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Citation Guide: Annotated Bibliographies

Annotated Bibliography Presentation

Annotated Bibliography Explained

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a brief account of the available research on a given topic. It is a list of citations of books, journal articles, websites, etc. Each citation is followed by a concise descriptive and evaluative paragraph, called the annotation.

Depending on the specific assignment, the annotated bibliography may serve to:

  • review the literature on a specific topic
  • exemplify the scope of sources available in a research field
  • highlight sources that may be of interests to other researchers
  • explore and organize sources for future research
  • give impressions about the accuracy, relevancy, and quality of the sources cited



An annotated bibliography is first of all a bibliography (sometimes referred to as “References” or “Works Cited”) and, as such, it is a list of bibliographic details of sources (citations) in alphabetical order.
What makes the annotated bibliography different is the fact that each citation is followed by a brief annotation.

There are many style manuals with specific instructions on how to format your annotated bibliography. The style you use may depend on your subject discipline or the preference of your instructor. Whatever the format, be consistent with the same style throughout the bibliography.

For annotated bibliographies with a large number of sources, it may be helpful to divide the sources into different categories or different source types.


Style and Content of Annotations

An annotation is a brief paragraph that can be descriptive and/or critical.

  1. Descriptive annotation: describes the content of the work without judging it.
  2. Critical annotation: evaluates the usefulness of the work for a particular audience or research

Annotations should be concise, but readable: it’s a summary, not an essay. It’s usually a paragraph composed of complete sentences of about 100-150 words. Nevertheless, not all annotations have to be the same length; it may only take a sentence or two to summarize the content of a specific source.
Apparent information already included in the citation can be omitted in the annotation and there is no need to cross reference to other sources or use in-text citations to support the annotation.

After the full bibliographic citation in the chosen format, annotations may contain all or part of the following elements:

  • information about the author(s)
  • scope of the work cited
  • intended audience
  • reliability of the text
  • relevance or usefulness for research
  • relationship to other work in the area of study
  • strengths and limitations
  • conclusions
  • personal view or reaction to the text.

Sample Citation and Annotation

List, Carla J. Information Research. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 2002.

        In this book, Carla List, an award-winning teacher and librarian, defines and describes information and provides step-by-step instruction on doing research. In seven chapters, she covers the organization of information, information technology, and the presentation, analysis, evaluation, and citation of information. A bibliography, glossary, and index are included. This book is aimed at the college-level student and is useful to the inexperienced researcher.


Example taken from:

Burkhardt, Joanna M., Mary C. MacDonald, and AndreĢe J. Rathemacher. Teaching Information Literacy : 35 Practical, Standards-Based Exercises for College Students.Chicago: American Library Association, 2003. 

Further Information