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What is an Annotated Bibliography - An Ultimate Guide

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Published on: Jan 30, 2021

Last updated on: Dec 22, 2022

What is an Annotated Bibliography

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Is your research paper deadline approaching? And you are still sitting and wondering, ‘what is an annotated bibliography, and how is it written?’

Especially when you are writing a research paper for the first time, this part will give you a tough time.

Continue reading the blog to know everything about an annotated bibliography and make your research paper even more effective.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography takes the reference list format and is presented at the end of an assignment. This list is a citation of articles, books, and documents used in your assignment as the sources of information.

Each of these citations is presented with a short explanation or description, which is called an annotation. An annotated bibliography is just a detailed version of a simple bibliography. It must be perfectly done as it is important for your research project.

If you are given a research paper to write, you should know the importance of this part of the paper. It is the most significant part of a research paper outline, thesis, or dissertation. It assures the credibility and authenticity of your work.

The writing style of the annotated bibliography differs from all research writing formats. And, every instructor asks for an annotated bibliography. So it is important to follow each instruction provided for your research project before submitting it.

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Purpose of Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is written for several important purposes. The most frequent question students ask is what the function of an annotation is.

You may not believe it, but it's not just for your teacher. Annotations benefit you as well. As you begin researching your topic, you usually develop a reference list.

Because you summarize the source in an annotated bibliography, you begin to look at the issue more critically in order to gather material for your annotations.

This aids in your comprehension of the topic and sources, allowing you to write a thesis based on that understanding.

Your research paper will be impeccable if your annotated bibliography is written, considering the mentioned purposes.

Difference Between an Abstract and Annotation

An annotated bibliography is often confused by the abstract by the students. They are two very different things. An abstract, usually written for books and journal articles, is a descriptive summary that comes in the beginning.

In contrast to this, an annotation is a critical description. The annotation includes the explanation of the authority and the author’s clarity of expressions and point of view.

Difference Between an Annotated Bibliography and a Literature Review

Talking about the similarities, a literature review could be treated as a standalone assignment, much like an annotated bibliography. However, both of them serve different purposes. A literature review reviews previous studies and explains how they contribute to the existing research.

An annotated bibliography, on the other hand, explains the content of the references added into the paper or assignment.

Types of Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography explains the field of research of a selected topic. It contains information sources that represent the range of approaches to the topics or subjects. Here are mainly three types of annotated bibliography:

Here is a brief description of each type of annotated bibliography.

Informative Annotation

Informative annotation is also known as summative annotation. As the names suggest, this annotation provides a summary of the selected sources. This annotation provides a hypothesis, proof, facts, or other data about the source.

It doesn’t contain any statement about the relevance of the source to the paper. Also, it includes no critical remarks about the quality of the source.

Here is a sample;

Dolby, R. (2008). The Harried Leisure Class. New York: Columbia University Press.

In his book The Harried Leisure Class, Dr. Dolby explores the reasons behind the growing trend of Americans working longer hours. He cites statistics that show that in the past two decades, the average work week has increased by nearly eight hours. Dr. Dolby attributes this to a number of factors, including the declining value of leisure time and the increased pressure on workers to be productive.

He argues that the American worker is caught in a "vicious cycle" of working longer hours to make ends meet, which only serves to further devalue leisure time and increase stress levels. While some may view this as a negative trend, Dr. Dolby believes that it is actually indicative of a positive change in the American work ethic.

He argues that Americans are now more likely to view work as a source of satisfaction and meaning, rather than simply a means to an end. This shift in attitude is likely to lead to more productive and satisfied workers, and could potentially have a positive impact on the economy as a whole.

Descriptive Annotation

A descriptive annotation, also known as the indicative annotation, is opposite to the informative annotation. This annotation does provide a summary and brief overview of the content, including its description and the thesis statement.

Here is a sample;

Anderson, Laurie. "Trompe L'Oeil: The Art of Deception." Ceramics Monthly, vol. 64, no. 7, 2016, pp. 36-41.

In this article, Anderson discusses the history and evolution of trompe l'oeil, a type of painting that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion of three-dimensional space.

Anderson provides several examples of trompe l'oeil paintings, discussing how the artists used techniques such as lighting and shadow to create the illusion of depth.

This article would be useful for my research paper as it provides a detailed overview of the history and evolution of trompe l'oeil painting.

In addition, the article includes several examples of trompe l'oeil paintings, which would be helpful in illustrating the points made in my paper.

Evaluative Annotation

An evaluative or critical annotation is the analysis of the work. It includes a summary of the key ideas and provides a judgment. This type of annotation begins with a broad comment about the focused source, presents details, and ends with evaluative comments.

Most of the annotations are written combining the above-mentioned types. It includes a sentence or two of a summary and a short paragraph of description of the content. In addition to this, evaluating comments are also given in a sentence or two.

Here is a sample to help you understand better;

Wilson, John Philip. When the Texans Come: Missing Records from the Civil War in the Southwest. UNM Press, 2001.

The author, a historian-archeologist, weaves these primary resources together to compose a new story of the Civil War. The book traces the origins and development of the war through primary sources like eye witness accounts and original newspaper stories.

The narration of the war is wonderfully written, taking you through many different battles as well as the lesser conflicts in the west. While it's fascinating to see the conflict from a new perspective, it has flaws because to its panoramic view of the overall conflict.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography?

Now that it is clear what an annotated bibliography is, it is important to know how it is written. If you are confused about it, ask your instructor and understand it before you submit something that is incorrect.

This is how an annotated bibliography is written:

1. Choose the Sources

When writing an annotated bibliography, the first thing to do is select the sources you will consult. For example, for a 3 to 4-page task, a writer usually needs 3 to 4 sources to write a dissertation.

It is important to keep in mind that the sources you choose for your work should be peer-reviewed and scholarly. This means that the sources should be chosen that are credible.

2. Conduct Background Research

Once you select the sources, go through their details and try to understand the author’s perspective. To do this, at least go through the sources twice or thrice.

The background research will help you understand the relevance of the selected source and work on your topic or a subject. If you observe that the source is not complementing the topic well, change it.

3. Choose a Writing Style

Understand the guidelines and instructions provided about the writing style. Mostly a person is assigned to do it, which either is an APA, MLA, or Chicago style. The writing style provides a format for the citation.

4. Start Writing the Bibliography

Once you have the sources, understand their context, and have finalized the writing style, it's time to start writing. The writing process of an annotated bibliography includes:

  1. Listing down the citation according to the writing style.
  2. Format and outline the citation in a hanging indent style.
  3. Using a bold font for the citation.
  4. Writing annotation of the sources write beneath their citation
  5. Every new paragraph should be indented.

5. Proofread and Editing

It is another very important step to take when writing any piece. To make every part of your research paper perfect, look for mistakes and errors after writing it.

Check if there are any spelling, grammar, vocabulary, syntax, citation, formatting, etc. If you observe mistakes, make corrections to submit flawless and effective work.

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Annotated Bibliography Format

Another very important thing to understand is the format of an annotated bibliography to write it effectively and clearly. The format of an annotated bibliography is generally based on two basic things:

  1. 1. Citation
  2. 2. Annotation

It is important to know the importance of citations and annotations for writing a good annotated bibliography.

1. Citation

The citation for the annotated bibliography is done in the usual manner. Just as the citation is done in other assignments and writings, the citation is also for the annotated bibliography.

A citation requires the following things to be added in them:

  1. Full name of the book, article, or other sources used
  2. The name of the author of the work
  3. The publisher’s name
  4. Date of publication of the work.

2. Annotation

It is one of the most crucial parts of an annotated bibliography, requiring extra care and importance. As we know, annotation includes a detailed description of the list of sources that are cited.

Also, the annotation includes explaining the relevance of the sources with the subject or a topic being studied. The annotation has the following elements:

Summary - This includes summarizing the selected sources such as facts, data, findings, or arguments presented in work. Pay extra attention to the length of this section.

Analysis - In this section of an annotation, a writer discusses the qualifications and expertise of the author. The reason is to know which study of the subject or a topic is possible. Here, you can also add information about the author’s understanding and knowledge of the topic. The analysis section aims to show the readers that the information is coming from reliable and credible sources.

Evaluation - Evaluation is a section where the author’s findings, claims, and arguments are evaluated. To make this section successful, a writer must depict the discussion and presentation in light of the project. The ideal length of evaluation is two to three sentences. However, it can differ according to the instructions provided by a teacher.

Relevance - The last element of an annotated bibliography and annotation is the relevance between the source and the project. The description of this relevance is provided to represent the sources’ accuracy with the work.

Annotated Bibliography Example

Let's now see the annotated bibliography formatting in different writing styles such as APA, MLA, and Chicago.

MLA Style

The MLA style formatting of an annotated bibliography is simple. Cite the sources in an MLA format and write them in a general annotation format. Then, carefully look at the example provided below to have a better understanding.

APA Style

For this style as well, cite your sources according to the APA citation style and then continue the general annotation structure. Look at the example given below to see how an APA-style annotated bibliography is written.

Chicago Style

For this style as well, cite your sources according to the Chicago format, and the rest of the process is similar. See how an annotated bibliography is written in Chicago style.

To write an annotated bibliography that is effective and professional, understand this guide clearly.

But if you still want assistance in drafting an annotated bibliography or your research paper or dissertation as a whole. Contact EssayWriter.college professionals who provide expert-level writing services of all academic writings of all fields and disciplines.

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Nova A.


Nova A. (Marketing, Literature)

Nova Allison is a skilled Digital Content Strategist with eight years of experience in crafting scientific and technical content. What makes Nova’s online content plans stand out is her perfect mix of engaging and informative writing styles. Her years of writing experience have polished her skills in writing accurate technical content.

Nova Allison is a skilled Digital Content Strategist with eight years of experience in crafting scientific and technical content. What makes Nova’s online content plans stand out is her perfect mix of engaging and informative writing styles. Her years of writing experience have polished her skills in writing accurate technical content.

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