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Why Do an Annotated Bibliography?
Here are some reasons:
- An annotated bibliography provides information about each source you have used
One of the reasons behind citing sources and compiling a general bibliography is so that you can prove you have done some valid research to back up your argument and claims. Annotated bibliographies include additional details that provide an overview of the sources themselves.
- Each annotation provides essential details about a source
Readers, researchers or instructors reading an annotated bibliography will get a snapshot of the important details that they need to know about each source. As a researcher, you have become an expert on your topic: you have the ability to explain the content of your sources, assess their usefulness, and share this information with others who may be less familiar with them.
- Some types of annotations provide details about what the paper's author has done with or thinks about each source
Certain types of annotations (Evaluative Annotations, for example) may provide a brief analysis of the source by the paper's author, including details about what information is most important or not, how it the source fits into the broader scope of the paper and why it may or may not be useful to others.
Types of Annotations
Summative annotations (also known as "informative" annotations) provide only a summary of the author's main ideas. Summative annotations are typically two to three sentences long and include no statements of the source’s relevance to your paper or critical remarks evaluating the source’s quality.
Summative annotations may include the following type of information:
- The hypothesis of the work
- The methodology of the work
- The author's main points
- The conclusion or results of the work
Evaluative annotations (also known as "critical" annotations) summarize the essential ideas in a document and provide judgments—negative, positive, or both—about their quality. Evaluative annotations are typically three to four sentences long. Evaluative annotations usually begin with broad comments about the focus of the source then moves to more details. Your comments should move from the details of the text to your evaluation of the source.
Evaluative annotations may contain the following type of information:
- The importance of the work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
- The author’s bias or tone
- The author’s qualifications for writing the work
- The accuracy of the information in the source
- Limitations or significant omissions
- The work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
- Comparison with other works on the topic
How to Create an Annotated Bibliography
What is an Annotation?
An annotation summarizes the essential ideas contained in a document, reporting the author's thesis and main points as well as how they relate to your own ideas or thesis. There are two types of annotations: summative (aka informative) and evaluative (aka critical) - see examples under the 'Types of Annotations'. Annotations are typically brief (one paragraph)
Locate books, periodicals and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic.
Briefly examine and review the actual items
Choose those items that are most relevant. You may wish to provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.
Next, for each item:
Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.
Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the item. Include one or more sentences that
- Evaluate the authority or background of the author,
- Comment on the intended audience,
- Describe any special features,
- Explain how this work illuminates your topic, OR
- Compare or contrast this work with another you have cited: does the author agree or disagree with others: discuss strengths, weaknesses, and biases.
Examples of Annotations from the Web
Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they expose the author’s point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority.