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It is common that when you are given a paper to write, you are expected to include an annotated bibliography. What is an annotated bibliography? Cornell University describes it as “a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation.”

A bibliography entry is essentially a short book description. Here’s a simple scheme for you to remember:

Bibliography entry = Author’s name + book title + short summary + the book’s impact on your work.

Perhaps you think writing a bibliography is no big deal.

Well, here’s the thing:

It is a big deal and here’s why. Simply put, there are different types and formats in which to write a bibliography and you absolutely must know which ones you are required to utilize. Once you have this information, you can learn how to write a bibliography. But before we move on to any of that, you need to understand why you must include a bibliography in your assignment.

why you need a bibliography

Why you need a bibliography

There are several critical reasons why you would be required to write a bibliography, including:

  • Demonstrating that you have found relevant sources and that you understand how they relate to your research work
  • Listing and describing sources that provide useful background information to your topic
  • Providing the reader with an idea of the content of the publication
  • Describing other items related to a topic in which the reader might be interested
  • Exploring the subject for further research

An annotation offers the point of view of the author

Essentially, the reason behind producing an annotation is that it offers the point of view of the author and shows how the author is able to be critical, descriptive, and authoritative with regards to the subject matter at hand. At least some of the following has to be included into your annotation:

  • Author: His/her authority and qualification
  • Purpose: For what reason did the author write it
  • Scope: Depth of coverage
  • Accuracy: Check information for reliability
  • Audience: How the author wanted to influence the reader
  • Viewpoint: The approach used by the author
  • Sources: Whether the author referred to other sources
  • Conclusion: What the author concludes
  • Comparison: How it relates to other works on a topic
  • Your reaction to the item

General tips on writing a bibliography

Before we move on to other aspects of writing a bibliography, here are some general tips on writing one:

  1. The annotation style you will use depends on the instructions and requirements of your teacher/professor.
  2. Your bibliography may be composed with complete sentences or as phrases.
  3. Evaluate the scope of the resources to be researched and included as entries into a bibliography.
  4. Keep track of your research and retrieval of material.
  5. Evaluate the sources found and write down impressions and important ideas.
  6. Provide full citation data in accordance with a specific citation format, e.g. APA, MLA, Chicago.
  7. Write an annotation for each source.
  8. Make sure you’ve mentioned the author’s name.
  9. Make note of the book title and the year of publishing.
  10. Specify the main point—i.e., the subject of the book.
  11. Explain what the source has to do with your paper.

But there’s more:

Not only do you need to know why you must create a bibliography; you also need to understand the different types of bibliography so you can determine which is best for your assignment.

types of bibliography

Types of bibliography

There are two main types of bibliography. These include descriptive and critical. It is important to note that while you can use one or the other, it is common for a bibliography to include a combination of both types.

The descriptive annotation will offer a brief summary of the source material, such as:

  • A general description of what the book is about with a focus on the main points and the primary argument
  • Quotations or other evidence to show the tone, treatment, and style of the subject matter

In contrast, a critical annotation is more of an analysis of the source material and includes points such as:

  • Contrasting and comparing the text’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Demonstrating how accurate and complete the text is
  • Discussing the level of difficulty and to what audience it applies
  • Demonstrating that the author is qualified in his or her field
  • Explaining how relevant and useful the source material is in terms of your assignment
  • How the source material relates to other source material referred to in the bibliography

Check out Saint Mary’s University for more information and examples of the two types of bibliography. And now it is time to learn how to write a bibliography.

how to write an annotated bibliography

How to write an annotated bibliography

First, you need to know the general tips for writing a bibliography. These are universal tips or requirements used when writing a bibliography, regardless of the citation style used.

But first things first:

The general format for a bibliography is as follows:

  1. Source listed in alphabetical order
  2. Summary of source, consisting of 4-6 sentences

Getting Started

Steps for writing a bibliography

Before you can write you bibliography, you need to decide on which sources should go in the bibliography and familiarize yourself with them. With this in mind, do the following:

  1. Evaluate the scope of the resources to be researched and included as entries into a bibliography.
  2. Research and retrieve all required material.
  3. Evaluate each source found and write down impressions and important ideas.
  4. Provide full citation data in accordance with a specific citation format, e.g. APA, MLA, Chicago.

how to write the summary

Once you have done the above, writing down the sources is relatively easy and straightforward. However, you still have the source summaries to write, something that can seem a bit trickier. Fortunately, it isn’t as difficult or intimidating as it might appear. Here are some additional tips on how to write the summary:

  1. Write one or two sentences that describe the basic topic or question addressed by the source.
  2. Write one or two sentences that focus on the thesis of the assignment.
  3. Write one sentence that describes the methodology used by the author, including the types of sources utilized, whether the source is scholarly or a case study, and details regarding the organization of the source.
  4. Write one sentence that explains the relevance of the source to the topic of the assignment or how it will aid in your research and analysis of the topic.

For more information on how to create a bibliography, check out Trent University. When it comes to specific citation styles, the format for the bibliography will be slightly different, depending on the citation style you are required to use. Let’s take a look at each of the main citation styles to get a handle on some specific tips.

apa style format

APA style format

Formatting an annotated bibliography in APA style has a couple of special rules, including the following:

  1. You are required to use a hanging indent for the citation, which means the first line begins even with the left margin and all the lines that follow are to be indented four spaces from the left margin.
  2. The summary of the annotation is indented as a block of text two spaces further from the left margin than the subsequent lines of the citation.

Refer to the following APA style annotated bibliography example for reference:

Linsey, M. (2000). New Age music. New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish.

Linsey offers a blend of traditional ideas of New Age music and own perception. The book helped to understand the modern interpretation of the New Age culture.

Bethel University provides a great sample APA annotated bibliography paper, should you require another annotated bibliography example.

Mla style format

MLA style format

Naturally, MLA style formatting for a bibliography is slightly different from the APA style. See the following tips:

  1. You are required to use a hanging indent for the citation, which means the first line must begin even with the left margin and all the lines that follow must be indented four spaces from the left margin.
  2. The summary of the annotation is not indented, but is flush with the left margin.
  3. The entries of the bibliography are double-spaced.

Here is an MLA annotated bibliography example:

Johnson, Peter. Parrots. New York, NY: Routledge, 2012. Print.

In his book Parrots, Johnson depicts the life and features of various parrot species. The given book allowed to compare and contrast different parrot breeds.

For another MLA bibliography sample or additional APA style annotated bibliography examples, check out Simon Fraser University and Concordia University.

annotated bibliography chicago

Annotated bibliography chicago

When it comes to the annotated bibliography Chicago style, there is another set of rules that applies only to it. When writing a bibliography in Chicago style, do the following:

  1. Double-space all text.
  2. Indent every summary paragraph with the use of the tab key.
  3. Place page numbers on the top right of the page, beginning with the first page after the title page.
  4. All entries for the reference list are required to be inputted with a hanging indent (to accomplish this in Microsoft Word 2010, you must select Format > Paragraph > Special > Hanging).
  5. A 1-inch (2.54 cm) margin is required all the way around each page.
  6. Utilize a font that is easy to read. Times New Roman is one such font.

Carson, Craig G. 2007. The History of the USA. Washington, D. C.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

In his all-embracing work, Carson overviews the history of the nation, shedding some light on specific events. The book led to understanding the USA politics.

eatern nazarene college

You can check out Eastern Nazarene College for another example of an annotated bibliography in Chicago style.

With all this information and an annotated bibliography sample for each main style, you are probably well on your way to writing a well-written, informative annotated bibliography to accompany your assignment. However, if you are still having trouble, you can check out this video on how to create your bibliography.

Still uncertain about how to write annotated bibliography APA format or in any other format?

Well, no wonder!

Writing a bibliography requires persistence and experience. Bibliography writing does not demonstrate in-depth knowledge of an academic subject. As such, a student would end up getting more value for their time if they were to devote time to their regular studies.

If you still find yourself lost or you are simply out of time, you can use an MLA bibliography format generator, an APA style citation generator, or another type of annotated bibliography generator, but these generators are not always reliable.

You can also access a free MLA annotated bibliography template or a free APA annotated bibliography template, which can help you get your bibliography organized.

Ultimately, you might just be frustrated with the whole thing, in which case you can buy annotated bibliography from a professional custom writing service.

You can also find more information about citations in MLA, APA, and Chicago styles to help you when writing your college papers.

Happy writing!

Comments (3)

  • Nadia Schneider Posted: March 3, 2012 in 7:37 pm

    Thanks for awesome tips for annotated bibliography writing! I appreciate your writing help! Your posts and tips help to cope with any types of papers assigned! Keep it up!

  • Julene Parsells Posted: September 6, 2016 in 4:14 pm

    I’ve been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this site. Thank you, I’ll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your website?

    • Daisy Posted: September 8, 2016 in 2:40 am

      Hi Julene!

      Thanks for your feedback, we update our website several times per week, so hope you are going to be a frequent reader of our blog:)