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Annotated bibliography: How to create one

What is an annotated bibliography? And how do I create one? This guide will help answer these questions. It also provides sample APA, MLA, and Chicago annotated bibliographies.

Writing the annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a type of student paper in which reference list entries are followed by a short description of the work.  Each annotation allows your reader to see the relationship of a number of written works to each other and in the context of the topic you've researched.

An annotation could include a summary of the work, an evaluation, and a reflection of how this work "fits" with your research question and other works you've discovered. Follow the requirements of your assignment to provide the type of specific annotation your instructor wants.

Your instructor might assign an annotated bibliography to teach you how to conduct research in your discipline and to widen your understanding of a topic. Some instructors ask you to create annotated bibliographies in preparation for research essays. 

An overview of the annotated bibliography - questions to ask yourself:

  • What are the qualifications of the author(s)?
  • What are the main points of the book or article? 
  • What was the purpose of the research?
  • Who is the audience? Other scholars? Professionals? 
  • Is this source good for background information? In-depth?
  • What is your assessment of the source? Do you agree or disagree?
  • What are the limitations of the work?
  • How does this resource compare to others on the same topic? What are the similarities and/or differences?
  • Did you learn something new from this source that you hadn't thought of or read from another source?

The annotated bibliography & citation styles

Style Guides quick links

Any essay or article needs to give information for readers, so they can see where the author got the ideas and facts.  Different subjects require slightly different formats for presenting that information.  To make sure you're following the rules for your discipline, check a style guide.  Here are a few:

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA Manual) is summarized online, and print copies are available on Reserve and at the Research Help Desk at both libraries. BF 76.7 P83 2020 

The MLA handbook for writers of research papers online guide will assist with the basics; for more detailed information consult the print copy which is available at the Research Help Desk at both libraries and in the loan collection. LB 2369 M53 2017

The Chicago Manual of Style online guide will outline the style basics.

The 8th edition of Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations is in both library Reference collections: LB 2369 T8 2013


Creating the annotations

More sample annotations

The University of Toronto offers an example that illustrates how to summarize a study's research methods and argument.

The Memorial University of Newfoundland presents these examples of both descriptive and critical annotations.

Cornell University Library offers these examples of both APA and MLA format descriptive bibliographies.