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Writing: Annotated Bibliography: About

A short guide with tips for writing annotated bibliographies

Annotated bibliographies are helpful research tools that list useful resources for a specific topic or area. 

They answer the question, "What would be the most relevant, most useful, or most up-to-date sources for this subject?"

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

The Cornell University Library has defined an annotated bibliography as:

In English, this means you are creating a paragraph that others may read to get a general idea of what your sources are about. The hardest part is being concise with your information. Annotations take practice but once you get the hang of them, they are easy. Here are the steps to follow:

A: Talk about the author. (1 sentence)
Is this a professor? Maybe this is a professional in the field? Or is this person a hobbyist? Evaluate the authority and background of the author.
B: Explain what the article is about. (1-3 sentences)
Tell the audience what is in the article. This is the most difficult part of the annotation because it requires you to be very succinct. Don’t rewrite the article; just write the base facts and important notes about the article here.
C: Explain how this article illuminates your bibliography topic. (1-2 sentences)
What about this article makes it relevant to your topic? Why did you select it? What pertinent bit of information makes this article stand out among the others?
D: Compare or contrast this work with another you have cited. (1-2 sentences)
How does this specific article relate to another article in your annotated bibliography? Do they agree or not? Why not? What makes them unique?
Source:  Aaron Wimer, Head of Reference, Southern Polytechnic State University

Sample Annotation

Use the color coding on the right to identify the parts of this annotated citation.

Battle, K. (2007). Child poverty: The evolution and impact of child benefits. In Covell, K.,   & Howe, R. B. (Eds), A question of commitment: Children's rights in Canada  (pp. 21-44). Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Press. Laurier University.

           Ken Battle draws on a close study of government documents, as well as his own research as an extensively-published policy analyst, to explain Canadian child benefit programs.  He outlines some fundamental assumptions supporting the belief that all society members should contribute to the upbringing of children.  His comparison of child poverty rates in a number of countries is a useful wake-up to anyone assuming Canadian society is doing a good job of protecting children.  Battle pays particular attention to the National Child Benefit (NCB), arguing that it did not deserve to be criticized by politicians and journalists.  He outlines the NCB’s development, costs, and benefits, and laments that the Conservative government scaled it back in favour of the inferior Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB).  However, he relies too heavily on his own work; he is the sole or primary author of almost half the sources in his bibliography.  He could make this work stronger by drawing from others' perspectives and analyses.  Battle does offer a valuable source for this essay, because the chapter provides a concise overview of government-funded assistance currently available to parents.  This offers context for analyzing the scope and financial reality of child poverty in Canada.

Source of Example:  Eastern Nazarene College 

From the Purdue OWL

Guides to Annotated Bibliographies

Here are some other sites that provide information about annotated bibliographies:

Color Coding

The sample annotation to the left is color coded to match the parts identified below.

  • A citation to the article, chapter, or other work

  • Qualifications of the author or authors

  • Mention of the methods the authors used

  • A summary of the argument and/or findings

  • Evaluation of the work, for example the logic of the arguments or value of the evidence

  • How this work supports your own research



Many thanks to ...

Eastern Nazarene College, for their LibGuide on annotated bibliographies.

Olin Library Reference, Research & Learning Services, Cornell University Library for sharing portions of their LibGuide on annotated bibliographies.

Southern Polytechnic State University, for sharing their LibGuide on annotated bibliographies.