How to Write Annotated Bibliography

You may get a class assignment that requires you to write an annotated bibliography. Regardless of how good you are in writing academic papers, you cannot do it correctly unless you understand what it is and how it is supposed to be.

What is an annotated bibliography?

It is an organized list of articles, documents, and books that an author writes to inform the reader about the importance and authority of the sources that they have cited in their work. After each reference comes a short paragraph of about 150 words that describes it.

An annotated bibliography writer may use it for several other reasons. The following are some of them:

  • To help in formulating a thesis on a particular subject.
  • To explain the research that they have done on a specific topic.
  • To provide a specific subject’s literature review.
  • To offer other details that various researchers may like about a theme.
  • To evaluate the research that they have done on a topic and decide whether or not they need to do more.
  • To differentiate what studies, say about a subject from their personal views and biases.
  • To learn more about an issue before making their own judgments and writing about the same.

If you have seen an annotated bibliography example, you will realize that it is different from an abstract.

Annotations vs. abstracts

Annotations are evaluations of the sources that a writer has used while writing about a topic. They describe an author’s work and their point of view. They might also provide their background and critique the work; describing their strengths and weaknesses.

Abstracts, on the other hand, are simply summaries of the main points that a writer has included in a scholarly article. They are designed to help the reader decide if the work is relevant to them and worth reading to the end.

How to write an annotation for an article?

Do you want to learn how to write an annotated bibliography for your work? Here is how you go about it.

Select your sources

Before you get started, you need to choose sources of information that are related to the topic that you are handling. They could be documents, journal articles, periodicals, or books. To do this, conduct extensive research to get as many as possible.

Examine the works

After you have found sources that may contain details on your subject, review them carefully. You can do this by reading their abstracts to save time. Which one’s have the information that you require? Pick them.

Cite your sources and write the annotation

The next step is providing accurate citations of the sources that you have selected; in the required styles. These could be APA, MLA, Harvard, or Chicago. The annotated bibliography should come after you have cited the documents or books. You can arrange it chronologically or alphabetically, it all depends on what your course instructor wants. While you do it, you should include the following details:

  • The author’s background
  • An evaluation of their authority
  • The primary purpose of the work
  • Why the source is essential to your topic
  • How the material is different from other sources you might have
  • The work’s strengths and weaknesses
  • The intended audience for the work

Also, remember to indent the entire text below the citation. Are you wondering how to do it? Here are some annotated bibliography samples:

Sample APA annotation

“Ehrenreich, B., (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.”

This non-fiction book by Ehrenreich tries to evaluate if it is possible for a person to live comfortably on a minimum-wage in America. The knowledgeable journalist summarizes her work, her relationship with her co-workers, the financial constraints that she experiences as well as those of a maid, a waitress, and a sales employee at Walmart.

Even as the author conducts her experiential research, she knows her limitations and the possible ethical complications of her work. Ehrenreich demonstrates her methods and supplements her examples with research on the American economy and the ever-rising cost of living in the state. Using well-done and descriptive analysis, the journalist showcases her exceptional writing and researching skills.

Sample MLA annotation

“What Guidance Should I Give My Students for Preparing an Annotated Bibliography?” The MLA Style Center, The Modern Language Association, 4 Nov. 2016,”

This article offers guidelines that an individual can use when writing annotations using MLA formatting. It cites James Harner’s book, On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography and illustrates how students doing research can benefit from writing annotated bibliographies. Even though the author’s advice is directed to instructors, researchers, and scholars can also benefit from the information in the piece.  

Chicago style annotated bibliography

Kerr, Don, and Roderic Beaujot. “Child Poverty and Family Structure in Canada, 1981-1997.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 34, no. 3 (2003): 321-335

The authors, Kerr and Beaujot, attempt to evaluate the demographics of low-income families. Using Canada’s annual Survey of Consumer Finances, the sociology professors consider several factors that include the presence of one or both parents, and the number of kids in every home. They also assess child poverty rates and use the data to draw their conclusions.

Writing an annotated bibliography requires you to summarize, evaluate, and reflect on various sources of information for a topic. Always ensure that the citation comes above it. If you require assistance, you can always fill an order form to get assistance.

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