are descriptive and also critical. Annotations are more likely to offer a point of view and not just describe an item.

What does an annotated bibliography look like?

You write and arrange the bibliographic entries (citations) just as you would any other bibliography. This is usually arranged alphabetically by the first word, which is typically the author’s last name. Your instructor may have their own style that they prefer that you use and there are a number of crib sheets (both on the Internet and in print form) with the popular styles, such as APA, MLA, Chicago, CBE, etc. The annotation may then immediately follow the bibliographic information or may skip one or two lines depending on the style manual that is used. Remember to be brief and include only directly significant information and write in an efficient manner.

Following are two examples of what an APA annotated bibliography may look like.

I got all the facts about exercising with arthritis and the different types of exercise from this source. The author is very readable and includes a detailed bibliography.

Sewell explains the code language within these pages including certain lines of code as examples. One useful idea that Sewell uses is to explain characters and how they work in the programming of a web page. He also describes how to make lists and a title section. This will be very useful because all web pages have a title section. This author also introduces Pascal which I am not sure if I will include in my manual but after I read more about it I can decide whether this will be helpful to future users. This book will not be the basis of my manual but will add some key points, which are described above.

Prepared by: Owen E. Williams, former UMN Crookston Library Director