Annotated Bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?

A list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph (a.k.a. the annotation).

What is the purpose?

The purpose of the annotation is to:

  • Help keep track of sources efficiently
  • provide a short summary of the reading, including content and focus
  • inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the source
  • evaluate the methods, conclusions/findings, and reliability
  • record your reactions to the source
  • state how the source will be used in the paper or project

The Process (how-to)

Writing an annotated bibliography is easier than you think. Here are 4 easy steps to help you accomplish your task:

  1. Literature search – find materials (books, journals, articles, websites, etc.) that are relevant to the subject/topic. Figure out where to look for them. If you are struggling with finding resources, contact the UNT Dallas Library
  2. Review and examine—before you commit to a source, make sure you briefly examine and review the actual document; read the abstract/summary and look at the conclusion and findings to see if source will be useful. Also, determine if sources meet criteria set by professor (author, date, edition, type, etc.).
  3. Cite—cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style. See our citation guides for more information and help with citations.
  4. Annotation—write your concise annotation. This should include a summary and an evaluation.

Writing a STRONG annotation

The hardest part of this assignment is writing the annotation, but knowing what it entails can make this task less daunting.

First, summarize the central theme and scope of the document (no more than a short paragraph in length). Then, include sentences or a separate paragraph that:

  • Evaluates the authority, credibility, and/or background of the author(s)
  • Comments on the intended audience (who was meant to read the document)
  • Assesses the source’s strengths and weaknesses (Interesting? Helpful? Strong/weak argument? Strong/weak evidence?)
  • Compares or contrast this work with others you have cited
  • Critiques the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the source
  • Evaluates the methods, conclusions/findings, and reliability of the source
  • Shares how the source reinforces or contradicts your own argument
  • Records your reactions to the reading
  • States how the source will be used in your paper

 

**NOTE: Sometimes, your professor might require some or all of these discussion points. Always clarify with your professor if you have questions about the content of your annotations. Even if these are not required, thinking through these points and including them in your draft may help you with content for your long-term research papers. 

Structure

Your annotated bibliography may vary in length depending on how many sources you need to examine. However, for every citation, you will always include a full citation, a short summary of the source, and an evaluation for the source. 

Full Citation (written based on the citation style used--APA, MLA, etc. REMEMBER TO USE A HANGING INDENT!!)

Paragraph/section 1: short summary of article in your own words

Paragraph/section 2: evaluation of source

 

*SOME annotated bibliographies require an introduction. Ask your professor if this is a requirement. If an introduction is required, it should be less than a page long and should include the following:

  • Give a basic summary of the research you’re conducting, why you’re conducting it, and the general direction you think your argument will take

 

Common Errors

Many students commit the following errors when they write annotated bibliographies.

 

Error

Solution

Incorrect citation (missing punctuation, incorrect spacing, missing information, etc.) Make sure you follow the citation guides exactly as they are written. Double and triple check for missing periods and commas, author names, dates, and spacing.
Not using “hanging” ident for citations

A hanging indent is when all lines EXCEPT FOR THE FIRST line are indented (see example below). To create a hanging indent in word, follow these steps:

  1. Place your cursor at the beginning of your citation, and highlight it.
  2. Right click your mouse
  3. Select Paragraph from the resulting pop up menu
  4. Under Indentation, use the Special pull-down menu to select hanging
  5. Use the By menu to select 0.5"
  6. For multiple citations, make sure you hit enter after each citation and repeat steps 1-5.
Not knowing your own argument What is the general direction on your research paper? What questions are you trying to answer? Make sure you do this BEFORE you begin looking for your resources.

Too many direct quotes and incorrect paraphrasing

Remember, the purpose of annotations is to write a summary in your own words. Only pull in direct quotes if you know that quote will be used in your final paper.

Similarly, make sure that your interpretation or your paraphrasing is correct—often times, students convolute the true meaning of something written by someone else. Take the time to truly understand the author’s point, perspective, and statement before you paraphrase it.

 

Examples

For a Word-formatted example of an annotated bibliography, click here (it will open in another tab/window).

 

APA (6th edition, 2010 Journal) Example:

Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations

among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51, 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes because of nonfamily living.

 

MLA (8th edition, 2016 Journal) Example:

Waite, Linda J., et al. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." 

American Sociological Review, vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes because of nonfamily living.

 

Sources:

https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/AnnotatedBibliography.html

https://guides.library.cornell.edu/annotatedbibliography

https://writingcenter.ashford.edu/annotated-bibliography

https://writingcenter.tamu.edu/Students/Writing-Speaking-Guides/Alphabetical-List-of-Guides/Academic-Writing/Annotated-Bibliographies

https://asklibrary.com.edu/faq/57140