Library shelves
Academic Papers

Writing Annotated Bibliography: What You Need To Know

Annotated bibliographies are not the same as “works cited” or “references” lists. Works cited lists simply list all of your sources alphabetically, without showing exactly how you used them in your paper. References lists don’t actually provide any information about your sources, other than what they are. An annotated bibliography lists all of the sources you’ve consulted and describes them, stating their significance to your research project.

A first step in writing an annotated bibliography is gathering together all the materials you’ve read/watched for this assignment. Once gathered together they must be sorted by date so that they may be organized according to when each source was published/aired/posted etcetera. This sorting will help you to determine the most significant of your sources.

Once all your sources are gathered and sorted you may begin to write your annotations. Start by writing a brief summary of each source that is no more than 5 lines long. After this short summary, you must provide the ways in which the source was significant to your project. To do this you may use some or all of the following headings:

  • Purpose/viewpoint
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses/limitations
  • Content
  • Significance to your research

Do not write too little or too much for anyone annotation, but be sure to answer the basic questions about your sources: who? what? when? why? where? and how? As well, try not to comment on anything which has nothing to do with these questions. Any information you include must support either your question(s) or your hypothesis(s).

Your annotations should be written in your own words. When taking information from a source, you must surround it with quotation marks and give credit to the author and page number of the reference. This is called using direct citation.

Treat each source equally when writing your annotations; do not give more merit to sources that are considered ‘primary’ than those which are considered ‘secondary’. Not all sources may be useful to you, so leave out any that aren’t relevant or that you don’t feel will be important enough to describe in detail. For example: if a book describes what happened on 9/11 but doesn’t offer any analysis about why it occurred, there’s no need to include an annotation for the entire book. Just state that the author describes what happened on 9/11 and leave it at that.

Don’t forget to include your sources in your annotated bibliography. If you refer to a book by its title, simply provide the place of publication (i.e., New York) and the publisher’s name, but don’t give page numbers unless they are crucial to understanding your reference.

Make sure that all annotations are written in full sentences; this way, they will be easier for you to format into an actual list later on. When writing each annotation, use sentence case (no ending punctuation).

When finished with your annotations it is important to organize them into a list. A simple format for this is:

Author or Editor, Year of Publication. Title of Book/Article/Webpage in quotation marks, Place of Publication: Publisher.

Another format is something like the following:

Hakim, Joy, 2006. What works Gender Equality by Design. New York: Cornell University Press. This particular format is good for referencing articles from online sources because it includes both author and date information where necessary. It also lists the journal name which may be very important when utilizing academic articles from peer-reviewed journals.

Once your annotations have been made in full sentences and organized into a list in a specific way (as described above), you can begin writing your introduction and conclusion paragraphs to round out your assignment! Remember to use the five Ws when analyzing each annotation (who? what? when? where? why?) to help guide your discussion.

Then, use your conclusion to sum up what you have written.

Be sure to utilize the rules of writing annotated bibliography for academic writing when putting together your final assignment!

Back To Top