English Resources


Daniel Keener
English Coordinator
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 Annotated Bibliography


What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation; a bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, web sites, newspapers, etc.) one has used to research a topic. Thus, an annotated bibliography is a list of sources that includes summary and/or evaluation.

Why make an annotated bibliography?

The Purdue Online Writing Lab offers these reasons:

To learn about your topic: Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information.

To help you formulate a thesis: Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.

How do I make an annotated bibliography?

As the Purdue OWL has made clear, the first step is research: You must research, read, ponder, research some more and read again. Once you have the sources for your annotated bibliography, putting one together is a relative snap.

Format of citations
Create an MLA-style Works Cited list. For more information about MLA style, please consult a handbook.

Content of annotations
Insert your summary/evaluation of a source immediately after its MLA-style entry.
In general annotations condense the substance of a source by reducing it to its main points, which are summarized in a few sentences.

Essential Tip: The process of determining what to put into your annotation and of writing the annotation will take some time since it requires that you see the source as a whole and in its parts. Once drafted, annotations require extensive editing for correctness, conciseness, and clarity.

Useful Tip: For a more complete list of the sorts of annotations that are acceptable in academic contexts, visit this University of Wisconsin and Madison Writing Center web page:

Pay special attention to the "Combination" pattern shown at the bottom. Combination is the kind of annotation most common in advanced composition.

How should my annotated bibliography look when it's done?

  1. The heading with your name and class information appears on the first page only. Subsequent pages contain a header with your surname and the page number.
  2. Give the annotated bibliography a title that identifies the common topic(s) that all the sources share. Note that you do not need to nor should you label this "Annotated Bibliography" since it's obvious from looking at the page that it is, in fact, an annotated bibliography.
  3. Sources appear in alphabetical order by author surname or title. Note well that each entry begins with an MLA-style works cited citation.
  4. Annotations vary in length depending on the complexity of the source; however, annotations of even the longest sources are brief, as in the Bradford example.
  5. Note the "inverse paragraph" format: The first line of each entry is flush left while subsequent lines are indented 1 to 1.5 inches. The right margin is not justified. The entire document is double spaced from the title to the last line.