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Rosen Research Guides

Annotated Bibliographies

Introduction

This guide will help you learn to write annotated bibliographies and will provide you with practical examples in the most common citation styles. For more assistance, please contact us.

A printable version of this guide is also available:
Annotated PDF (80 KB).

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources (usually on a narrow topic) in which each citation is followed by a brief paragraph that summarizes, describes, and/or critically evaluates the source.

Depending on length and purpose, an annotated bibliography may be just one long list of alphabetized entries (as in a normal bibliography), or it may be categorized by subject, material type, time period, etc.

Annotated bibliographies may be produced using any citation style. Ask your professor if he/she requires that you use a certain style. The most common citation styles include APA, Chicago, and MLA, and examples formatted in each of these styles are shown below.

What information should be included in the annotations?

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In your annotations, you are generally expected to do more than merely summarize each source; some critical analysis is usually required. There are no hard and fast rules about what to include in annotated bibliography entries. However, unless your professor has specified otherwise, most entries usually include some of the following elements:

  • Brief description/summary of the work cited
  • Comments about the work’s usefulness or quality, usually including attention to one or
    more of the following features:
    1. the scope or relevance of the work
    2. the intended audience
    3. the author’s credibility or expertise
    4. the work’s relationship to other works in the area of study
  • Comments about any special features of the work, if necessary or relevant (graphs, charts, appendices, etc.)
  • The length and style of each annotation varies according to the purpose and audience for the annotated bibliography, but most annotations are written in complete sentences and fall
    between 50-150 words.

APA Style - Sample Annotated Bibliography Entries

The APA style manual does not specifically address how to format an annotated bibliography. The 5th edition of the APA manual does include an annotated "suggested reading" list in section 9.03 on pages 368-377, which seems to give users some guidance on this topic.

In the 5th edition's suggested reading list, each citation is formatted in standard APA style (with the second and any subsequent lines of the citation indented). Then each annotation begins on the next line of text, and each line of the annotation is indented approximately three more spaces than a standard indented line of text. All lines are double-spaced, and no extra lines are added between the end of an annotation and the next citation in the list.

An excerpt from a sample annotated bibliography done in APA style is shown below. Since the APA style manual does not specifically state how to format an annotated bibliography, you may wish to check with your professor to verify that the format below is acceptable.

For more assistance with APA Style, see the Rosen Research Guide on APA Style, or consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Rosen REF BF76.7 .P83 2010).

Chicago Style - Sample Annotated Bibliography Entries

The current Chicago Manual states only that "annotations may simply follow the publication details (sometimes in brackets if only a few entries are annotated) or may start a new line, often with a paragraph indention" (p. 687), and an example of a published annotated bibliography follows on page 689. Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (widely accepted as a good alternate authority on Chicago style for student papers) states more clearly "If your annotations are brief phrases, add them in brackets after the publication date… You may also add full-sentence annotations on a new line with paragraph indentation" (p. 148), and a single example entry is shown.

Based on interpretation of these two sources, we recommend formatting your annotated bibliography as follows:

  • Bibliographical citations are formatted in standard Chicago style, with the second and any subsequent lines of the citation indented. Annotations begin on the line following the citation and are aligned with the hanging indent. Single space within entries, but double space between entries, as shown below. (An alternate method would be to double space throughout the bibliography. It is recommended that you ask your professor for his/her preference.)

An excerpt from a sample annotated bibliography done in Chicago/Turabian style is shown below:

For more assistance with Chicago Style, see the Rosen Research Guide on Chicago Citation Style, or consult the Chicago Manual of Style (Rosen REF Z253 .U69 2010) or A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Rosen REF LB2369 .T8 2007).

MLA Style - Sample Annotated Bibliography Entries

The MLA style guide provides a clear example of an annotated bibliography entry in section 5.3.1 on page 130.

Each citation is formatted in standard MLA style (with the second and any subsequent lines of the citation indented). Then the annotation follows immediately thereafter, without the addition of any line breaks. All subsequent lines are indented, and all lines are double-spaced. No additional lines are added between the end of an annotation and the next citation in the list.

An excerpt from a sample annotated bibliography done in MLA style is shown below:

For more assistance with MLA Style, see the Rosen Research Guide on MLA Citation Style, or consult the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (Rosen REF LB2369 .G53 2009).

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