Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
What is an Annotated Bibliography?
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and other documents used for research. Each citation is followed by a brief description (usually about 150-250 words) and/or evaluative paragraph, the annotation.
The primary purpose of bibliographic citations is to assist the reader in finding the sources used in the writing of a work. Depending on the assignment, an annotated bibliography might have different purposes:
- show that you understand each source cited
- demonstrate the quality of research you have done
- provide a literature review on a particular subject
- help formulate a thesis on a subject
- describe other items on a topic that may be of interest to the reader
Types of Annotations
There are 2 common types of annotations - descriptive (abstracts) and critical or evaluative (annotations):
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.
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. [In this context, critical means evaluative and may include both positive and negative comments.] When writing a critical annotation, include some of the these features:
- The work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
- Comparison with other works on the topic
- The author’s qualifications for writing the work
- The author’s bias or tone
- The accuracy of the information in the source
- Limitations or significant omissions
Annotated Bibliographies | The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue
Provides definitions about, reasons for, and formats of annotated bibliographies. Written by Dana Bisignani and Allen Brizee from The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue, Purdue University.
Annotated Bibliography Samples | The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue
Actual samples of annotated bibliographies (in MLA, APA, and Chicago), with overview and explanation. From The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue, Purdue University.
Annotated Bibliographies | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"This handout will explain why annotated bibliographies are useful for researchers, provide an explanation of what constitutes an annotation, describe various types of annotations and styles for writing them, and offer multiple examples of annotated bibliographies in the MLA, APA, and CBE/CSE styles of citation." From The Writing Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Published Annotated Bibliographies