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Write an Annotated Bibliography: Home

Covers the basics of annotated bibliographies, including definitions of key terms, the basics of formatting, and examples for MLA, APA, and Chicago.
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What is an Annotation?

An annotation usually involves a summary and/or assessment, and may also include a reflection. This means that an annotation is more than just a summary. Within the context of an annotated bibliography, an annotation is provided for each source. The idea is that an annotation should help the reader decide whether or not to read the source.

  • Summary - While some annotations are just summaries it is not common. A summary includes the main facts, points, or arguments of the source. There is no hard rule as to how long the summary must be, that is usually determined by how long each annotation must be as per assignment instructions.
     
  • Assessment - There are several criteria to consider when assessing a source. What is the goal or purpose of the source? Is it biased or does it maintain objectivity? Do you find it useful? Is the information of reliable quality? How does the source compare to the other sources in the annotated bibliography?
     
  • Reflection - After summarizing and assessing the source, consider how the source fits into your research. Has the source changed the way you think or conceive of your topic? How are you going to integrate it into the argument or main points of your research? This is an opportunity for you to think about how the source helps you better understand what it is you're researching, as well as what questions still remain.

IMPORTANT: While this is generally what's included in an annotation, assignment requirements will vary. Professors may want you to include elements other than a summary, evaluation, or reflection. When creating an annotated bibliography, please pay special attention to assignment instructions and follow them closely.

Which Citation Style Should I Use?

The answer to this question is almost always found within assignment instructions. Most likely, you will be asked to use APA, MLA, or Chicago. Please keep in mind that we have citation guides that can help you with formatting for any citation style you will encounter at Fairfield University. If you have any questions about citation styles and formatting, please Ask a Librarian.

Format

The bibliographic information (the citation for a source) and annotation will be formatted according to a citation style such as APA, MLA, or Chicago. See the box above for links to citation guides that can help with the formatting of sources. The annotation is written in paragraph form, and follows the citation for the source it describes. Annotations can vary in length from a few sentences to a few pages. The usual annotation is about 3-6 sentences, or 150-250 words.

Below are the basics of formatting in APA, MLA, and Chicago. For a complete description of formatting for annotated bibliographies, please refer to the appropriate manual.

APA Formatting Basics

  • References are alphabetized by the first word at the beginning of the reference.
  • Everything is double-spaced.
  • The annotation follows the reference on the next line. Do not add extra space between references or annotations.
  • The reference is formatted using a hanging indentation. This means that the first line of the reference is flush left, and every line thereafter is indented .5".
  • The entire annotation is indented .5".
     

MLA Formatting Basics

  • References are alphabetized by the first word at the beginning of the reference. If there are a lot of references, you can organize them by topic. However, please follow assignment instructions.
  • Everything is double-spaced.
  • The annotation follows the reference on the next line. Do not add extra space between references or annotations.
  • The annotation immediately follows the end of the reference. Do not start a new line. End the reference with a period, then begin the annotation.
  • The reference and annotation are formatted using a hanging indentation. This means that the first line is flush left, and every line thereafter is indented .5".
     

Chicago Formatting Basics

  • References are alphabetized by the first word at the beginning of the reference.
  • Everything is double-spaced.
  • The annotation follows the reference on the next line. Do not add extra space between references or annotations.
  • References are formatted using a hanging indentation. This means that the first line of the reference is flush left, and every line thereafter is indented .5".
  • The annotation should have the first line indented using the Tab key.

Annotation Examples

APA Annotation Example

Williams, J. M. (1981). The Phenomenology of Error. College Composition and Communication, 32(2), 152–168. https://doi.org/10.2307/356689

Williams compares linguistic errors and social errors; this comparison lets us view error not as something that exists on the page of a text, but as a transactional interaction, where error is a flawed transaction between a writer and reader. Williams points out that social errors can cause big problems; linguistic errors for the most part do not. Williams proposes that, regardless of what “experts” define as an error, teachers and researchers should focus their attention on the sorts of errors that arise when we read content, rather than defining error by appealing to outside authority. This article caused me to reflect on what an 'error' is, and that the definition could be up for debate at all. I am now going to shift the focus of my research to include other perspectives to see if there are any others worth including in my annotated bibliography.

 

MLA Annotation Example

Howland, Robert. “What You See Depends on Where You’re Looking and How You Look at It: Publication Bias and Outcome Reporting Bias.” Journal of Psychosocial Nursing, vol. 49, no. 8, 2011, pp. 13–15.The results of this study, which is objective and utilizes a strong methodology, indicates that statistically significant results have a higher likelihood of being fully reported compared to non-significant results, and a significant proportion of published articles describe outcome variables or data analyses that differ from the pre-specified trial protocol as originally conceived. These findings bring into question a number of the other studies in this annotated bibliography, and have caused me to question how I evaluate the strength of evidence.

 

Chicago Annotation Example

Bizup, Joseph. “BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing.” Rhetoric Review 27, no. 1 (2008): 72–86. https://doi.org/10.1080/07350190701738858.

     This article contends that faculty should encourage students to think about how sources are used within writing in different rhetorical situations. Bizup argues that terms like primary, secondary, and tertiary are counterproductive and proposes an alternative: Background, Exhibit, Argument, and Method (BEAM). I like this idea because it can help students think about how sources are being used instead of focusing exclusively on the information that a source provides. This article includes a thorough literature review that establishes authority and reliability. I also intend to look through this article's references to locate additional sources on this topic.