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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

Writing an annotated bibliography is a common academic assignment you can come across. It is a list of references to the sources with a short description of each source (called an annotation).

The task can be assigned as a part of your larger academic work or a separate assignment after reading some sources on the topic of your interest.

The purpose of an annotated bibliography is to describe the sources, evaluate them, and indicate their significance for your further studies and research process.

How to Find and Select Sources

If an annotated bibliography is a part of your more extensive research process, the sources will be almost the same you use in research.

However, a clear understanding of the topic and keywords will help you find the relevant sources for completing this assignment at any stage of your research work. You can use these keywords to search in such databases as JSTOR, Google Scholar, or Project MUSE.

The source can involve books, articles, and reputable websites. Before picking them out, read their annotations carefully and explore their bibliographies for more relevant items. If a certain source is often cited in the article under consideration, it is likely to be appropriate for your choice.

How to Evaluate the Relevance of Sources

When you have found the sources for your topic, read them through and take notes. You may even write a draft annotation while reading.

Clear up what you need to look for in the sources. Discuss this with your professor and follow their instructions thoroughly.


The annotations can be of the three types:

  1. Descriptive. Use them if you need just to collect sources and summarize them. You should pay attention to their methods and arguments.
  2. Evaluative. If you need to evaluate your sources, have a look at the effectiveness and importance of the found sources related to their methods or arguments.
  3. Reflective. Your assignment can be a part of your research process, so you need to determine the usefulness of these sources for your own research.

How to Write an Annotation

Start with providing the full information about the source - its author, title, and publication date. The format will depend on the citation style (APA, MLA, or Chicago).

Each annotation should consist of 50-200 words. Follow the word count assigned in the instructions. The importance and relevance of the source can also influence the length of the annotation.

Descriptive Annotations

This type is used to sum up the methods and arguments of the source without any evaluation of it.

You can make it like an abstract. The difference is that you do not just replicate the summary from the abstract but try to relate it to your research purpose.

Evaluative Annotations

Here, you also describe the content. Though, you need to determine the validity of the arguments presented in the source. You should also define whether the methods used in the source are appropriate.

Reflective Annotations

This piece of academic paper writing seems similar to the previous one. However, you should analyze and evaluate the source’s usefulness for your research. Such annotations are always needed if your task is to pick out the appropriate sources for your future project or to understand whether these sources have been properly used in your completed paper.

Using the Correct Format

Check your guidelines attentively because the citation format is always indicated in them. This is one of the most challenging tasks for every student. The most widely used citation styles are APA, MLA, and Chicago.


The reference entry and annotation here should be double-spaced. Use the left aligning. The entry needs a hanging indent as well.

The annotation which starts from the following line should follow this hanging indent. Every text paragraph should also be indented.

You can use the APA Citation Generator to format your annotations automatically.


The reference list in this style is called Works Cited. It is also left-aligned and double-spaced.

Each entry should have a hanging indent. The annotation is indented twice as far as the indent itself, which makes up 1 inch.

For annotations consisting of several paragraphs, indent every first line with an extra half inch. This is not applied if the piece consists of one paragraph only.

You can use the MLA Citation Generator for more convenient formatting.


This style requires single-spaced writing. Each bibliography entry should also have a hanging indent. However, the annotation itself should be double-spaced. You will have to make it left-aligned and indented. The first line of every new paragraph should be indented additionally.

Final Thoughts

Now, when you know the structure and the main requirements for an annotated bibliography, you can start composing it for your future (or already drafted) research paper. Do not forget to consult your professor if you have doubts or questions. The main task is to pick out the type of annotations. Your professor will advise you on the most appropriate for your paper.

If you manage to complete your bibliography following the citation style requirements, it will be highly assessed.

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