How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography

By: Tasha Kolesnikova

17 min



How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography

If you've just gotten an assignment to write an annotated bibliography, you probably feel excited and anticipatory.

This task can be very challenging, but quite tricky at the same time. And it's important to understand that you definitely won't be able to cope with it in one hour or even in one day. It requires a competent, well-structured approach. The whole process consists of several stages. And be prepared for the fact that on some of them you will need professional help.

We have prepared a simple and understandable guide on what an annotated bibliography is, how it should look, and the necessary formatting styles. You should get a complete understanding of the whole process now. Use a competent and responsible approach to achieve the best result!

What Is an Annotation?

When you compose an annotated bibliography, you use a short note after each quote. This note is the annotation.

You should use it to briefly present a source to explain its importance to the topic under study. In most cases, the abstract consists of one short paragraph. But if you need to summarize information and provide your assessment, it can be longer.

Also, you should remember that there are different formatting styles with their standards and requirements. Discuss this point with your professor beforehand to avoid critical mistakes. Also, make sure you have an up-to-date official guide with all the useful information.

What Does the Annotation Include

Specialized guides usually have requirements for the formatting of annotations. But regardless of the style, you need to provide certain information:

  • Theses and main provisions proposed by the author;
  • The background of the writer confirmation of his or her authority;
  • Brief description of the creator’s target audience;
  • Source bias analysis;
  • Glaring yet critical omissions;
  • Review of the writer's evidence: do they support the main point?
  • An assessment of the source.

As you write this part of the document, stop and ask yourself the question: have you done anything more than just describing the source's content?

How Is an Annotation Different from an Abstract?

An abstract is a brief overview of your entire article, research paper, dissertation. Usually, it is 300 words long and includes the purpose of the text, the outline, a summary of your findings, and their analysis.

As you can see, this is quite different from the annotation. In essence, this is a sentence that describes a specific citation in a bibliography. This part of the paper's main task is to provide the reader with information about all the cited pages. It demonstrates their relevance, accuracy, and quality. Each annotation is approximately 150 words long.

What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

After analyzing the previous information, you can easily understand what an annotated bibliography is. By following the definition, you will not experience any difficulties in the writing process.

This is a list of links to various platforms that you use when writing your research paper, dissertation, or another document. So, what’s an annotated bibliography?

It looks like a page with links to different books, articles from magazines, presentations, websites. An essential condition is to supplement each cited source with a summary. Some formats require not only description but also evaluation.

You can prepare an annotated bibliography as part of a more extensive study. Or as an independent report. It depends on the requirements of your professor.

Why Should You Write a Bibliography?

First of all, it is crucial to understand that this is an academic genre targeted at a specific audience. In your student years, you are faced with writing a large number of papers, but many are quite general. In this case, we will focus on this type of writing, which is focused exclusively on people with higher education.

Professors and scholars write most of the published annotated bibliographies. They create such documents to help other specialists in this field. For example, an aspiring scientist can read this list and get useful information on their topic. This saves a considerable amount of time. Instead of personally looking for different sources, you can get a ready-made list and use it to your advantage.

But if you’re not a professor, why do you need to come up with this type of academic text? We have these answers as well!

Why Does Your Professor Ask You to Do It?

This assignment is not just necessary to take away your free time. It has definite goals. With this, your professor can:

  • Make sure you have studied enough.
  • Check your websites, identify those that are unreliable, and give priority to the most valuable ones.
  • Find out if you read all of these documents. If you are writing a regular bibliography, you can provide a simple list. But annotations require a slightly different approach.
  • See if you have understood and evaluated your material appropriately.

Why Do You Need It?

You may have your reasons for taking an interest in this type of paper.

If you're going to write a decent dissertation, it's essential to make sure your sources are reliable and reputable.They will also provide you with a complete understanding of the topic. By studying different literature, you will be able to formulate your views, understand what prejudices are hindering you. And, of course, you will understand the weak points of your research.

Meeting academic standards

Whether you are writing an essay or a dissertation, you should have enough information about it. But school students usually take a slightly different approach. They first write and only then research to find additional information or evidence for their arguments. This makes their texts rather weak. You might get a good grade in high school, but it's not what the professor expects of you.

Broadening outlook

If you do your research on different platforms before moving on to writing a piece, you will get many different points of view.

Some students are surprised at this approach: they are used to looking for websites with information with which they already agree. But this always leads to stagnation. When you meet different opinions, you will be able to take a fresh look at your research subject and even choose a new direction.

Improving paper quality

Preparing an annotated bibliography is what helps you to choose high quality and reliable items. You cannot use the first page from the Internet: you need to make sure that it is relevant, truthful, contains unique information, etc.

It not only makes your brain work. It takes your research piece or dissertation to a fundamentally new level. You can be sure of its quality because it is based on reliable sources. You have a solid foundation.

Distinguishing between your own opinion and found knowledge

Many students do some excellent research before moving on to writing a paper. But they don't always take the time to understand which views are their own and which you have received from different books.

It leads to the fact that students distort information, use data from various platforms, but do not cite them appropriately. It is considered to be plagiarism, and you should avoid it.

When you write a short note for each of the papers or books used, you seem to refresh all this information in your memory. It helps you find ideas, views, points of view that belong to you personally or have been used in other springs.

How Long Should It Be?

While working on this document, you need to take care of concise and accurate expression. Each paragraph is 100-300 words long.

You can choose from different writing styles. For example, write in phrases or discursively when you use full sentences. You can discuss this issue.

Remember that your language should be objective and factual. It is vital to use a third-person perspective as well as present historical time. You can use evaluative adjectives to gauge how useful and reliable your origins are.

When proofreading the piece, get rid of any vague or colloquial language. Phrases such as "everything is fairly obvious" are not used in annotated bibliographies.

On average, each paragraph is about 150 words long.

Purpose of an Annotated Bibliography

The primary purpose of this document is to provide readers with an overview of the literature used. Some of the goals may differ depending on the type of annotation you are using. For example:

  • If you are writing a descriptive annotation, you just need to summarize the entry.
  • When preparing your appraisal, it is essential to provide comments and value judgments.
  • The purpose of the combined annotation is to summarize and evaluate the work.

Thus, this section covers a relatively large number of tasks. It provides readers with the necessary information about sources of information. With the help of annotations, you establish relationships between these origins, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. They also show how high-quality and large-scale your research is.


Several types of bibliographies differ in their approach to providing springs.

What determines the choice of a particular type? First of all, your professor. You can get a specific assignment with a particular example. Read all the details carefully, so you don't miss out on any information.

If this decision is up to you, you should choose the type that suits your paper the best. For example, if you don’t know too much about the origins you’ve used, it may be a failure to choose the analytical type. It requires a lot of additional time to find all the necessary information. But be sure, if you find this time and do your best, you can impress the audience. Such an approach is always noticeable.

Descriptive of Informative

This is the first type, and it is also the most common.

Its main task: to bring readers up to date, provide a summary of the clause. It does not offer any assessment of the work quality and does not contain any statements about how relevant the sources used in writing the dissertation are.

Analytical or Critical

An analytical annotated bibliography differs from a descriptive one in that it includes value judgments. It is also called critical because it comments on the effectiveness of the papers used.

This kind of bibliography:

  • evaluates materials;
  • determines whether they were useful for research;
  • indicates the strengths and weaknesses of the source.

After reading the analytical chapter, readers get answers to several important questions. For example, what is the qualification of the writer of the piece? Is this document objective or impartial? How did it contribute to this scientific field?


A combination of descriptive and analytical bibliography may occur in some cases. It combines the characteristics of both of these types.

It summarizes and evaluates the sources at the same time.

What Are the Main Elements?

Here is a list of the elements you should include in your annotation:

  • Full information about the source you use;
  • Information about the creator / s and his / her / their goals;
  • A summary of the article, book, etc.;
  • Your assessment of the source: why is it useful for your audience? What exactly makes it so?
  • Information about your vision of the target audience. If you think the originator is biased, this is the time to report it.
  • Context of the source, comparison of this item with other items from your document.

Note that different items in this list are for different formats of annotations. It means that you can do without source evaluation information if you need to create a descriptive one.

Structure of an Annotated Bibliography

In most cases, this document consists of two essential parts. The first is the reference (or citation) and the annotation itself.

Each of these parts may have their sub-parts depending on your faculty, discipline, and the specific professor's requirements.

Write the Reference

This part provides your readers with necessary information about the source according to a specific style. In most cases, they are listed in alphabetical order.

If we talk about the MHRA format, the reference will look like this:

Kingston, Charles, Name of the article 243-347 (Bennington: Bennington Press, 2017)

The same reference, but in the APA format:

Kingston, C. (2017). Name of the article, 243-347. Bennington: Bennington Press.

Before you start writing this part, be sure to specify which style you should use. On the Internet, you will find a large number of educational materials with tips and even tests that will help you check your knowledge.

Write the Annotation

In most cases, the abstract begins with a description, a summary. First, you can clatter the main point of the piece you’ve used, and then provide information about the approach or methodology used.

If you want to do well with this section, take notes while reading the sources. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the main objective of the research?
  • How did the creator conduct the research? What approach did he or she use to collect and analyze information?
  • What is the central thesis of the source?
  • What does this item take into account, and what does not? What are the limitations?
  • What arguments does the originator use to confirm his point of view?
  • What issues did this study help solve?

Why-How Approach

It would also be an excellent strategy to use the WH approach. These questions are more comfortable to remember:

  • WHO wrote this paper, book, study, etc.?
  • WHEN was this study done? Or over what period?
  • WHERE was it done: the particular country or region.
  • WHY are these issues addressed?
  • HOW did the writer manage this task?
  • WHAT can we say about results, consequences, conclusions?

As you see, you have five questions that start with W and just one that begins with H. They’re pretty simple but can surely direct you straight to the goal.

Annotation: Write a Summary

When you write this section, you should distract yourself from your thoughts, reflections, contradictions, etc. Keep your main task in mind: you need to summarize the source.

What is one talking about in this text? What are the main arguments highlighting? What is the main idea of this paper? How can you describe this book in a few sentences? Your resume should be short, informative, and catchy at the same time.

Put yourself in the shoes of your reader: what description might interest you? Highlight only the most important thing, try to stay as close to the essence as possible.

Annotation: Write a Critical Analysis

If your task is to prepare a critical clause, you need to approach it responsibly and creatively.

Besides the standard full citation of the source, you should also provide your rating and comment. Here are some aspects that you can discuss in this chapter:

  • How important is this source in comparison with other similar publications?
  • Was the creator biased?
  • What tone does the author use, and what does it mean?
  • Is the writer’s qualification sufficient to write this work?
  • How accurate is the information?
  • What questions have not been answered?

On the one hand, it is straightforward. On the other hand, this is your research. You shouldn't be too hard on your item. Just use only those sources that are useful. Make sure you can prove it. If you’re confident about them, you’ll have no issues with the analysis writing.

Annotation: Write a Reflection

Some educational institutions suggest including reflection in annotated bibliographies. Most often, this is a section that talks about the usefulness of the source for new research.

For example, if you are writing this document in preparation for your project. You should set aside some time for reflection.

There are usually literally a few sentences that analyze the usefulness and relevance of the source. For example:

This article was helpful when I studied the impact of the American mentality on the well-being of modern residents. Although it did not explore the specific economic crises that I address in my essay, the author used a methodology that gives me food for thought.


This study introduced me to an extensive list of such literature. One’s contribution to the general debate about the standard of living in America cannot be overemphasized.

Choosing the Correct Annotated Bibliography Format

It is the golden rule: if you use any information, like an idea or a theory, you have to give it credit. It doesn't matter if you are quoting verbatim or expressing the thought in your own words. Even if you just got inspiration from someone else's intellectual property, you need to mention it.

If you don't do it on your paper, you are engaging in plagiarism. And this is gravely contrary to academic integrity. Nobody works with scientists who support plagiarism.

Another reason you need to write a bibliography with all sources: your readers. By quoting, you provide them with a specific path that helps them find the right one. Ideally, this section should be structured so that someone else can easily find all the data you used to prepare the study.

Why Do We Need Citation Styles?

The point is that different disciplines have their characteristics and needs. For example, the APA style is used in a lot of subjects: social sciences, education, business, nursing, history.

Disciplines such as English, linguistics, etc. have other features. It means that the style is different.

Patterned entries help maintain consistency and not confuse the reader. Imagine what would happen if each creator used a different style, changing it from timeline to line. The scientific community loves order. And you need to play by these rules.

Which Styles Are Common?

Preparing a Chicago-style annotated bibliography title page you should remember that it is not the only style. We’ve already mentioned APA and MHRA. APA and MLA are the most common styles. Researchers use them all the time, depending on the requirements of their university.

Formatting an MLA style annotated bibliography

Many students and seasoned researchers admit that formatting is not their forte.

The thing is, this is a massive set of rules. They refer to everything! If you misplace a full stop or semicolon, it could be a mistake. Not surprisingly, so many people are experiencing wild stress.

If you want to avoid this, you should find the current guide and strictly follow it. Be as attentive as possible. Do this after preparing the bibliography, so as not to be distracted from the primary task. Or you can use professional help and save yourself time.

Formatting an APA style annotated bibliography

Even though this style is also trendy, it causes a tremendous amount of complexity. You must be as careful, attentive, and pedantic as possible to avoid mistakes. You can take a look at the APA reference page and other samples to get a full understanding.

A much more effective strategy is to hire a professional editor. If you want your clause to be flawless, this is a great solution. An experienced specialist will get rid of any mistakes and inaccuracies and make sure that your research fully complies with the APA style requirements.

Below you will see that in most cases, only the source description is different. The annotation text itself for all styles remains the same.

Annotated Bibliography Templates

Looking through an annotated bibliography example, you may find many fascinating insights, especially when it goes about samples written by professional researchers.

But there may be pitfalls here:

First of all, remember that this is the Internet. Use only trusted websites to access trusted sources. Otherwise, you have no guarantee that this is an excellent sample.

Also, you may be tempted to expand your bibliography. After all, you found several examples with dozens of articles and books on your topic! But remember that you need to study them before you just add them to your text.

You may also not immediately recognize that the writer used a particular style. Even if it is titled MLA Example, it doesn't mean that the rules are up to date. New guides appear all the time. Keep your finger on the pulse.

Annotated Bibliography Example

Wonder what is annotated bibliography sample? The perfect sample should consist of two parts mentioned above, according to the standards of writing of the annotated bibliography.

For instance, here is the APA paper format example for you to check out:

Kiyosaki, R., & Lechter, S. (2015). Rich dad's who took my money?. Plata Publishing, LLC.

The book is all about how to be a good investor, and the writer mentions the tricks and tips on every excellent investor to keep in mind to succeed. The author emphasizes that slow investors lose, and fast investors win. In this book, the reader might receive practical advice on how to get passive income. Also, Kiyosaki analyses common mistakes that inexperienced investors may do by his example. Therefore, this publication is a perfect guide for every beginner in investment and helps them become wise and not lose money. To sum up, the writer emphasizes that the investor should think critically.

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I studied sociology and marketing at Europa-Universität Viadrina (Germany) and Universidade da Beira Interior (Portugal). When I was a sophomore, back in 2018, I decided to put what I've learned into practice, so I got my first job in digital marketing. I currently work in the content marketing department at Studybay, building strong, effective, and respectful communication between the platform and our clients.

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