As you are gathering sources in your research, you will want to keep track of which information comes from what source. While other strategies have been discussed such as note taking, some researchers use an annotated bibliography for long term reference purposes. As the name implies, an annotated bibliography is the bibliographical reference of a given source along with key information from that source that you may use for future reference. As assignment parameters will vary by instructor, generally speaking the annotations are 150-200 words in length per source and do not include quoted material. The purpose of the annotations is to summarize the material within the context of your thesis statement.
Annotated Bibliographies follow a common structure and format. Below is an explanation of the elements and format of an annotated bibliography.
Components of an Annotated Bibliography
An annotation often offers a summary of a source that you intend to use for a research project as well as some assessment of the source’s relevance to your project or quality and credibility. There are two key components for each source: the citation and the annotation.
You will provide the full bibliographic reference for the source: author, title, source title, and other required information depending on the type of source. This will be formatted just as it would be in a typical Works Cited for an MLA paper or a References page for an APA paper.
Tone and Style
Some elements can vary depending on the style you are using (e.g., APA or MLA). Be sure to review your style guide along with your assignment sheet. Generally speaking, use the following as a guide:
- Use signal phrases to refer to the author(s).
- Always maintain a neutral tone and use the third-person point of view and correct tense according to style guide (present tense for MLA, past tense for APA) (i.e., Tompkins asserts…).
- Keep the focus of the summary on the text, not on what you think of it, and try to put as most of the summary as you can in your own words. If you must use exact phrases from the source that you are summarizing, you must quote and cite them.
- Annotations should not be a replication of the abstract provided by the source.
What to Include in Annotations
- After the bibliographical information, begin to discuss the source. Begin with a general summary of the source. Describe the key sections of the text and their corresponding main points. Try to avoid focusing on details; a summary covers the essential points and typically does not include quoted material.
- Evaluate the source’s credibility or relevance. Is the author an expert on the topic? How do you know? Is the source peer-reviewed or otherwise credible in nature? How do you know? What makes this source a good one to use?
- Discuss how you plan to integrate the source in your paper. Do you need to point out similarities or differences with other sources in the annotated bibliography? How does it support (or refute) your intended thesis?
Review your Annotated Bibliography assignment sheet for additional content requirements. Instructors often require more than a simple summary of each source, and specific requirements may vary. Any (or all) of these aspects may be required in an annotated bibliography, depending on how or if your instructor has designed this assignment as part of a larger research project.
This section contains material from:
Gagich, Melanie, and Emilie Zickel. “Keeping Track of Your Sources and Writing an Annotated Bibliography.” In A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing. Cleveland: MSL Academic Endeavors. Accessed July 2019. https://pressbooks.ulib.csuohio.edu/csu-fyw-rhetoric/chapter/annotated-bibliography/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
OER credited in the text above includes:
Jeffrey, Robin. About Writing: A Guide. Portland, OR: Open Oregon Educational Resources. Accessed December 18, 2020. https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/aboutwriting/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
- "Annotated Bibliography Samples," Purdue Online Writing Lab, accessed December 20, 2021, https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/common_writing_assignments/annotated_bibliographies/annotated_bibliography_samples.html. ↵