Preparing an Annotated Bibliography

An annotation includes the basic bibliographic citation elements of author, title and publication information plus a brief paragraph that describes the purpose, content and value of the book or article. This should be written in the appropriate citation style (MLA, APA). Annotations can be any length, but usually are about 3 to 5 sentences long, depending on the length of the item being described. Annotations differ from abstracts in the following ways. Abstracts usually just list the main points or ideas in a book or article. Annotations offer a more extensive description of the book or article and include information about the author and research methods. They also often include evaulations of the material's usefulness.

Types of annotations

  • Informative: Written in the tone of the book or article, an informative annotation presents the original material in a shorter form. 
  • Descriptive: Provides a description of the text, avoiding the addition of any evaluative commentary on its quality. 
  • Evaluative: In addition to the information included in the previous annotation types, includes an evaluative judgment of the material as well.

Elements to include in the annotation

  • Author: Who is the author?  What is his/her occupation, position, education, experience, etc?  Is the author qualified to write the article? 
  • Purpose: What is the purpose for writing the article or doing the research? 
  • Content: Briefly describe the information that the book or article contains.
  • Intended Audience: Is the article or book intended for the general public, for scholars, policy makers, teachers, professionals, practitioners, etc? 
  • Information Source: What method of obtaining the data, or conducting the research was employed by the author?  Is the article (or book) based on personal opinion or experience, interviews, library research, questionnaires, laboratory experiments, standardized personality tests, etc? 
  • Author Conclusion: At what conclusion does the author arrive? Does the author satisfactorily justify the conclusion from the research or experience? 
  • Bias or Weakness: Does the author have a bias or make assumptions upon which the rationale of the article or research rests? 
  • Relationship to Other Works: How does the study compare with similar studies?  Is it in tune with or in opposition to conventional wisdom, established scholarship, professional practice, government policy, etc?  Are there specific studies, writings, schools of thought, philosophies, etc., with which this one agrees or disagrees and that one should be aware? 
  • Special Features: Are there significant attachments or appendices such as charts, maps, bibliographies, photos, documents, tests or questionnaires? 

What does an annotated bibliography look like?

Here are some examples that demonstrate what your bibliography should look like.