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The Art of Annotating: A Step-by-Step Guide to Annotated Bibliography

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Published on: Feb 6, 2023

Last updated on: Feb 6, 2023

Annotated Bibliography

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Struggling to get a handle on your annotated bibliography? You're not alone - many students find the process of compiling citations more complicated than linear algebra! 

Fortunately, there are some tricks of the trade that can make creating an annotated bibliography much less daunting. 

In this blog post, we'll outline exactly how to craft a perfect annotated bibliography. With step-by-step instructions and examples, you'll be able to write a flawless bibliography in no time! 

So without further ado, let's get started! 

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Annotated bibliography meaning: A list of citations that includes a summary and evaluation of each source, known as an annotation.

Let's take a look at the annotated bibliography definition. It's important to understand what exactly you are writing before starting the process. 

Annotated bibliographies are lists of citations for various documents that are used as sources in a research project. Each citation is followed by a brief description or evaluation of the source, known as an annotation.

Annotations come in different lengths and styles, depending on the project's requirements. 

Why Write Annotations?

An annotated bibliography serves several important purposes. It gives readers a preview of your research topic and helps them decide whether to read further or not.

It also helps you keep track of your research and provides evidence of how you conducted your research. 

Difference Between Abstract, Annotation, and Literature Review

Now that you know what an annotated bibliography is, let's take a look at how annotations differ from a literature review. 

Abstracts are short summaries of documents that highlight their main points. Annotation is the evaluation or description of a source. It is more detailed than an abstract but shorter than a literature review. 

A literature review is a detailed analysis of all available sources on a given topic. It's more comprehensive than an annotation. 

To gain a more comprehensive understanding, please refer to the table below.

AbstractAnnotationLiterature Review
A concise summary of the main points of a documentDetailed evaluation and description of a sourceExtensive analysis of all available sources on a given topic
Provided at the end of the scholarly paperProvided at the beginning of the scholarly paperThe literature review typically follows the introduction chapter. 
Around 200-300 words 100-300 words1,200 and 2,000 words in 5000 words dissertation 
Provide an overview of the content (structure & purpose)Provide information about the purpose, value, and relevancy of the sourcesInvolves synthesizing the information found in each source

Visit this link for an in-depth exploration of literature review basics and start mastering the fundamental concepts today!

Now that you know the basics, let's move on to the steps for writing an annotated bibliography.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography Step-by-Step

This section outlines the steps needed to write a perfect annotated bibliography. 

Step 1: Analysis of Sources

Before you begin to write your annotated bibliography, read through the sources you have gathered and assess each one. 

Ask yourself these questions to help you decide if a source is relevant and useful:

  • Is this source reliable or trustworthy?
  • Is the author of this source an expert on the topic?
  • Does this source provide useful information that is relevant to my research?
  • Is the content of this source interesting and engaging?
  • Does this source support or refute my argument?

Step 2: Create Your Annotations

Once you have evaluated your sources, it’s time to create the annotations. Your annotations should provide a summary of each source and explain how it is relevant to your research topic. 

There are different types of annotations. The types of annotations include descriptive, informative, and more. Check out the various kinds of annotations below!

Indicative/Descriptive Annotations

Indicative/descriptive annotations provide information about the content of a source. They should include 

  • A summary of the main points and arguments presented in the source 
  • An explanation of how this source supports your argument or research topic 
  • A list of any relevant topics discussed in the source
  • Critical comments on the source, such as its accuracy or relevance

Informative/Summary Annotations

Informative/summary annotations provide a more in-depth summary of the source than indicative annotations. They should include: 

  • A detailed summary of the content of the source, with an emphasis on its main points and arguments 
  • An explanation of how this source supports your argument or research topic  
  • A list of any relevant topics discussed in the source 
  • Critical comments on the source, such as its accuracy or relevance 
  • An evaluation of the source’s strengths and weaknesses

Evaluation Annotations

It provide an in-depth analysis of a source, with an emphasis on its strengths and weaknesses. They should include: 

  • A detailed summary of the content of the source
  • An explanation of how this source supports your argument or research topic  
  • A list of any relevant topics discussed in the source 
  • Critical comments on the source, such as its accuracy or relevance 
  • A detailed evaluation of the source’s strengths and weaknesses, including an explanation of why certain elements are successful or unsuccessful. 

Combination Annotation

Combination annotations provide a combination of summary and evaluation. They should include all the elements found in both indicative and informative annotations.

Also includes a detailed evaluation of the source’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Writing Style for Annotations

Annotations should be written in a neutral, objective tone. Avoid using personal judgment or opinion. Start each annotation with the bibliographic information for the source (i.e., author, title, publisher, date of publication). 

After that, provide a summary of the main points and arguments presented in the source. Finally, include any critical comments you have about the source. Also, provide an evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses. 

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Step 3: Format Your Annotations

Once you have written your annotations, it’s time to format them according to the standards of your discipline. 

Different disciplines and universities have different annotated bibliography format requirements. Be sure to check with your professor or department for specific formatting guidelines. 

In general, however, most annotated bibliographies should be formatted as follows: 

  • Arrange all sources in alphabetical order 
  • Include the bibliographic information for each source (author, title, publisher, date of publication) 
  • Follow each annotation with a line spacing 
  • Double-space the entire annotated bibliography. 

For reference, here is a PDF sample to help guide you. Take a look!

Discover more details by watching this informative video!

Annotated Bibliography Samples

Samples are a good resource for anyone who is new to writing an annotated bibliography. It’s perfect for getting familiar with the structure and formatting of this type of paper. 

Here are a few samples from reliable sources to get you started:

MLA 9th Annotated Bibliography Examples

MLA 9th edition annotated bibliographies provide an overview of each source, along with a summary of its content. 

The annotations can help readers decide if the material is relevant and useful for their own research. Additionally, they may include a critical evaluation of the source material.

Take a look at the examples of annotated bibliography MLA format below for guidance.


Cooray, Vernon, et al. “Lightning-caused Injuries in Humans.” Lightning Protection, edited by Vernon Cooray, Institution of Engineering and Technology, 2010, pp. 901-924. EBSCO eBook Collection, This chapter provides an overview of lightning-caused injuries in humans. It begins with a discussion of the types of injuries reported by lightning survivors. Also involved well as statistics on how many people are injured or killed by lightning each year. The chapter then goes into detail about the physical and psychological effects of such injuries, and offers guidelines for preventing and treating them. It also covers medical treatments for lightning injuries and explores the role of emergency services in dealing with a lightning strike. This chapter is an essential part of any study on lightning protection, as it provides vital information about the potential dangers posed by this natural phenomenon. Comprehensive yet accessible to readers without a scientific background, this chapter exemplifies how careful research and a thorough knowledge of the subject can produce an accessible yet authoritative source.

Journal Article

Holle, Ronald L., et al. "Deaths, Injuries, and Damages from Lightning in the United States in the 1890s in Comparison with the 1990s." Journal of Applied Meteorology, vol. 44, no. 10, Oct. 2005, pp. 1563-73. Academic Search Premier, This article provides an overview of the number of deaths, injuries, and damage caused by lightning in the United States during a period spanning from 1890 to 1999. Holle et al., as research meteorologists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration since the 1960s, provide an overview of the number of deaths, injuries, and damage caused by lightning. The authors present several graphs to illustrate their results and also discuss possible explanations for regional differences. Additionally, they include numerous references to further support their findings. Published in a scholarly journal with credible authors, this article provides reliable information to those interested in understanding the impact of lightning on the United States. The date of the article does not detract from its information as lightning fatalities are a recurring phenomenon and therefore remain relevant. 

MLA 8th Annotated Bibliography Examples

Take a look at the MLA 8th annotated bibliography examples below:


London, Herbert. “Five Myths of the Television Age.” Television Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 1, Mar. 1982, pp. 81-69. In this article, Herbert London examines five commonly held beliefs about television and its impact on society. He provides evidence in the form of several examples, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to demonstrate how these ideas are false. Furthermore, he makes logical arguments to support his points which are ultimately his own opinion. This work is unique in that it does not refer to any previous works on the subject. As such, this article serves as an excellent resource for anyone looking to gain a better understanding of television and its effects. It is also useful for those wanting to further explore how media can shape our perception of reality. This work will be invaluable for students interested in media studies or communications.  In addition, this article serves as an excellent example for any student seeking to understand the use of logic in constructing arguments.

Journal Article

Province, Michael A. “The Effects of Exercise on Falls in Elderly Patients.” JAMA, vol. 273, no. 17, 1995, p. 1341., doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520410035023. This article examines the effects of exercise on falls and fall-related injuries in elderly patients. The authors conducted a preplanned meta-analysis of seven Frailty and Injuries: Cooperative Studies of Intervention Techniques (FICSIT) trials, which included an exercise component for 10 to 36 weeks. The study looked at two nursing home and five community-dwelling sites. The authors found that short-term exercise programs can reduce the rate of falls and fall-related injuries in elderly patients in both nursing home and community settings. This study provides important evidence for health care providers to consider when recommending exercise as an intervention to reduce falls and fall-related injuries in their elderly patients.

APA 7th Annotated Bibliography Examples

Samples can help you to see how to make an APA annotated bibliography. Here are two annotated bibliography example APA citations to help you get a better understanding.


Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America. Henry Holt and Company. The book provides an in-depth analysis of the realities faced by low-wage workers, all while providing insight into Ehrenreich's personal experience. Laced with humor and her characteristic wit, Nickel and Dimed is a powerful testament to the harsh economic conditions faced by many Americans. In addition to giving readers a glimpse into the struggles of those living on minimum wage, she clearly lays out the implications of her research experiment. It highlights both its successes and failures. As an experienced journalist, Ehrenreich is aware of the limitations of her work and thoughtfully reflects on these issues in detail throughout the book. This book provides a valuable resource for those interested in understanding the realities of life on a minimum-wage income in America. The book also serves as an important cautionary tale for those who attempt to replicate Ehrenreich's research methods. The author makes clear that her experiment was neither complete nor fully representative of all workers in similar situations. Therefore, readers should use this book as a starting point for exploring and understanding the lives of low-wage workers, but not as a definitive answer to their questions. 

Journal Article

Carlson, D. S., Thompson, M. J., & Kacmar, K. M. (2019). Double crossed: The spillover and crossover effects of work demands on work outcomes through the family. Journal of Applied Psychology, 104(2), 214–228. This empirical study examines the multiple ways work and family variables can affect job outcomes. The authors look at how work demands can lead to stress in one's personal life, which can have a negative effect on one's work performance. They propose an overarching model with direct effects of work demands and effects of those demands on family conflict leading to lower job satisfaction, affective commitment, and crossover effects on work-family conflict. The results of their study provide evidence to support this model and suggest that there is a complex relationship between work demands and outcomes within the family realm. These findings are important for developing better strategies for managing one's workload in order to minimize stress and optimize job performance. Additionally, this research can inform policy-making decisions to create better work-life balance and help employees reach their full potential.

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Chicago Annotated Bibliography Example

Finally, let's analyze a Chicago-style annotated bibliography example.

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess. London: Routledge, 1998. This book provides an in-depth look at the roles of northern goddesses in daily life during the pagan period. Davidson goes beyond just discussing their spiritual and religious functions to explore how they were involved in everyday activities such as hunting, agriculture, weaving, and more. The author provides a comprehensive overview of relevant archaeological findings and evidence for her claims, as well as an analysis of previous research. Additionally, Davidson includes black and white photographs of relevant artifacts which further illustrate her points.

Helpful Vocabulary for Writing Annotated Bibliographies

Annotated bibliographies require concise and meaningful language to effectively demonstrate comprehension of the source material. 

Here are some helpful terms with descriptions for writing an annotated bibliography: 

Vocabulary Description

A brief explanation that summarizes the main points of a source. 


Refers to how well a source meets its purpose, such as accuracy, relevancy, or timeliness.


An analysis of a source’s strengths and weaknesses. 


A personal assessment that connects the source to your own understanding of the topic. 


Identifying an author’s point of view on an issue and how it compares to other points of view. 


How a source can be used in practical contexts, such as for research or in the classroom. 


An interpretation that sheds light on an unfamiliar topic or offers a unique perspective. 


Combining ideas from multiple sources to create new insights about a topic. 


Links between the source and other material, such as additional sources or real-world applications.


How a source relates to your research question or thesis statement. 


The quality of information presented in the source and its reliability.


Analyzing similarities and differences between two or more sources. 


Examining how a source differs from other material on the same topic. 


The intended readership for a source and whether it is appropriate for the given context. 


How ideas are presented in the source, including structure, the flow of information, and style of writing. 


Any potential prejudice or partiality in a source that may affect its credibility. 


Other materials related to the topic, such as books, articles, websites, and interviews. 

Let's Wrap up!

Annotated bibliographies can be an invaluable tool for any researcher, student, or writer. With this guide, we’ve provided helpful vocabulary terms for writing annotated bibliographies in different styles.

We also discussed annotation types and steps to write a perfect bibliography. But if you are still having trouble creating your bibliography, is here to help.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 3 parts of an annotated bibliography?

The three parts of an annotated bibliography are the title, annotation, and citation.  

  1. The title is a brief description of the source.
  2. The annotation is a summary, evaluation, or reflection on the source material.
  3. The citation follows the style used in your paper (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago).  

What are the two 2 major purposes of an annotated bibliography?

The two major purposes of an annotated bibliography are: First to provide a critical evaluation of the sources used in research. Second, it serves as a quick reference tool for locating important sources. 

How long should an annotated bibliography be?

Generally, an annotated bibliography will be between three to six sentences, roughly 150 words in length. However, for more detailed research, a longer annotation may be required; this could be up to 300 words or even more. 

Nova A.


Nova A., Thesis, Literature

Nova Allison has eight years of experience writing both technical and scientific content. As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova focuses on developing online content plans that engage audiences. She strives to write pieces that are not only informative but also captivating.

Nova Allison has eight years of experience writing both technical and scientific content. As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova focuses on developing online content plans that engage audiences. She strives to write pieces that are not only informative but also captivating.

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