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Boatwright Memorial Library

Annotated Bibliographies

Writing an Annotated Bibliography:

What is an annotated bibliography?

It is a bibliography in which you include a short summary or abstract of sources you are thinking of using for a paper. It is more than a works cited list, which gives only a bibliographic citation for the source. These annotations do one or more of the following:

  • Describe the content and focus of the book, article or web site
  • Suggest the source's usefulness to your research
  •  Evaluate the source's method, conclusions or reliability
  • Record your reactions to the source

Why write an annotated bibliography?

They provide readers with background information about your sources, who then may want to consult those sources. It's a great way to organize your research by helping you critically evaluate books, journal articles, web sites and other resources.

How do I go about starting this bibliography?

You should begin your annotated bibliography when you begin your research. This enables you to decide from the start which sources are appropriate for your study. As you read your material, you should identify the thesis statement, take notes, and make a brief outline of what you have read.

How do I format an annotated bibliography?

Just write the bibliographic entries as you would write any other bibliography, according to the style your instructor wishes. In our case, that will be MLA style.,

How do I write an annotation? What's included?

You should include one or two sentences summarizing or describing content and one or two sentences providing an evaluation. In evaluation, tell how the source is interesting or helpful to you. List what kind of and how much information is given.

How should I format sentences in an annotation?

Whole sentences are preferable and at times very concise sentences and simple phrases could be acceptable. Sentence length should vary to avoid short, choppy sentences. Every sentence should convey a maximum amount of information in a minimum number of words. Annotations should be one or two paragraphs long. Annotations should be both offer a summary of the material as well as critical comments. Critical comments should be supported by personal argument or knowledge.

Example of an Annotated Bibliography entry:

Mellen, Joan. Women and Their Sexuality in the New Film. New York: Horizon Press, 1973.

An examination of the treatment of women and their sexuality in modern films is offered in this provocative volume. Using a variety of approaches to her subject, the author offers some controversial conclusions and opinions on films, directors and producers. The major topics explored are sexuality, lesbianism , and sexual politics. One chapter on Mae West discusses her screen image over four decades. In addition to the personalities, many films are analyzed in some detail to illustrate the distorted reflection of women the author finds in them. Photos from about 40 of the films are adequately reproduced and complement the text.

from The MacMillan Film Bibliography: A Critical Guide to the Literature of the Motion Picture



Tips for writing an annotation:

A good annotation should include summary and analysis of your source.

When deciding what is important enough to include, consider some of the following questions to guide your appraisal:

  • What qualifies the author to write on this subject?
  • Is the author affiliated with a reputable institution in this field?
  • Is the author engaged in research or otherwise considered an expert in this field?
  • Is this source current or contemporary to the problem/event being studied?
  • Is this the most recent or most critically valued edition (for a book)?
  • Is the journal or other publisher reputable?

Once your primary evaluation is complete, you will move on the assessing the content itself. Consider some of these elements as you review each source:

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the author stating facts or presenting her opinion or interpretation as they were facts?
  • What supporting evidence does the author provide?
  • Did the author perform the research, or organize and present the research of others?
  • If the author used the research of others, are the sources the author cites credible?
  • Are there errors or omissions of fact?

Also, consider the particular usefulness of each source:

  • Is the information helpful for your particular assignment?
  • Does it help answer your research question(s)?
  • Is this source different from your other sources, or does it repeat information you already have?
  • Is the source providing you with a different perspective on your topic, or changing your beliefs or thinking about your subject?

You don't need to answer all of these questions in every entry; different sources are significant in different ways.


Adapted from A Complete Guide to the MLA Annotated Bibliography.