What Is an Annotated Bibliography: Definition, Guide and Samples

Annotating a bibliography allows a researcher to arrange their sources while also assisting other scholars interested in the same topic. Annotating also forces you to examine your sources more closely and critically. When researching a topic, looking through another writer’s annotated bibliography can help you get started. Reading annotated bibliographies is an excellent approach to determine whether or not specific sources are beneficial.

An annotated bibliography is a collection of references to articles, books, documents, and other resources. Writing an annotated bibliography is a difficult task. There are numerous textbooks and manuals that differ in depth, relevance to modern science, and presentation style. Furthermore, there are many publications that are not textbooks yet are still useful to students.

At the same time, the annotated bibliography advised for students cannot be too broad; otherwise, it loses its meaning and is viewed as a “telephone directory” of names and titles rather than a recommendation. A student’s actual capabilities should also be considered.

Not every reading that a professional finds valuable is accessible to a student’s mind. The theories of great scientists must first be adapted; else, the opposite result can be obtained. On the other hand, simply recommending unimportant literature would be inappropriate.

The recommended annotated bibliography should describe some perspectives; in this respect, presentation simplicity should not be the only criterion of recommended reading. This list should be developed with the student’s future professional development in mind. As a result, any attempt to build an effective annotated bibliography can never be totally successful because there will always be questions about why something is included while others are not. As the student gains experience and understanding, truncation and growth may occur organically. Experts here at AssignmentGiant have prepared this guide for you.

Purpose of an annotated bibliography

When given as homework, an annotated bibliography gives you the opportunity to become familiar with the various sources of information that are accessible on a specific subject.

An annotated bibliography, depending on the specifics of the assignment that you have been given, may include the following:

  • A review of the existing literature on a specific topic
  • Evidence of the caliber and extent of the reading that you have completed;
  • An illustration of the range of sources that are available, such as journals, books, websites, and magazine articles;
  • Highlighting of sources that may be of interest to other readers and researchers;
  • Exploration and organization of sources for the purpose of further research.

Important parts of an annotated bibliography?

  • Citation details that are laid down in a fashion that is consistent with the format style
  • The purpose of the cited paper, which is discussed in a nutshell
  • Your impressions after reading the cited paper
  • An assessment of the author’s previous work
  • A discussion of how the cited study relates to your own work.

Questions to consider when writing annotated bibliography

You need to consider carefully the texts that you chose for your annotated bibliography. Keep the following questions in mind to help explain your options.

  1. What topic/problem am I investigating?
  2. What question(s) am I exploring? Identify the aim of your literature research.
  3. What kind of material am I looking at and why am I looking at it? Is it journal papers, reports, policies, or primary historical material that I’m seeking for?
  4. Am I being prudent in my text selection? Is each text relevant to my study topic and assignment specifications?
  5. What are the primary texts on my topic? Am I locating them? Are the sources valuable or frequently cited in other texts?

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

How to start an annotated bibliography?

Prior to composing an annotated bibliography, gather resources. A bibliography, as well as any other sort of academic document, necessitates it. Save any information that may be useful in the future.

Go over all of the information you have gathered and choose the most important ones to retain. Here, you will find abstracts of the articles you are interested in reading.

How to do an annotated bibliography?

Begin by writing a complete citation, followed by the comment. Fill in the blanks with:

  • The work’s objective
  • A brief description of the content
  • Who is the intended audience for this work?
  • Your topic’s relevance
  • The material’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Should an annotated bibliography be made alphabetically or chronologically? It can be done in one of these methods; simply ask your instructor which is preferable.

How can you make an impressive annotated bibliography? Annotations should include a summary of the work’s scientific value, a description of the publication’s structure and style of presentation of the material, and a brief explanation of the content (focusing on the most important issues). In the appropriate form and term, the created annotated bibliography is submitted to the teacher for verification.

annotated bibliography

Structure of an Annotated Bibliography

When selecting themes for annotated bibliographies, it is vital to work backwards from their originality, relevance, and the level of interest that the target audience has in them, as well as their correspondence to the profile and capabilities of the library. During the process of researching potential topics for annotated bibliographies, you are supposed to ascertain whether or not there is sufficient literature on the subject to completely comprehend the terminology as well as the core of the issue itself.

At this level, it is desirable to enlist specialists in this field of knowledge for consulting and methodological support in the cases that are the most difficult. They are able to forecast when the “peak of interest” to the subject will occur and when there will be an increased demand for the papers that are reflected in the manual. Do not be hesitant to seek the assistance of librarians; keep in mind that the success of all subsequent work is dependent on the breadth of research conducted on the subject. The structure is as follows:

  • Annotated bibliography introduction

An introduction to the annotated bibliography can be provided in the form of a descriptive bibliographic paragraph. An annotated bibliography is a set of bibliographic information about a document that is given according to certain rules, establishing the sequence order of areas and elements, and intended for the purpose of identifying the document and describing its general characteristics. A bibliographic description is a component of an annotated bibliography.

  • The information relating to the title

The title information includes information clarifying the main title, information regarding the type, genre, and purpose of the work, and the availability of translation from another language.

  • The information about responsibility

This section offers information about individuals and groups involved in the creation of intellectual or other content for the work described.

  • The information about publication

This is information about responsibility related to additional edition information.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography Step by Step

  1. Gather Necessary information

A bibliographic search is a search for information (the selection of bibliographic documents) for the aim of further bibliographic processing (recording) based on bibliographic data. There are three major goals of information search in the bibliography.

The initial goal is to find the essential information about the source and establish its presence in the system of other sources. It is carried out by searching for bibliographic information and bibliographic manuals (informational publications) designed specifically for more efficient information search and use (literature, books).

The second goal is to look for information sources (documents and publications) that have or may provide the required information. The third is the search for factual information included in literature, such as a book, on historical facts and events, technical qualities of machines and processes, attributes of substances and materials, biographical data from a writer’s or scientist’s life and work, and so on.

Bibliographic search methods:

  • The complete method

In the complete method, a bibliographer, for the accomplishment of an assigned task, examines completely and without gaps all the available manuals and sources.

  • The selective method

A more rational and real way of searching for literature is the selective method. In literature, it is also often called the “episodic method.”

  • The intuitive method

This is an approach to finding the necessary sources based on the assumption of basic knowledge, taking into account concretization by any type (author of works, genre, publishing house).

  • The typological (prescription) method

In any event, the typological (prescription) technique reflects and incorporates a specific rational beginning, of a planned character, into the process of informative inquiry. At the same time, it emphasizes the significance of the beginning of this intricate process. It can be chosen based on intuition as well as deliberate, purposeful reasoning, a working hypothesis, or a recipe.

  • The inductive method

The general conclusion about the availability of the sought-after sources (factual information) on the issue of interest in this case is made on the basis of a study of all individual sources.

  • The deductive method

The opposite of the inductive method is done on the basis of specific single sources.

  • By bibliographic references

This concerns searching sources from already existing bibliographic databases.

  • By going from the abstract to the concrete.
  • Write a bibliographic description

A bibliographic description is a bibliographic model of the document, and it is formatted in the form of a network of interrelated pieces with the identification punctuation that came before it. The primary objective of the bibliographic description is to locate the publication within the informational infrastructure of other organizations.

Types of bibliographic description:

  • Monographic – involves the description of a single document.
  • Summary – a description of a multi-volume or serial document.
  • Analytical – this is the description for any part of the document.
  • Brief – a description of only the mandatory elements of a specific document.
  • Advanced – here there is a description of the required elements, as well as one or more optional elements.
  • Complete – description of the required element and all possible optional elements.
  • Consolidated – a description that is performed with various publications of the same document: reprints, translations, and or other documents related to it – reviews, essays, etc.
  • A bibliographic reference is a bibliographic description of a cited, considered, or referred document work.

Include information about the type, genre, and purpose of the work, information about individuals and groups engaged in the creation of the work described in the description, as well as information concerning responsibility.

Annotated Bibliography Template

  • MLA annotation

Smith, Valerie. The Great Depression in the United States. Economist, 2002.

Smith’s book presents a comparative analysis of economic crises: the 1930s in the United States. She talks about features of crises in the country. The author also mentions dynamics of GDP, GNP, and prices. The book presents a reproduction of the population in times of crisis.

  • APA annotation

Beсket, N. (2007). Cyclical development of the world economy and financial crises. New York, NY: Finance and Credit.

This book talks about the theory of economic cycles and the current financial and economic situation in the world.

  • Chicago Manual annotation

Smith, Hilda Ellis. Features of Economic and Financial Crises in the Process of World Integration. London: Routledge, 2009.

Based on the analysis of several major financial crises of the last twenty years, the article concludes that the basis of crises lie in the miscalculations of monetary authorities in the art of advanced regulation, and their inadequate ability to pursue responsible macroeconomic policies. In conclusion, there are several indicators of the state of the financial market, according to the level of which you can try to assess the degree of a crisis threat for a particular national financial market.

What types of annotations are there?

There are three main types of annotations, and the different kinds of information can be combined, such as the summary and evaluation or evaluation and reflection, etc.

  • The summary— This particular kind of annotation offers a synopsis of the source. A common format for the summary is to begin by stating the purpose of the source, then to discuss the method that the authors of the source employed in their argument or study, and then to provide the primary finding(s) or conclusion (s).
  • The evaluation— This type of annotation explores the source’s strengths and faults. It may also describe why/how the article is valuable or fascinating and who it would be useful for (someone new to the issue, someone knowledgeable about the topic, graduate students or professional, undergraduates, etc).
  • The reflection— In this type of annotation, you explain how the source did or did not contribute to your research and how it did so. It is also possible to mention how the source contributed to the development of your argument or how it altered your perspective on the issue.

Check with your instructor on the kinds of information they want your annotations to include.

Examples of Annotated Bibliography

Here you will find examples of annotated bibliographies for several disciplines in order to understand what you should write in your own annotated bibliography.

Sample annotation

The citation goes first and is followed by the annotation. Make sure that you follow your faculty’s preferred citation style. The summary needs to be concise. Please note the following example is entirely fictitious.

In the sample annotation below, each element is numbered (see Key).

(1) Trevor, C.O., Lansford, B. and Black, J.W., 2004, ‘Employee turnover and job performance: monitoring the influences of salary growth and promotion’, Journal of Armchair Psychology, vol 113, no.1, pp. 56-64.

(2) In this article Trevor et al. review the influences of pay and job opportunities in respect to job performance, turnover rates and employee motivation.
(3) The authors use data gained through organisational surveys of blue-chip companies in Vancouver, Canada to try to identify the main causes of employee turnover and whether it is linked to salary growth.(4) Their research focuses on assessing a range of pay structures such as pay for performance and organisational reward schemes.
(5) The article is useful to my research topic, as Trevor et al. suggest that there are numerous reasons for employee turnover and variances in employee motivation and performance.
(6) The main limitation of the article is that the survey sample was restricted to mid-level management,
(7) thus the authors indicate that further, more extensive, research needs to be undertaken to develop a more in-depth understanding of employee turnover and job performance.
(8) This article will not form the basis of my research; however it will be useful supplementary information for my research on pay structures.
(1) Citation
(2) Introduction 
(3) Aims & Research methods
(4) Scope
(5) Usefulness (to your research/ to a particular topic)
(6) Limitations
(7) Conclusions
(8) Reflection (explain how this work illuminates your topic or how it will fit in with your research)

How to assess the relevance and value of sources in Annotated Bibliography

Your research issue or problem is something that should be investigated, and your annotation should now go to a brief evaluation of the source’s contribution to that inquiry. If your bibliography is a component of a research project, you should quickly explain how you plan to use the source and the reason why you will be using it. If your bibliography is a standalone effort, you should evaluate each source in terms of the contribution it made to the research done on your subject.

  • Which of the following aspects of the source’s research question or methodology (its method) piques your curiosity more: the way the source frames its research question or the way it goes about addressing it? Does it bring up new ways of looking at a problem or generate new connections between ideas? (for example, taking into account the Sparrow ruling regarding the rights of indigenous people to fish while determining the scope of women’s rights)
  • Are you interested in how a theoretical framework or a central idea is used in the source? (such as a study of rights that are now in effect, those that have expired, and others)
  • Does the source compile and evaluate a specific body of evidence that you intend to use in your argument? (such as the evolution of a body of legislation over the course of its history)
  • In what ways are the conclusions of the source relevant to your own investigation?

To choose how you will use the source or characterize its contribution, you must first evaluate the quality of the argument: why is it valuable? What are its constraints? How well specified is the research question? How effective is its investigative method? How reliable is the evidence? Would you come to the same conclusions based on the evidence?

Keep your project’s context in mind. In your course or discipline, how is content evaluated? What models for evaluating arguments are included in course materials?

FAQS on Annotated Bibliography

Which writing style should I use in the annotations?

  • Each annotation must be brief. Remember that you are writing a summary, not an essay, so don’t write too much. Unless otherwise specified in your assignment criteria, annotations should not exceed one paragraph. Because this is not a long piece of writing, only describe important and necessary details.
  • Background materials and references to past work by the same author are typically not included. There is no need to cross reference or utilize in-text citations to support your annotation because you are addressing one text at a time.
  • Unless otherwise specified, write in whole sentences using academic jargon.

What are the 3 parts of an annotated bibliography?

The three different parts of an annotated bibliography include the title, annotation, and citation. The title and citation format will vary based on the style you use. The annotation can include a summary, evaluation, or reflection.

How does an annotation differ from an abstract?

  • An abstract is a brief, objective summary of the essential content of a book, article, speech, report, dissertation, or other work, which presents the main points in the same order as the original.
  • An annotation is a paragraph, usually no longer than several sentences, added after a citation in a bibliography to describe or explain the content or message of the work cited, or to comment on it. Annotations can be descriptive or critical or a combination of both. A descriptive annotation summarizes the scope and content of a source. An critical annotation includes a brief evaluation of the source, including an assessment of its use, value and/or significance.

Examples of annotated bibliographies can be found in these sources: