An annotated bibliography is a bibliography that gives a summary of each of the entries. The purpose of annotations is to provide the reader with a summary and an evaluation of each source. Each summary should be a concise exposition of the source's central idea(s) and give the reader a general idea of the source's content.
Main Components of Annotated Bibliographies
The following are the main components of an annotated bibliography. It is important to note that not all fields shown below must be used at once in an annotated bibliography. The fields may vary depending on the type of annotated bibliography and special instructions from the instructor in case the bibliography is part of a school assignment.
- Full bibliographic citation : An annotated bibliography must contain the necessary and complete bibliographical information i.e. (author, title, publisher and date, etc),
- Author’s Background: You should provide the name, authority, experience, or qualifications of the author.
- Purpose of the work: You should provide the reasons why the author wrote the work
- Scope of the work: You should state the breadth or depth of coverage and topics or sub-topics covered.
- Main argument: State the main informative points of the paper
- Audience: For whom was it written (general public, subject specialists, student?
- Methodology: What methodology and research methods did the work employ?
- Viewpoint: What is the author’s perspective or approach (school of thought, etc.)? Do you detect an unacknowledged bias, or find any undefended assumptions?
- Sources: Does the author cite other sources, and if so, what types? Is it based on the author’s own research? Is it personal opinion?
- Reliability of the source: How reliable is the work?
- Conclusion: What does the author conclude about the work? Is the conclusion justified by the work?
- Features: Any significant extras, e.g. visual aids (charts, maps, etc.), reprints of source documents, an annotated bibliography?
- Strengths and Weaknesses: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the work?
- Comparison: How does the source relate to other works done by other writers on the topic: does it agree or disagree with another author or a particular school of thought; are there other works which would support or dispute it?
- Your Voice / Personal Conclusion: Provide your point of view of the work or your reaction to the source based on other available works, prior knowledge of the subject matter or knowledge pools done by other researchers.
Types of annotations
Annotations may be written with different goals in mind. There are three types of annotations, depending on what might be most important for your reader or according to your professor’s instructions.It is impossible to describe a standard procedure for all types of annotations because one annotation does not fit all purposes. In order to know the best type of annotation, it is prudent to consult your instructor or follow the instructions. For example, if the assignment states that your annotative bibliography should give evidence proving an analytical understanding of the sources you have used, then you are supposed to write an analytical annotated bibliography which includes evaluation of the sources you are using. The three types of annotated bibliographies are; summary annotations, critical annotations and a combination of the former two.
Summary annotations are further classified into informative and indicative annotations.
The following are the main features of summary annotations:
- They show a summary of the source content
- They highlight the arguments and proofs/evidence mentioned in the work
- They sometimes describe the author’s methodology and any theories used
- They offer the conclusion of the source
- They do not evaluate the work they are discussing
This type of annotation is a summary of the source. An informative annotation should include the thesis of the work, arguments or hypothesis, proofs and a conclusion.
Informative annotations provide a straight summary of the source material.
They summarise all relevant information about the author and the main points of the work.
To write an informative annotation, begin by writing the thesis; then develop it with the argument or hypothesis, list the proofs, and state the conclusion
Indicative annotated bibliographies
Indicative annotations do not provide actual information from the source.
They provide overall information about what kinds of questions or issues are addressed by the work, for example, through chapter titles.
In the indicative entry, there is no attempt to give actual data such as hypotheses, proofs, etc.
Evaluative annotated bibliographies do more than just summarising, they provide critical appraisals.
They evaluate the source or author critically to find any biases, lack of evidence, objectives, etc.
They show how the work may or may not be useful for a particular field of study or audience.
They explain how researching this material assisted your own project.
Most annotated bibliographies contain combination annotations. This type of annotation will summarize or describe the topic, and then evaluate the source's usefulness and a summary. Usually also includes a detailed analysis on the reason the article was written.
Formats of writing annotated bibliographies
Annotated bibliographies contain two main sections; the bibliographic information section and the annotations section.
Since the formats may slightly vary from one institution to another and amongst scholars and researchers depending on the regulations, courses and materials being annotated, it is imperative to ask for specific guidelines.
The bibliographic information
The bibliographic information is written before the annotation using the suitable referencing style. The information is normally indented using a hanging indent.
Generally, though, the bibliographic information of the source (the title, author, publisher, date, etc.) is written in either MLA or APA format.
The annotations for each source are written in paragraph form.
The lengths of the annotations can vary significantly from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages.
The length of the annotation should be between 100 to 200 words.
When writing summaries of sources, the annotations may not be very long.
However, when writing an extensive analysis of each source, more space may be needed.
A few sentences of general summary followed by several sentences of how you can fit the work into your larger paper or project can serve you well when you go to draft.
Sample entry of an APA style annotated bibliography:
Murray, S. (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History. Chicago: ALA Editions.
Murray's book offers an in-depth look at the history of libraries since ancient times. He
incorporates beautiful illustrations, quotations, and descriptions of numerous libraries
worldwide. This book states the history of the evolution of the book from era to era.
It also serves as a primary source of information for research in library history. This
is a good book that should be of interest to book lovers and librarians.
What is an Annotated Bibliography?
What is a bibliography? Often called a “works cited list” or “reference list,” it’s a list, usually found at the end of your project, that displays all of the sources that you used in your research project. In this list, you may have websites, books, newspapers, magazines, or other types of sources that were used.
Each listed source, also called a “citation,” shares information about the author, title, publishing year, and other items. Citations are provided so that others can find the sources themselves.
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents where each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 100 to 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation.
Why Have One?
Sometimes instructors want you to include an “annotated bibliography.” An annotated bibliography includes three items for each source:
- the citation
- a short summary of the source
- your personal thoughts and insights from the source
The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, location, and quality of the sources cited. Please check with your teacher or professor first to see if an annotated bibliography/works cited page is needed for your paper.
- Create the citation in MLA, APA, or another style that your teacher instructs you to cite in. Your teacher will tell you which style you should use.
- Write a few sentences summarizing the source. What was it about? What was the main point of it?
Your Personal Thoughts and Insights
- Was the source helpful for your particular assignment?
- How did it help answer your research question(s)?
- How was this source different than the other sources used?
- Did the source change your thinking on the research topic?
- How did the source affect you?
- Citations are listed in alphabetical order
- Format your paper according to the MLA or APA guidelines (include the link to the MLA and APA guideline pages)
Example (in MLA):
Example (in APA):
Did you know that you can create annotated bibliographies using EasyBib citation tools? Go to any citation form and simply click the “Add Annotation” button at the bottom. A space will open up that allows you to add your own annotation for the citation.