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Annotated Bibliography: Definition

Learn what an annotated bibliography is and how to format an annotated bibliography in different citation styles.

Annotated Bibliography: Definition

An annotated bibliography includes a list of sources that you have found to use in your research paper (books, websites, journal articles, etc.) along with a brief summary and analysis of those sources. A bibliography can also be called a works cited list or a reference list.  An annotated bibliography is a valuable tool that prepares you to write a research paper by forcing you to close read a book or article. It is also a means to help others locate a body of scholarship around a certain topic. 

Parts of an Annotated Bibliography (taken from Purdue OWL):

Your annotated bibliography usually includes four elements: the citation, a summary, an assessment, and a personal reflection.

  • Citation: A list of the elements that reference a work (book, article, etc.), that may include the title of the work, the author/editor, publisher, date published, volume, issue, and, if from the internet or a database, the url or doi
  • Summary: Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say? The length of your annotations will determine how detailed your summary is.
  • Assessment: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
  • Reflection: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?

Your annotated bibliography may include some of these, all of these, or even others. If you're doing this for a class, you should get specific guidelines from your instructor.

Formatting

The formatting of your annotated bibliography depends on which citation style you are directed to use. Use the following guides to format your citation: MLA, APA, Chicago

The annotated section of your annotated bibliography (summary/assessment/reflection) should be in standard paragraph form. 

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