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Annotated Bibliography

This packet details the steps necessary to produce an annotated bibliography that may be required for work in various disciplines. This packet is not intended to replace instructor guidelines and should not be used in that manner. The packet’s intended use is as a supplement to classroom instruction on assembling an annotated bibliography. Therefore, it contains only general information that must be tailored to fit specific guidelines as required by your discipline and by your instructor.

This packet is subdivided into six sections:

I. General Information

Definition: An annotated bibliography is a list of sources assembled in a specific citation style as determined by the instructor. Each entry of an annotated bibliography consists of two parts:

  • A citation gives the exact information, in the proper format (APA, MLA) needed to locate the material
  • An annotation is a brief paragraph following the citation.

Functions: The annotation does one or more of the following:

  • Identifies the focus or thesis of the book or article
  • Describes usefulness of the source to your research
  • Evaluates the conclusions or reliability of the source
  • Records your reactions to the source

Other information that may be featured in an annotation includes the intended audience or the author’s background.


Together, the citation and annotation paragraph form an annotated bibliographical entry to

  • Display the quality of your own research
  • Provide background material for your reader
  • Explore the topic for further reading or research
  • Give research a historical relevance.


  1. What are the main parts of an annotated bibliography?
  2. What functions will your annotations serve?

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II. Process

Locate the sources that you intend to use for your research. Make sure that each source follows the specific guidelines of your instructor. Some instructors will only accept scholarly sources.

Also make sure that each work is directly and significantly related to your topic. To determine if the source is worthy of your time, evaluate it based on the following process:

Physical Evaluation

  1. Evaluate the author by examining his/her credentials: Is the work written in an area that the author is knowledgeable about? What is this author’s reputation according to other experts in the field? Is the author cited in other works?
  2. Evaluate the source by examining its date of publication: When was this source published? Is it current enough to contain reliable information? Certain disciplines require the use of more current sources than others. For example, the author of a history paper may be able to use much older materials than the author of a paper on information technology.
  3. Evaluate the source by determining if you are using a later published or revised edition. Later or revised editions of sources are preferred because most errors are likely to have been corrected and the information presented is probably more up-to-date and reliable.
  4. Evaluate the source by reviewing its publisher or journal title. University publishers usually provide reputable scholarly sources. Examine the titles of periodical sources. - Is the journal scholarly or popular?

For assistance with this aspect of evaluation, visit TheVC/UHV Library at 2602 N. Ben Jordan or call 361-570-4166. The  reference librarian on duty will be able to offer tips to help you determine whether a source is scholarly or popular. Some of the online databases accessible via The VC/UHV Library also provide students with the opportunity to search exclusively for scholarly sources by giving them the option to check a special box on the search page. If a student checks this box, typically called “refereed publications,” then the search engine will only bring up articles that have been read and reviewed by experts in the field prior to publication.

Cornell University Olin·Kroch·Uris Librarys’ Web page Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals can also assist you in classifying your source. Remember that these general guidelines for distinguishing sources may often be useful but they do not apply in every situation.

Content Evaluation

  1. If the source is a book, review the preface, foreword or introduction to obtain an understanding of the author’s thesis. Look over the table of contents, index and bibliography to grasp the scope of the material. If the source is a periodical, read the abstract and search for the article’s thesis statement. Review the article’s summary and bibliography sections as well.
  2. Read chapters or articles specifically pertaining to your topic and obtain a good understanding of them. Take notes when needed.
  3. Determine what type of audience the work addresses. Is the work appropriate for you, as an audience, as well?
  4. Specifically, what is the content of the work? Does it contain factual information that can be verified or is the information just mere heresay? How do the author’s arguments compare to those in other works related to the same topic? Are they in line or do they seem radical? Is the language used in the work impartial and free from bias or emotion?
  5. Evaluate sources cited within the work. Do they appear to be scholarly? Are some of them cited in more than one work? If so, they may be reputable original sources in the field and may be of value to your research.
  6. Is the work organized effectively and written clearly?
  7. Determine if reviews of the source are available. If so, read them and consider their opinions as well.


  1. Cite the book in a style as determined by your instructor.
  2. Write an annotation according to instructor guidelines. Keep in mind that the goal of the annotation may range anywhere from a simple summary of the work to an in-depth evaluation of the source and its usefulness.


  1. Have I selected sources that are closely related to my topic? If so, how do I know this?
  2. If I have not evaluated my sources yet, how can I do so effectively?

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III. Style

There are two areas concerning choices in your annotated bibliography’s presentation style. They are writing style and stance:

Writing style

The annotation may be written in one of three writing styles arranged from least formal to most formal:

  • Phrasal – written in phrases that are quick, concise and understandable; similar to a resume
  • Complete Sentences – written in complete sentences that are not overly long or wordy
  • Paragraph – written in formal complete sentences that compose a fully logical paragraph


The annotation part of an annotated bibliography can take any of the following stances in relation to the source:

  • Informative - is a summary of the source that states its thesis and main points.
  • Evaluative– determines the usefulness of the source by evaluating its strengths and weaknesses and by determining whether or not the source was helpful to you.
  • Indicative– gives the scope of material that the source covers
  • Combination – is a combination of the three stances listed above.


 What writing style and stance am I going to use in my annotated bibliography?

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IV. Format

The format of an annotated bibliography may vary with your instructor’s preferences. Generally it is written like any other bibliography, beginning with citations arranged alphabetically by author’s last name. Each citation is followed by an annotation, or note about the work. Both the citation and the annotation combine to form a single entry on the annotated bibliography. Each entry will have a format distinguished by two factors: annotation style and citation style.

The annotation style is determined by where the annotation begins in the entry. The annotated information may immediately follow the bibliographic information on the same line, or it may begin on a new line below the publication information. The paragraph containing the annotation may or may not be indented depending on the format your instructor prefers.

The annotated bibliography will also follow a specific citation style (i.e.APA, MLA, etc. . .) as designated by your instructor. Below are some examples of annotated bibliographic entries; each uses a different annotation style and citation style. Each link includes a sample and a discussion of that sample bibliography entry.

Example 1: Annotated Bibliography

Example 2: Annotated Bibliography

Both of the example annotations written above are valid; although they are somewhat different. Sometimes the annotation note will only be one paragraph or a few sentences in length. Generally, the annotation itself depends on the length and quality of the source and on your instructor’s guidelines. Some instructors will require you only to summarize the work while others will request a full annotation like the first example listed above.

Note that you will typically use one of the two annotation styles (new line or same line) and one of the two citation styles (MLA or APA) listed above for your citation. Consistency is key - Both annotation styles or citation styles will never be included in the same bibliography.


Write a working sample annotated bibliography entry using the annotation style, citation style, writing style, stance and format that you must use in your instructor’s assignment.

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V. Checklist

  • Evaluate all of my sources carefully
  • Include only information from sources that related to my topic
  • Use the appropriate writing style and stance as determined by my instructor
  • Use the appropriate annotation style and citation style as determined by my field of study and by my instructor
  • Follow any other format guidelines indicated by my instructor
  • Check for grammar and punctuation errors

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VI. Resources

Engle, M., Blumenthal, A., & Cosgrave, T. (March 1998). How to prepare an annotated bibliography. Retrieved June 25, 2002 from the Cornell University Library Web site at

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center. (2002). Academic writing: Annotated bibliography. Retrieved May 30, 2002 from

Williams, O. Writing an annotated bibliography. Retrieved June 25, 2002 from the University of Minnesota Crookston Library Web site at (No longer available.)

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