How to write an annotated bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of the sources (e.g. books, journal articles, etc.) that you used to research a topic in preparation for writing a term paper. In an annotated bibliography, each source in the list is followed by a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph of 4-5 sentences (approx. 150 words or more), which can also include its relevance to your paper topic. An annotated bibliography should inform the reader by providing a clear indication of each source's relevancy, accuracy and quality.

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General guidelines

  • Carefully read the course assignment instructions.
  • If you are still unclear, check with your professor on the type of annotated bibliography that is required for the assignment.
  • Main Types of Annotated Bibliographies:
    • Summary/descriptive – provides a concise overview of the main arguments, evidence presented, and conclusions
    • Critical/evaluative – in addition to providing an overview, analyzes the content; comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments, evidence, and conclusions; explains the usefulness of the source for your research topic.
    • Combination - most annotated bibliography assignments require that you include both an overview and evaluative comments.
  • Most annotated bibliographies organize sources alphabetically by the first author's last name.
  • Consistently follow the rules of the style guide (APA, MLA, Chicago, Other Guides) that is indicated in your course assignment instructions; the style guide will detail what information to include for each type of source and how it should be formatted.
  • For more detailed guidelines on writing an annotated bibliography, please refer to the following:
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Sample entries from annotated bibliographies

Summary/descriptive type (in APA style)

Sampson, R. J., Raudenbush, S. W., & Earls, F. (1997). Neighborhoods and violent crime: A multilevel study of collective efficacy. Science, 277, 918–924.

Analysis of data gathered by the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods indicates that although racial and socioeconomic inequalities are relevant factors, they are not the singular or primary influences on neighborhood crime. Findings suggest that neighborhood violence is predicted by measures of informal social control, social cohesion and trust, and perceptions of violence. Consistent with the social organization model, collective efficacy is shown to mediate the influence of residential stability in predicting neighborhood violence.

Note: the example above is taken from:
Brossoie, N., Graham, B., & Lee, S. (2005). Families and communities: An annotated bibliography. Family Relations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, 54(5), 666-675. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2005.00350.x

Other sample entries

Purdue Online Writing Center (OWL) provides sample entries for the three main types of annotated bibliographies using APA, MLA, and Chicago styles: summary/descriptive, critical/evaluative, and combination.

For more information, ask a librarian.

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