Bibliography (n.)
A list of resources on a given topic.
Annotate (v.)
Add notes to something giving an explanation or a comment.
Annotated Bibliography
A resource list on a given topic which explains each resource, and why it is particularly relevant to the given topic.

Why write an annotated bibliography?

Sometimes annotated bibliographies are provided by subject experts or librarians, to provide a list of the most important resources on a topic.

Student researchers are often required to provide an annotated bibliography as part of their assignment. Your annotated bibliography is a demonstration that:

  • You have explored a wide range of resources, and identified which ones are most relevant for your topic
  • You understand and can explain why each of these resources is important

As a good researcher, you have explored many resources. Only include the best and most relevant of these resources in your bibliography. The annotation for each source should generally be between 100 and 300 words long.

Books - Annotated Bibliographies

What are the key elements of an annotated bibliography?

Each annotation should contain:

  • A brief summary of the source (book, journal article, video, interview, or any other format)
  • The writer’s arguments and conclusions
  • Why the source is relevant to your research
  • Your personal assessment of the source

How to summarize the argument: What is the research question that the article is attempting to answer, and what is the argument or thesis that the author is expressing and supporting with evidence? A good annotated bibliography explains these key elements. Merely summarizing the contents of the source is not enough. You should summarize or explain the author’s point of view about the issue or the conclusions to his/her research and how he/she supports these arguments.

How to assess the relevance of the source: You have selected each of your sources because the ideas that they explore help you to understand your topic more deeply, demonstrate particular points of view on the topic, or add valuable information or insight into your research topic. Your annotation should explain why this particular source is relevant to your research, or how it helps you to formulate your own ideas and conclusions about the topic.

Your personal assessment: Approaches you might take to assess each source include:

  • Explaining the appropriateness or value of the author’s research approach and methodology
  • Assessing the effectiveness of the author’s methods and the value of the evidence provided
  • Explaining why you found this source valuable

Providing the correct citation: Depending on the topic, the class, or your teacher’s preference, you will be required to format your annotated bibliography in a particular style. Resources on this website can help you to follow the correct format for APA, MLA or Chicago style.

Sample Annotations

Level One:
Provides citation only.
Level Two:
Provides citation and summarizes contents.
Level Three:
Also identifies arguments and summarizes research approach.
Level Four:
Also explains relevance to the topic and assesses the quality of the source.

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