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How do I Library?: How to Create an Annotated Bibliography

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Why make an annotated bibliography?

Creating an annotated bibliography involves gathering the most important sources of information about one's topic. These sources can be used later as evidence to support an argument or analysis of a larger research project, like a research essay.


What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of high-quality sources that you have found about your topic. The list contains sources such as books, articles, and documents that you have found about your research topic.

  • Each source is cited using a citation style (for example MLA, APA, Chicago, etc).
  • Each cited source in the list is followed by a brief "annotation" (usually about 150 words) that is a descriptive and evaluative paragraph.
  • Write annotations with your audience in mind; remember, the purpose of the annotation is partly to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited. Another purpose is to remind the researcher (you) how you might use the source to support your thesis in a larger, related research project.

Annotations are not abstracts

  • An abstract simply summarizes or describes a source. 
  • An annotation is a paragraph of text that summarizes a source but goes a step further to critically evaluate the source's content by discussing its scope, relevance, strengths and/or weaknesses.

The process in a few easy steps

Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research.

  1. Understand the rules that your instructor has provided.
  2. Locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.
  3. Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.
  4. Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author (see below), (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

Critically evaluating books, articles, or other types of information

For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, see How to Critically Evaluate Information. For information on an author's background and views, ask at the reference desk for help finding appropriate biographical and book review sources.

Citation Styles and Examples of Annotated Bibliographies

Choosing the correct citation style

Check with your instructor to find out which style is preferred for your class. Online citation guides for both the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) styles are linked from the Library's Citation Management page.


Examples of annotated bibliographies using APA and MLA styles - provided by the Purdue University Online Writing Lab

 

SU Libraries Thanks

This guide was adapted by SU Libraries with permission from  Research & Learning Services, Olin Library, Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY, USA. Thanks library folks! 

Manage & Organize Citations

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