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InfoGuides | Pepperdine Libraries

Assessment for Marriage and Family Therapies: How to Create an Annotated Bibliograpy

This guide includes information on doing general Psychology research using the resources available at Pepperdine. In addition, the guide includes resources for finding tests and instruments.

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Annotated Bibliographies

Welcome to the wonderful world of annotated bibliographies! You’re probably already familiar with the need to provide bibliographies, reference pages, and works cited lists to credit your sources when you do a research paper. An annotated bibliography includes descriptions and explanations of your listed sources beyond the basic citation information you usually provide.

How is a literature review different from an annotated bibliography?

"A literature review is written in the style of an expository essay; it comprises an introduction, body and conclusion, and it is organized around a controlling idea or thesis. An annotated bibliography is simply an alphabetized list of sources accompanied by comments. Moreover, while a single source appears just once in an annotated bibliography, it may be referred to numerous times in a literature review, depending upon its importance in the field or relationship to other sources. Finally, a literature review includes its own in text citations and bibliography or works cited list."  From Northwestern University's Nuwrite

Why Do an Annotated Bibliography?

At the professional level, annotated bibliographies allow you to see what has been done in the literature and where your own research or scholarship can fit.  Also:

  • 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.

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)


To begin:

 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.

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 Get Help Writing an Annotated Bibliography at the Irvine Campus

Pepperdine GSEP has a Writing Support Service.  

  APA, Grammar, Research Papers, Dissertations, Literature Reviews, Annotated Bibliographies

For more information, contact: or visiting them on the web at