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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

Academic writing


It seems that the word “research” means a lot for college students. Almost the whole educational process in college is based on a research. When a student, you have to perform a research to write an essay, or to do home assignments; it is necessary to perform a research even to write an annotated bibliography.

As it was mentioned in one of our previous articles, many students get the D-grade because they cannot clearly distinguish literature review from annotated bibliography. Although, an annotated bibliography is often confused with an abstract. Right now, we are going to learn the differences between an annotated bibliography and a literature review, and between an annotated bibliography and an abstract, but the main part of this article is dedicated to the topic called “How to write an annotated bibliography”.

Let us inform you of an annotated bibliography meaning, and the main differences between an annotation and a literature review, and between an annotated bibliography and an abstract. An annotated bibliography is a list of sources cited in this kind of task, including a brief summary of a cited source, content and an author’s personal appraisal. An annotation (A.B.) differs from a literature review in structure and in purpose; an A.B. is a list of sources with citations, while a literature review represents some specialized sources grouped, according to a certain method that aimed at answering certain questions, solving problems, giving an overview of statements, etc. Whereas an A.B. differs from an abstract in structure as well because the latter is a brief summary that can be found at the beginning of a book, journal, magazine, etc. Writing an annotated bibliography turns into a torture, if you are confused with these tasks. So keep their differences in mind!

There are different types of an A.B.:

  • Indicative;
  • Informative;
  • Evaluative;
  • Combination of abovementioned types;

In a majority of cases, an ordinary A.B. combines all of those types unless you are to highlight a certain topic or a problem in your task. As any kind of written assignment, an A.B. is written to achieve a certain goal or goals. An A.B. is written to:

  • Accumulate More Knowledge;
  • Inform an Author and a Reader;
  • Develop Critical Thinking;
  • Develop Many Other Intellectual Skills;

Usually, an annotation is 150-250 words long, and it is divided into several parts. The first part is a summary of a source being cited, the second part consists of an assessment of a source, and there may be the third part where an author provides a subjective opinion on a source; although, the last two parts may be combined into the one single part. The most important detail of this task is that it should look like one abstract without further division into smaller sub-abstracts. An annotation may be a constituent part of a larger project, such as a research paper, a course paper, etc. In addition, your A.B. may consist of four or fourteen sources, which is determined by a research subject, a topic of your work, requirements of an instructor, etc.


The process of writing annotated bibliographies is similar to the process of composing a literature review, with some exceptions.

In the very beginning, you need to pick a research topic. You may choose a topic individually, or an instructor may give you one. In any case, before you proceed to writing, you need to size your potential and decide whether you can cover this topic. When you make up your mind, you can proceed to the second stage.

Collecting appropriate resources and information about these resources is the next step. In general, scholarly books, articles, journals or magazines are used for citation. Citing sources is a necessary and essential part of this task as it helps you to increase the credibility of your project and to avoid plagiarism. Once again, to find an appropriate literature you are welcome to use some private databases, visit specialized or academic libraries, read scientific journals. Read through these sources to be able to evaluate each source and to write down hypotheses, evidence, to provide your opinion and importance of this source.

When you’ve collected literature for an annotation and read through those sources, you may actually start composing an annotation. Write a source citation at the top of the page. Please note that there are various requirements to the formatting of citations. As you know, there are APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard and many other formatting styles, so you need to check with your instructor or adviser on an appropriate formatting style. Below the citation, you should start writing a brief summary of a source. Carefully choose what you want to include in the summary, as the length of this part is limited to 50-75 words. It shouldn’t be too long. Write in clear and precise sentences; state the main idea of a source.

After the summary, you are to provide a general evaluation of a source, answer questions stated after reading these sources. Here, you should indicate how relevant this or that source is to your research topic; how useful this information may be for you or for another person; comment on strong and weak points, or facts, or theories mentioned in a source. The evaluation part must be well-written and well-structured; it must not contain too much professional jargon or complex words that may be difficult for understanding. Further, you should assess the main idea of a source, comment on its meaning, its accuracy, its relevance in relation to your research; in addition, you may comment on an author’s expertise, whether he is a famous and acknowledged author or not.

As it was already mentioned, the second part may be divided into two sub-paragraphs: in the first half, you provide an analysis of a material, and in the second half, you actually comment on the usefulness of a source. The structure of the second part of an annotation depends mainly on the requirements you have, a research topic, a field of expertise, etc. Please remember that an annotation must be put in alphabetical order.

To write an annotated bibliography, it is necessary to gain some background knowledge on a research topic. You have to know a lot before you complete an assignment like this. That is why it is extremely important to think carefully what you choose.

It is not a difficult assignment, all you need to do is make some efforts, and you’ll be just fine!

P.S. Don`t forget to buy essay with Pro Papers!


Academic writing

  1. Every single college student at least once had to write an annotated bibliography. To tell the truth, it is a real nightmare for me. Thanks for this article. I was looking for a brief explanation on how to deal with this type of task!

  2. Useful! Thanks!

  3. Yeah bookmaking this wasn't a bad determination great post! .

  4. And my torture begins. Wish me luck) Thanks for the tips.

  5. lukman ITN MALANG
    November 30, 2015 - 12:59

    I'm not sure where you are getting your info, but good topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful information I was looking for this information for my mission.|

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