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Annotated Bibliography


Before learning what annotated bibliography is, you should understand the essence of the word “bibliography.” Bibliography is associated with a reference list because it enumerates all sources that were used while writing an academic paper. However, to the larger extent, bibliography includes the list of all sources that were used during the researching stage and writing itself (books, articles, reviews, reports, electronic sources, etc.). Please differentiate between a reference list, which includes all names of authors cited in the text, and a bibliography. The latter allows writers to include all sources that were processed while working on the academic assignment. Even if you did not introduce a source in the text in the form of in-text citations, you can still mention it on the bibliography page, if you analyzed it during the research stage. There are different citation styles that dictate the way how a citation in bibliography should look like. However, according to the most writing standards, the writer should mention a full author’s name/authors’ names, year and date of publication, title, and information about the publishing house.

Annotated bibliography, in its turn, includes an evaluation and a small analysis of the text. Annotated bibliographies include some critical data about the source. Composing an annotated bibliography makes further researching simpler.

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Some annotations can take one sentence only. However, most of commonly assigned annotated bibliographies are rather extensive in their nature. A writer should present a full description of the source formatted according to the required citation style. Afterwards, one should dedicate a paragraph of around 100-150 words to the evaluation of source. Before working on your annotated bibliography, you should have answers to the following questions:

  • Predict the scope of work. Carefully read your instructions to understand how many sources should be analyzed. Do they have to be primary or secondary? Does your teacher ask for printed sources only or you can rely on electronic ones as well?
  • Find out if you will be able to retrieve information from online databases or if you should visit a local library.
  • Always write down a full name of the source and try to format it according to the assigned citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.).

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After you place the name of the source, you should write the annotation itself. Please remember that there are diverse requirements for writing this type of paper. Therefore, you should consult with your instructor and carefully read paper requirements. Usually a typical annotation includes the following points:

  • Explanation of the author’s purpose of writing the paper.
  • The primary focus of the chosen source (theme).
  • A short discussion of the major content points.
  • The suggested audience.
  • Weaknesses and strengths of the discussion (logical gaps).
  • Possible bias and subjectivity of the author’s position.
  • Evaluation of the special features of the source (appendices, glossary, etc.).
  • Your personal analysis of the source.

Though the abovementioned list includes many points, most of them are optional. Always make your annotations short, which implies that adhering to the word count requirements is a must.


Do not think that annotated bibliographies can be associated with an abstract, which represents a short summary of the whole work. Annotated bibliographies serve a completely different purpose – they describe the source and evaluate its content. No matter what kind of source you chose (book, article, interview, and so on), the aim of composing an annotated bibliography will remain the same:

  • To show the quality and scope of the research conducted on the assigned topic.
  • To review what has been already published pertaining to your topic.
  • To categorize sources according to specific classifications.
  • To prove to the reader that you consulted specific sources in your research.

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