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Everything You Need To Know About Writing An Annotated Bibliography -

How To Write An Annotated Bibliography?

“Saving the best for last” is one of the tricks that showmen like magicians and gymnasts love to practice all the time. Even though the definition of work is entirely different for students, they both need to be very particular about the last segment of their work. For a showman, it is the closing act. For a student who is working on an essay or research paper, it’s the bibliography. While most students are aware of what a bibliography is, there’s another type called annotated bibliography which is slightly different than regular bibliographies you have drafted till date. If you don’t know how to write an annotated bibliography, don’t stress. This blog gives you a complete tour of the essential aspects of annotated bibliography. Thus, if you need to write an annotated bibliography for the first time, you can treat this blog as a comprehensive guide for the task.

Definition of an Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is the list of references or citation of books, articles, journals or papers. Every referencing of annotated bibliography is followed by a small description and analysis, the annotation. It informs the readers of the accuracy and relevance of every reference.

Parts of an Annotated Bibliography

You begin by writing the citation followed by the annotation. Although below, we have shared an annotation sample along with the vital parts of an annotated bibliography, make sure you follow the citation instructions of your faculty members.

Key elements are:

  1. Citation
  2. Introduction
  3. Aims & Research methods
  4. Scope
  5. Usefulness to your research
  6. Limitations
  7. Conclusions
  8. Reflection

In the sample below, each element has a number according to the key figures:

  1. Trace, C.K., Lawford, B. and Black, T.W., 2005, ‘Employee turnover and job performance: factors influencing salary growth and promotion’, Journal of Employee’s Psychology, vol 123, no.7, pp. 57-68.
  2. In this article Trace et al. review the factors influencing the pay and job opportunities concerning job performance, turnover rates and employee motivation.
  3. The authors use data gathered through internal surveys of the MNCs in Sydney, Australia, to identify the primary causes of employee turnover and if it related to the unsatisfactory salary growth.
  4. Their research primarily focuses on critically analysing the pay modules, including performance and reward schemes.
  5. The study is, however, beneficial to my main research topic, as Trace et al. suggest and highlight the numerous reasons for employee turnover and variances in employee performance in an organisation.
  6. The only drawback of the study was that the survey reports was majorly focusing on the mid-level management.
  7. Thus the authors suggest for further and more extensive research to develop a more in-depth understanding of the issues - employee turnover and job performance.
  8. This article will not form a strong basis for my research, but it will undoubtedly be useful as supplementary information for my primary research on corporate pay structures.

How to Structure an Annotated Bibliography?

If you are new writing an annotated bibliography, you may wonder how to structure an annotated bibliography and write a conclusion. An annotated bibliography follows the general rules of academic writing. The structure generally depends on the requirements of the lecturers. However, your paragraphs must be of the following order:

  1. Write the citation details in the same style as the reference list.
  2. A short statement explaining the primary purpose of the work
  3. Summarise the theory and research findings. e.g. subject covered, notable features, research methods, targeted readers, primary argument, and conclusion.
  4. Usefulness and limitations of the text for further research. e.g. credibility and reliability of the context, weak argument, missing content.
  5. An evaluative comment describing the usefulness or relevance of the information

Remember these pointers about the layout while formatting your annotated bibliography.

  • Start by writing references for the sources in the reference list style.
  • Each annotation should be about 100-300 words in separate paragraphs below the reference entry.
  • No short forms; write in a full sentence using the standard academic writing style.
  • Use transitional words like moreover, therefore, however, to maintain the natural flow between the paragraphs.
  • Be concise – avoid writing unnecessary details in your summary.
  • Make sure NOT to repeat any information that is already in the citation.
  • Arrange all your sources and summaries in an alphabetical order
  • Always double-space the completed bibliography.

Generally the 4W rule is helpful in writing a summary in Annotated bibliography.

Format of an Annotated Bibliography

1. Generally the annotated bibliography has 1-inch margin from each side of the bibliography page.

2. The citation is generally present a little more close to the margin than the second line and description below the citation.
citation 1 inch margin
3. Just after putting down one reference and descriptive evaluation of the reference, press enter or leave 1 line while starting with the next reference.
4. Put double spacing between each line of the bibliography

Annotated Bibliography Layout

The reference should be noted down in the desired format be it MLA, APA, Chicago or Harvard Referencing. Below it should be the descriptive summary.

What should the descriptive evaluation summary below each reference contain?


What is the source of text?

What was the research afforded on the same?

What are the conclusions and findings of the research?

How it is relevant to the topic and justifying your view?

Annotated bibliography for research paper

For writing the annotated bibliography for a research paper, you need to collect these information.

  1. Author name or who has done the research
  2. Title of the publication (and the title of the article if it’s a magazine, scientific journal or encyclopedia)
  3. Date of publication of the research paper in the source.
  4. The place of publication of a book.
  5. The publishing company of a book.
  6. The volume number of a magazine or printed encyclopedia or journal.
  7. The page number(s)

Related: 5 Types of Research Papers: A Detailed Overview

After having collected the information, you need to cite it in the required format.

Follow the same rule of annotated bibliography formatting of citations and writing the descriptive summary.

Various Annotated Essay topics

  • Ethical aspects of clinical trials on animals
  • Nuclear warfare and the modern world
  • Comparison of past and postmodern literature
  • Human rights in African countries
  • Negotiating peace in the world
  • Organic Farming
  • Green activism
  • Global Warming Millennial Goals of UN
  • Fusion of Arabic and Western music
  • Ai and implications on employment
  • Good peace vs. Bad peace

Related: 100+ Essay Topics That Will Shoot Up Your Grades Through The Roof

Sample – Highlight for Annotation

sample highlight for annotated bibliography

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Most Popular Annotated Bibliography FAQs Searched by Students

#1. What is annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography refers to a list of citations to information sources, such as books, articles, journals, etc. Each citation in the bibliography is followed by a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph, which is referred to as annotation. This annotation helps inform the readers about the relevance, accuracy and quality of the source cited.

#2. Does an annotated bibliography need a title?

You can give the annotated bibliography a title that refers to a common topic all the sources share. However, you do not need to label the section “Annotated Bibliography” since the structure of the page makes it quite evident for the readers to identify it as an annotated bibliography.

#3. Is an annotated bibliography an essay?

No. An annotated bibliography is a list of references that can be used as a part of an essay. But the bibliography itself is not an essay.

#4. Does an annotated bibliography need an introduction?

The introduction to an annotated bibliography is generally short in length (not more than a couple of paragraphs). The purpose of the introduction is to identify the topic that is being researched.

#5. How to write an annotated bibliography step by step?

You can write an annotated bibliography is three simple steps:

  1. Cite your sources in compliance with the instructed citation style (APA, MLA, or others).
  2. Summarize the sources, explaining the main ideas of the sources.
  3. Evaluate the sources and tell the readers how it fits into your own research.

#6. How long should an annotated bibliography be?

The average entry in an annotated bibliography consists of roughly around 150 words. While the annotations can be as short as one sentence each, the work’s citation information is followed by a brief paragraph which takes three to six sentences per entry.

#7. How many sources should an annotated bibliography have?

It is recommended to compile an annotated bibliography with 15 to 20 entries while drafting a research project. Each entry in the bibliography must contain a citation and a brief summary of the cited material.

#8. What are the key features of an annotated bibliography?

While writing an annotated bibliography, focus on these following elements:

  • The purpose of the work
  • A summary of the content
  • The relevance of the topic
  • Special features about the material
  • The strengths, weaknesses or biases in the material.

#9. How do you write an annotated summary?

The annotated summary of the source cited in an annotated bibliography explains the main idea of the material. The summary needs to be objective. Moreover, it should tell the readers what the source is about in three to six sentences.

#10. How to write an annotated bibliography in MLA?

 Here’s how you can write an annotated bibliography in MLA:

  1. Each annotation should be one paragraph long, with three to six sentences.
  2. It should follow the same format as regular works cited list.
  3. The lines need to be double-spaced. No need to add an extra line in between the citations.
  4. If the list of citations is long, you can organize it by topic.
  5. Use the third person (e.g. he, she, the author)

#11. How do you write an annotated bibliography in APA?

Follow these steps to write an annotated bibliography in APA style:

  1. Choose your sources that apply to your topic
  2. Review the items and select those which offer wide perspectives on your topic.
  3. Write the citations in APA styles and then follow each citation with annotations.

#12. What is an annotated bibliography APA example?

An APA-style annotated bibliography is almost the same as regular APA style bibliography. The difference is that here you get a summary paragraph with every citation entry. Check out the link given below to find an example.

#13. How to write an annotated bibliography Harvard?

The easiest way to write an annotated bibliography in Harvard style is:

  1. Cite your source in proper Harvard citation style
  2. Summarize the source and explain the main ideas of the source
  3. Evaluate the source objectively

#14. What is an annotated bibliography Chicago style?

To prepare an annotated bibliography in Chicago style, stick to these following steps:

  1. Identify the sources that are applicable to your research and cite them in Chicago style.
  2. Summarize the material of the sources cited in the bibliography
  3. Evaluate the material so that the reader can understand why you choose this source.
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