Cathy A.
Cathy A.

A Guide to Annotated Bibliographies Examples and Format

10 min read

Published on: Feb 6, 2023

Last updated on: Jan 30, 2024

annotated bibliography

Do you feel like writing an annotated bibliography is one of the most daunting tasks in academia? 

Well, fear not! We are here to ensure that your task is far more manageable with our comprehensive guide to writing an annotated bibliography. 

This step-by-step guide will ensure success when approaching one of these dreaded assignments and provide tips and tricks to give yourself a good head start with this project.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

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What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Looking at the simple annotated bibliography definition: It is a list of sources (books, articles, websites, etc.) you have used in your research.

Each entry should include a summary or evaluation of the source. It can also include information about the author’s background or qualifications and relevance to your topic. In short, any other relevant material that would help should be included.

An annotated bibliography has two main components:

  • The citation (the reference for each source)
  • The annotation (the summary or evaluation). 

The annotation should provide enough detail so that anyone reading it knows exactly what the source is about and why it was included in your research. 

So, what does an annotated bibliography look like? Here is an example:

Smith, John. (2008). The Impact of Climate Change on Global Agriculture. Journal of Environmental Studies, 35(2), 123-145.

Why Do We Write Annotations?

Writing an annotated bibliography is a useful way to document, organize, and summarize the sources of information that you use in your research. 

Here are the top reasons to use annotated bibliographies. 

  • To provide a concise overview of each source's purpose, content, and relevance to a particular topic or research area.
  • To give an organized list of sources for completing a research project.
  • To make it easier for readers to locate and retrieve the sources cited by the author.
  • To provide evidence that supports the author's conclusions and arguments.
  • To credit other authors by listing their work within the bibliography section of a paper or book.
  • To identify key sources that can be further explored to gain a better understanding of the topic. 

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Abstract Vs. Annotation Vs. Literature Review

Academic writing often includes abstracts, annotations, and literature reviews. These components are all similar, but they have distinct differences as well. 

Let’s take a look at what each of them entails.


An abstract is a summary of your article or paper that appears at the beginning of the document. It is usually no more than 250 words and should give readers an overview of the content within your paper or article.


Annotation is a way to add extra information, commentary, or notes to the text. 
It can be used for various purposes, such as

  • Providing an explanation of a term or idea
  • Offering a description of an event or individual
  • Highlighting important facts and figures
  • Summarizing the main points of an article

However, it goes beyond just summarizing the content by providing additional information about its content. We will provide sample annotations later in this blog! Keep reading!

Literature Reviews

A literature review typically includes an overview of existing research on a topic. It presents an analysis including comparisons between different studies and identifies gaps in existing knowledge.

Check out this video to learn more about their difference.

Annotated Bibliography Format: APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard

The format varies based on citation styles such as APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), and Chicago.

APA Format 

In APA style, the reference list has a hanging indent. The annotation is double-spaced and left-aligned. Additional paragraphs within the annotation start with an indentation.
Below is an example of an annotated bibliography in APA format:

Johnson, A. M. (2018). Exploring the Impact of Technology on Education. Journal of Educational Technology, 42(3), 125-140.

Johnson's article investigates the evolving role of technology in education. The author explores how technological advancements have influenced teaching methods and student learning outcomes. The research analyzes both positive and negative effects, providing a nuanced perspective. Johnson emphasizes the need for educators to adapt to technological changes and suggests strategies for integrating technology effectively in the classroom. This source is valuable for educators, policymakers, and researchers interested in understanding the dynamic relationship between technology and education.

Note: The example provided follows the APA 7th edition format for an annotated bibliography entry, combining the reference entry with the annotation.
This example demonstrates the structure of an APA annotated bibliography entry, showcasing the reference information followed by the annotated description.

Expert Tip

Want some more APA samples? Check out our annotated bibliography APA blog!

MLA Format

MLA style uses a double-spaced hanging indent for both the work cited bibliography entry and the annotation. The first line of each entry is left-aligned, and additional paragraphs in the annotation maintain the same indentation.

Here's an example of an annotated bibliography in MLA format:

Smith, John. "The Art of Writing." Journal of Writing Excellence, vol. 5, no. 2, 2010, pp. 45-60.

In this insightful article, Smith discusses the nuances of effective writing, emphasizing clarity and offering practical tips for improvement. The source is a valuable resource for writers seeking to enhance their skills, providing a concise and informative guide to the art of writing.

Note: The example provided follows the MLA 8th edition format for an annotated bibliography entry, incorporating the reference details and the annotated description.

Chicago Style

In Chicago style, the annotated bibliography entry is single-spaced with a hanging indent. The annotation is double-spaced, left margin, and indented. Additional paragraphs in the annotation have an extra indentation.

Let’s take a look at an example of Chicago-style formatting for an annotated bibliography:

Smith, John. The Art of Writing. Journal of Writing Excellence. Chicago: University Press, 2010.

John Smith's article delves into effective writing techniques, emphasizing clarity and coherence. The author provides practical advice for writers, making it a valuable resource for those looking to improve their writing skills. While the article is comprehensive, its focus on specific writing aspects enhances its practical applicability.

Note: Chicago style allows for a more detailed annotation compared to other citation styles.

Steps to Write an Annotated Bibliography

Now that you understand the distinction between an annotated bibliography, abstract, and literature review, let's look into how to craft one step-by-step.

Step 1: Analysis of Sources

The first step to writing an annotated bibliography is to analyze your sources. 
This could involve evaluating the source's relevance, accuracy, authority, and objectivity. Ask yourself:

  • Does the source provide valuable information for your research?
  • Is it up-to-date or out of date?
  • Who is the author or publisher?
  • Is the author credible and knowledgeable?
  • Are any biases present in the source material?

These are important questions to consider when evaluating your sources.

Step 2: Create Your Annotations

Once you have evaluated your sources, you can begin writing your annotations.
Annotations should be concise and clear; they are not meant to summarize the source material but rather a critical evaluation. 

There are 5 types:

Indicative/Descriptive Annotations

These annotations briefly summarize the sourceâ??s main ideas and arguments. 
They are typically written in a few sentences and offer an overview of the text.

Informative/Summary Annotations

These annotations provide a more in-depth summary of the source, focusing on its main points and arguments.
They are often written in several paragraphs and offer an extensive text overview.

Analytical/Critical Annotations

These annotations include both the summary information from informative annotations as well as your own evaluation of the source. 
Your critical analysis of the source should include opinions and interpretations supported by evidence from the source.

Evaluation Annotations

These annotations include an extensive analysis of the source material. 
Your evaluation should focus on evaluating the purpose, content, argument, and overall effectiveness of the source.

Combination Annotations

These annotations combine the elements of all four types of annotations, providing a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of the source material. 
Your combination annotation should provide a succinct summary and an in-depth critical analysis.

Step 3: Format Your Annotations

Finally, you need to format your annotations to make it easy for readers to understand the source material. 

Depending on your assignment's requirements, you may need to use MLA, APA, or Chicago-style formatting. 

Be sure to check with your professor or instructor for specific formatting requirements. Here is an annotated bibliography pdf sample for your understanding: 

Expert Tip

If you prefer a more elementary resource, check out our annotated bibliography template guide for easy yet in-depth guidance!

Finding Reliable Sources for Your Annotated Bibliography

Follow these simple yet effective steps to find sources to create an annotated bibliography:

  • Choose Smart Keywords:
    Create specific words related to your research. Think of them as your search buddies, guiding you to exactly what you need.
  • Dig into Academic Journals:
    Look for articles in places like JSTOR, PubMed, or Google Scholar. These are like the VIP sections of information where experts share their insights.
  • Lean on Your Library:
    Your school's library is a powerhouse. Librarians are like navigators, helping you find what you're looking for in the sea of books and resources.
  • Check Out Existing Sources:
    Explore the bibliography of sources you already found. It's like getting a roadmap from other researchers, leading you to more gold mines of info.
  • Tap into Government and School Websites:
    Government sites and educational institutions often have solid research. Think of them as trusted friends sharing valuable information.
  • Stay Current:
    Look for recent stuff to keep your bibliography fresh. Many databases let you filter by date, ensuring your info is up-to-the-minute. Also, check out our annotated bibliography topics blog for new and fresh topic ideas.

Helpful Vocabulary for Writing Annotated Bibliographies

Here is a list of the most common terms when writing an annotated bibliography.

  • Peer-Reviewed: Articles or sources that undergo scrutiny by experts in the field of study before publication.
  • Hanging Indent: Formatting style where the first line is flush left, and subsequent lines are indented.
  • Source Credibility: The reliability and trustworthiness of a particular information source.
  • Relevance: The degree to which a source directly connects to the topic or research question.
  • Primary Source: Original materials providing firsthand information on a topic, often created at the time being studied.
  • Secondary Source: Interpretations or analyses of primary sources, offering insights and commentary.

In conclusion, writing an annotated bibliography can give you a better understanding of the sources that you are citing in your research paper

Knowing the key vocabulary and concepts will help you create a well-organized list of sources.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three parts of an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography typically consists of three parts: the citation (in whatever style is required for your particular assignment or project), the annotation, and a summary. The citation provides all the necessary information to identify and locate the source. 

What are the two 2 major purposes of an annotated bibliography?

The two major purposes of an annotated bibliography are to help you evaluate sources before you use them in your paper and to demonstrate that you have done your research. 

How long should an annotated bibliography be?

Depending on the assignment, an annotated bibliography may range from one or two pages to several dozen pages in length. It is important to consult with your professor or instructor for specific requirements.

Cathy A.


Cathy A. (Marketing, Thesis)

For more than five years now, Cathy has been one of our most hardworking authors on the platform. With a Masters degree in mass communication, she knows the ins and outs of professional writing. Clients often leave her glowing reviews for being an amazing writer who takes her work very seriously.

For more than five years now, Cathy has been one of our most hardworking authors on the platform. With a Masters degree in mass communication, she knows the ins and outs of professional writing. Clients often leave her glowing reviews for being an amazing writer who takes her work very seriously.

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