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Academic Research: an Overview: Annotated Bibliography

Information and resources for doing academic library research and scholarship


An annotated bibliography is a list of books, articles, and other documents in bibliographic citation format, with the addition of a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph for each item listed. The purpose of the annotations is to provide information to the reader about the accuracy, relevance, and quality of the listed sources.        

Use the format or style guide required by your class or field. For information about citation and formats, see A Citation Guide.

The information provided in annotated bibliography entries is brief, critical, and descriptive, but not merely a summary or a paraphrase of the title. Each annotation should give information about the content, author, purpose, point of view, and style of the item annotated.

Annotated Bibliography Types

  1. Descriptive/Paraphrase – describes the content of the work without judging it
  2. Critical/Commentary – evaluates the usefulness of the work for a particular audience or situation

An Annotated Bibliography Should Include

  1. Complete bibliographic citation in an approved format (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc)
  2. Some or all of the following:
    1. Information about the authority of the author
    2. Scope, purpose, and perspective of the work cited
    3. Intended audience/level of difficulty
    4. Relationship to other works in the area of study
    5. Summary content
  3. About 50-300 words per entry.

Steps to Preparing an Annotated Bibliography

  1. Research –  find citations to likely books, journal articles, and other documents and locate the material
  2. Read – examine and review the actual items and make final selections for inclusion
  3. Cite – choose the appropriate citation format (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc) for your citations
  4. Organize – decide how to present your bibliography (e.g., alphabetical, by subject, etc
  5. Annotate –  write a concise annotation summarizing the central premise and scope of the material.  Other points may include evaluation of the author’s authority, comparison to other works included in your bibliography, or explanation of how this work illuminated your bibliographic topic.
  6. Proofread -- because of their format requirements, citations and biblliography entries take time to check, so go slowly.