An annotated bibliography is a list of information sources in which each source has a brief description explaining the content and significance of the source. These descriptions, called “annotations”, help the reader determine the usefulness of each source and can be a starting point for future research.
Annotated bibliographies often exist as separate documents. They may also be added to other written work but they do not replace the reference list or bibliography required for the purpose of referencing and citing.
What is a bibliography? explains the difference between a reference list or list of works cited, a bibliography or list of works consulted, and an annotated bibliography.
Your annotated bibliography should have a clearly defined scope and give concise, accurate, information about the information sources included. For the content and structure of your annotated bibliography, consider:
For writing your annotated bibliography, your School or Programme will have defined a layout and approved a referencing style that you should use. Ask your lecturer or supervisor for details.
Important formatting includes:
Annotations are similar to book reviews but annotations should be shorter, less personal, and less emotional than book reviews. Make sure annotations you write are accurate and concise.
Typically an annotation is one paragraph containing 100–200 words. Ask your lecturer or supervisor to confirm how long your annotations should be.
Each of your annotations should discuss the authority of the author of the information source: their credentials, experience, and qualifications to write about the subject.
Each of your annotations should include descriptive or evaluative statements about the contents of the information source. Most of your annotations will include both descriptive and evaluative statements.
Below are two sample annotated bibliography entries using the MLA referencing style, with the annotation positioned two lines below with a paragraph indent, and descriptive, or informative, annotations.
Modern Language Association of America. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New York: MLA, 2009. Print.
Covers issues such as research and writing, spelling, punctuation, use of numbers and quotations, the format of research papers, and documentation. Guides the researcher and writer through the process of selecting a research topic to submitting the completed manuscript. This revised edition of the Handbook includes an updated and expanded discussion on the use of electronic resources in research and their citation.
London, Herbert. “Five Myths of the Television Age.” Television Quarterly 10.1 (1982): 81–89. Print.
Explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. Uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate points. Examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: “seeing is believing”; “a picture is worth a thousand words”; and “satisfaction is its own reward.” Logical arguments are used to support ideas which reflect the author's opinion. Previous works on the topic are not mentioned.