Most students know how to write a bibliography, also called a "Works Cited" page or a "Reference Page". These appear at the end of a research work and provide the listing of the sources used to produce the paper. Students learn how to prepare these in high school, and although the format may change (APA Style Bibliography or MLA Style Bibliography being the most common), the basic information is the same the author, title of the work, publication place and date, etc.

From undergraduate school forward, however, there are professors who will assign annotated bibliography writing, either as a research exercise or as the format required for the reference page of a completed research work. This type of written bibliography can be a bit overwhelming because it requires prose writing, in paragraph style, relative to each source that has been used.

Annotated Bibliography Writing can be Tricky!

First, let's define the term "annotation". This activity involves providing not just source information, but as well, a summary of the content of that source and, often, an evaluation of the content and its relevance to your research task. When a professor requires annotated bibliography writing, she / he will usually provide specifics regarding the depth of annotation required, and you should always follow those specifics.

Annotation will involve one or more of the following pieces, and again, it is the professor's requirements that determine how much must be included in the written bibliography.

  • A Summary. This annotation provides a basic paragraph describing the contents of the source. What information / data did the article / book / edition contain? Dependent upon how detailed you must be, the length of such a paragraph may vary a great deal. Our site has a great guide on how to write an annotated bibliography that requires just a summary!
  • An Assessment. If an evaluation is required in addition to a summary, you must speak to the validity of the content and the arguments / points that were made by the author. Was the piece objective or subjective? Was there obvious bias or not? Again, please consult with our guide on annotated bibliography writing, for detail and examples.
  • The Reflection. How did this source contribute to your research? Was it helpful or was it simply redundant? Did it provide for your thesis and/or argument? Did it impact your point of view? The reflection portion really relates to your personal response to the piece.

Again, it is critical that you follow the instructions of your professor regarding which of these three parts of the annotation must be included.

Why Are Annotated Bibliographies Important?

They are important to you. You need to prove to yourself that you have understood what you have read and the research that others have produced. As well, you need to prove this to your professor. An annotated bibliography can be a critical part of an overall grade on a research work you have produced.

They are important to other researchers. If you have created an exemplary annotated bibliography, you have provided valuable information to others who are conducting research in the same field. They can use your annotation to determine if a source related specifically to their research or if the source could be valuable to them.


Formatting your Annotated Bibliography

Generally, you will be asked to use the APA style bibliography or the MAL bibliography style, but your professor will provide those specifics. You can certainly check our guides for each of these styles, along with others, so that you can be certain to format it correctly. On our sites, you can find guides for each style, so be certain to check these! Annotations are written in paragraph style, so you should be certain that you can produce effective and compelling paragraphs, according to academic standards of formal writing.

Find more information on the annotated bibliography formats here.

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