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Annotated Bibliography: Annotated Bibliography

This guide explains about Annotated Bibliographies and how to create one.


bibliography is a list of materials (books, articles, web sites etc.) on a particular topic organized alphabetically that are referred to in a scholarly work (like your paper).  The standard bibliography includes the citation information of the materials: author(s), date of publication, title, and publisher’s information as well as other information depending on the type of source.

An annotated bibliography takes a bibliography or citation list and adds a paragraph or more that describes, summarizes and evaluates each work.  It is designed to give an account of the research that has been done on a given topic. Remember the purpose is to not give an abstract which are purely summaries of materials but to annotate offering both descriptive and critical analysis of the source; it should expose the author's point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority.

Descriptive Annotations

The annotation should include the complete bibliographic information of the work (citation).  In addition, a descriptive annotation may summarize:

  • The main purpose or idea of the work
  • The contents of the work
  • The author’s conclusions
  • The intended audience
  • The author’s research methods
  • Special features of the work such as illustrations, maps, tables, etc
From UW Stout 2013


Critical Annotations

A critical annotation includes the same information as a descriptive annotation, but will also include value judgments or comments on the effectiveness of the work. When writing a critical annotation, include some of the these features:

  • The importance of the work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
  • The author’s bias or tone
  • The author’s qualifications for writing the work
  • The accuracy of the information in the source
  • Limitations or significant omissions
  • The work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
  • Comparison with other works on the topic
From UW Stout 2013




An Annotation Should Include

  • A Complete citation (All of the citations in an annotated bibliography should be formatted according to one chosen style such as MLA, APA, CSE, Turabian or Chicago etc.)
  • Some or all of the following:
    • Contents; main idea, purpose, goal of the work (this is where you will do a brief summery of the article)
    • About the author, qualifications, bias, tone, research methods and conclusions (tell if the author is an expert in the field or not, works for company [has bias] or is an individual, has something to prove or preach about, has tested his theory or points)
    • Audience (Who is intended to read this: students, professionals, experts or people in the same cult?)
    • Special features of the work (The works could have extras such as illustrations, maps, tables, etc...)
    • Importance of the work as part of the whole subject, compared to other works on the subject (is this a KEY book on the subject, all other articles cite this article or is this from Lady's Home Journal?)
    • Limitations or significant omissions (As part of the scope is this a general paper, only cover one small part, does the author admit to covering only a small portion of a topic?)
  • Evaluation of the source or why you feel this work is suitable for your paper.  (on occasion you can also tell why you looked at the source and then chose NOT to use it)

The annotated portion of the annotated bibliography is typically three to seven sentences long BUT the length can depend on your professor and the assignment.  With shorter annotations the key elements, themes and a brief evaluation will be all that can be covered but longer annotations will offer opportunities for more elements to be discussed. Consult your assignment for particular requirements. Your professor may dictate a word count or length for each annotation.

MLA Annotation Examples

The differences between the MLA 7th edition and MLA 8th edition are more to do with the actual citation and not as much with the layout/formatting of a paper or annotated bibliography. Make sure to check with your faculty member for layout/formatting requirements. 

Example of a Book:

Bornstein, George, and Ralph G. Williams, eds. Palimpsest: Editorial Theory in the Humanities. Ann Arbor: U of  Michigan P, 1993.

On the assumption that texts are not as stable or fixed as we tend to think they are, these essays examine the palimpsestic quality of texts, emphasizing the contingencies both of their historical circumstances of production and of their reconstruction in the present. They mark a theoretical period of transition, shifting the focus from product to process in editorial theory and practice.

Example of a Journal Article:

Tanselle, G. Thomas. "The Editorial Problem of Final Authorial Intention." Studies in Bibliography 29 (1976): 167-211.

Authors' revisions do not automatically reflect their final intentions. In the case of Typee, Herman Melville was responsible for the changes in the second edition, but they represent his "acquiescence" rather than his intention, according to Tanselle, who is well aware that a reader does not have access to an author's mind and who advises editors to always take the context into account. 

Example of a website: 

"Economic Policy Insitute: Research and Ideas for Shared Prosperity.". Economic Policy Institute. October 19, 2009 <>.

The Economic Policy Institute is a 501(c)(3) corporation (nonprofit) think tank created in 1986 to represent the interests of middle income and low income workers. This organization provides research, teaching, and publishing in all areas of economic issues, including wages, health care, income, retirement security, prices, education and trade.  This website links to many up to date statistical tables and charts under Resources – Datazone.  They are funded by individuals, corporations, foundation grants, and labor unions.  Due to their funding structure it may be that they are somewhat left leaning politically.

**For a more indepth example See the Purdue OWL Guide or the Print guide 

General Citation Styles

MLA 8th Edition Style Guide

APA Style LibGuide

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