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Writing an Annotated Bibliography: Introduction

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of works (books, articles, chapters, websites, etc.) that have been consulted during a research project. Sometimes a bibliography is referred to as works cited or reference list. Each entry in a bibliography will include certain information such as the author, title, date, etc. 

An annotated bibliography has an added portion, which is a summary, description, evaluation, or discussion of each work listed.  

Format

You need to know which citation style your assignment requires, such as APA, MLA, Chicago, or another style. If no particular style is required, then you must choose one and use it consistently throughout the bibliography. Quick guides for each citation style are available at the Reference Desk (Pfau Library, 1st floor) or online at Citation Styles. Complete manuals for each style are also available at the Reference Desk.

The annotations should be written in paragraph form using complete sentences. Consult the assignment or instructor about the length of the annotations, but a rule of thumb is roughly 150 words (4 to 6 sentences). You must read the source you are annotating. You cannot get by with reading only the source’s abstract, it will be very apparent to your professor if you do not read the source.

Examples

 

These citations are in MLA format.

Book with very brief summary annotation

White, Timothy. Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley. Henry Holt, 2000.

This book narrates and analyzes the life of Bob Marley from his youth in rural Jamaica to his ascendance as an international reggae superstar. The author provides unique insights from the dozens of interviews with Marley, his family and friends, and other associates. 

Journal Article with evaluation annotation

Umar, Abdullahi. “Timbuktu and Library Culture.” Library History, vol. 1, no. 3, 2011, pp. 62-75.

This article describes the state of libraries in medieval Timbuktu, contrasting the city with its counterparts in North Africa and the broader Islamic world. Timbuktu’s scholars often paid enormous sums to attain manuscripts through outright purchase or hiring of scribes to make copies. It is claimed that the lack of Islamic endowment (waqf) practices in sub-Saharan Africa during this era precluded the existence of public libraries. The author concludes that despite an acute bibliophilic culture in Timbuktu, scholars often generously lent books, establishing de facto public libraries.  


View more Annotated Bibliography Examples from the Purdue OWL.

Types of Annotated Bibliographies

You must consult your assignment or instructor to verify which elements are required in your annotated bibliography. This may include some or all of the following: a summary of the source, a note on the author’s affiliation and/or the source’s intended audience, any perceived bias, an analysis or evaluation of the arguments or data in the source, how the source fits within your research or with your other sources, and your personal reaction to, or reflection on, the source.

Sample Language

To succinctly summarize/analyze a source it is important to use vocabulary that describes an action in as few words as possible. As well, it is a good idea to use a varied vocabulary when constructing your annotated bibliography. Here is a short list of words to consider:

Analyzes, Argues, Assesses, Concludes, Describes, Evaluates, Examines, Explains, Illustrates, Implies, Investigates, Narrates, Proposes, Questions, Reports, Reviews, Suggests – there are many other similar words you can use.