How to write an Annotated Bibliography?

The Real Purpose of Using Annotated Bibliography

Annotated bibliography can be defined as a brief account of available research on a given topic. Although the content of annotated bibliography seems quite similar to the content of a literature review, the former is quite different from the later in its purpose. The main purpose of an annotated bibliography is to demonstrate the range and depth of your grasp over the literature of a given field of knowledge. Often annotated bibliography is used as part of a larger project like a dissertation or a research proposal. Even while writing an effective journal article, you are expected to maintain an annotated bibliography to keep the pace with the advancement of the research area. As already indicated, annotated bibliography does not have a very strict format to go with. Before going on to how to plan one, I will discuss the purpose of an annotated bibliography in detail.

Purpose of an annotated bibliography:

  • First of all, the primary purpose of annotated bibliography is to familiarize yourself with a particular area of academic literature.
  • Otherwise, it might help to demonstrate the quality or depth of your reading.
  • This should also help you to identify research gaps in the given area that might enable you to justify your primary research.
  • This might also be beneficial in highlighting sources that might be interesting for other researchers.

What kind of literature should be cited in your annotated bibliography: You should predominantly include academic literature like books dedicated to the subject, conference papers, peer-reviewed journal papers, and published dissertations. Try not to include textbooks, and web pages as these sources are either too boring or unreliable. The sources you select should completely depend on what you are trying to answer. Hence, it is important to make your question(s) clear at the beginning. One more thing you should keep in your mind while choosing sources is that your choice should be balanced and unbiased. In the sense like you should choose sources for and against of your main argument. Along with it, you don’t leave out any references that are considered central or key sources on the topic you have chosen.

Things to keep in mind while writing an annotated bibliography:

  • Each annotation should be concise, you should always remember that you are writing a summary and not an essay. Ideally, annotations should not be extended beyond one paragraph.
  • Any information apparent in the title of the source should not be repeated in annotation.
  • Background materials and references to earlier work by the same author are not included. Even, no need for any cross-referencing inside the annotation.
  • Unless otherwise stipulated, you should always use complete grammatical sentences with academic vocabulary.

How does an annotated bibliography look like:

Annotated bibliography usually starts with the bibliographic details of a source followed by a brief annotation. As with normal bibliography, an annotated bibliography is generally organized alphabetically in accordance to the author’s last name.

The Content of an annotated bibliography: The following points should be included in a typical annotated bibliography.

  • Provide the full bibliographic citation in a standard referencing style (Harvard/ APA/MLA/ Chicago, etc.).
  • Describe the scope of the paper.
  • Outline the primary arguments.
  • Indicate the intended audience.
  • Describe the research methods.
  • Discuss the conclusions of the paper.
  • Share your view on the reliability of the paper.
  • Mention any special feature (methodology, representation, findings) you have noticed about the paper
  • Discuss the usefulness or relevance of the findings of the paper.
  • Highlight the manner in which the paper is relevant for your course.
  • Point out the strength and limitation of the paper.
  • Present your view or reaction to the paper.

Sample Annotated Bibliography:

The comments on the right hand side column explain and highlight the features or elements covered.


Image Source: UNSW Australia – Annotated Bibliography

Checklist for an annotated bibliography:

You can use the following checklist to ensure that you have written a complete annotated bibliography.

  • Used the referencing style specified in your assignment?
  • Given a brief overview of the central ideas about the paper, by using features such as structure, the purpose or the research methodology.
  • Evaluated the objectivity and reliability of the source?
  • Commented on whether the source is useful for your work?
  • Whether the spelling and grammar are fine and checked whether the logical structure of your annotations?

Final words:

We hope that this detailed description of how to write an annotated bibliography will definitely help you in organizing your research and plan your primary research in the most effective manner. You should always remember that being organized is a key characteristic of a researcher, and annotated bibliography is an indispensable component for conducting organized systematic research.

Being a devout academician Audrey has published research papers in many academic journals. Audrey has completed over 2000+ assignments dabbling in subjects like Teaching , Academics , Sociology and Psychology.