Annotated Bibliographies

Guide on how to create an annotated bibliography

What Is An Annotated Bibliography?

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations (references) to books, articles, and documents followed by a brief summary, analysis or evaluation, usually between 100-300 words, of the sources that are cited in the paper.  This summary provides a description of the contents of the source and may also include evaluative comments, such as the relevance, accuracy and quality of the source.  These summaries are known as annotations. 

  • Annotated bibliographies are completed before a paper is written
  • They can be stand-along assignments
  • They can be used as a reference tool as a person works on their paper
Annotations vs. Abstracts

Abstracts are the descriptive summaries of article contents found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles that are written by the article author(s) or editor. Their purpose is to inform a reader about the topic, methodology, results and conclusion of the research of the article's author(s).  The summaries are provided so that a researcher can determine whether or not the article may have information of interest to them.  Abstracts do not serve an evaluative purpose.

Annotations found in bibliographies are evaluations of sources cited in a paper.  They describe a work, but also critique the source by examining the author’s point of view, the strengths and weakness of the research or article hypothesis or how well the author presented their research or findings.

How to write an annotated bibliography

The creation of an annotated bibliography is a three-step process. It starts with finding and evaluating sources for your paper. Next is choosing the type or category of annotation, then writing the annotation for each different source. The final step is to choose a citation style for the bibliography.

Types of Annotated Bibliographies

Types of Annotations

Annotations come in different types, the one to use depends on the instructor’s assignment.  Annotations can be descriptive, a summary, or an  evaluation or a combination of descriptive and evaluation.

Descriptive/Summarizing Annotations

There are two kinds of descriptive or summarizing annotations, informative or indicative, depending on what is most important for a reader to learn about a source.  Descriptive/summarizing annotations provide a brief overview or summary of the source. This can include a description of the contents and a statement of the main argument or position of the article as well as a summary of the main points.  It may also describe why the source would be useful for the paper’s topic or question. 

Indicative annotations provide a quick overview of the source, the kinds of questions/topics/issues or main points that are addressed by the source, but do not include information from the argument or position itself.

Informative annotations, like indicative annotations, provide a brief summary of the source.   In addition, an informative annotation identifies the hypothesis, results, and conclusions presented by the source.  When appropriate, they describe the author’s methodology or approach to the topic under discussion.  However, they do not provide information about the sources usefulness to the paper or contains analytical or critical information about the source’s quality. 

Evaluative Annotations (also known as critical or analytical)

Evaluative annotations go beyond just summarizing the source and listing out it’s key points, but also analyzes the content. It looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the article’s argument, the reliability of the presented information as well as any biases of the author. It talks about how the source may be useful to a particular field of study or the person’s research project.

Combination Annotations

Combination annotations “combine” aspects from indicative/informative and evaluative annotations and are the most common category of annotated bibliography.  Combination annotations include one to two sentences summarizing or describing content, in addition to one or more sentences providing an critical evaluation.

Writing Style for Annotations

Annotations typically follow three specific formats depending on how long they are.

  • Phrases – Short phrases providing the information in a quick, concise manner.
  • Sentences – Complete sentences with proper punctuation and grammar, but are short and concise.
  • Paragraphs – Longer annotations break the information out into different paragraphs. This format is very effective for combination annotations.

To sum it up:

An annotation may include the following information:

  • A brief summary or overview of the source content
  • The source’s strengths and weaknesses in presenting the argument or position
  • Its conclusions
  • Why the source is relevant in to field of study of the paper
  • Its relationships to other studies in the field
  • An evaluation of the research methodology (if applicable)
  • Information about the author’s background and potential biases
  • Conclusions about the usefulness of the source for the paper

Critically Analyzing Articles

In order to write an annotation for a paper source, you need to first read and then critically analyze it:

  • Try to identify the topic of the source -- what is it about and is it clearly stated.
  • See if you can identify the purpose of the author(s) in doing the research or writing about the topic. Is it to survey and summarize research on a topic?  Is the author(s) presenting an argument based on previous research, or refuting previously published research?
  • Identify the research methods used and try to identify whether they appear to be suitable or not for the stated purpose of the research.  
  • Was the research reported in a consistent or clear manner?  Or, was the author's argument/position presented in a consistent or convincing manner? Did the author(s) fail to acknowledge and explain any limitations?
  • Was the logic of the research/argument claims properly supported with convincing evidence/analysis/data? Did you spot any fallacies?
  • Check whether the author(s) refers to other research and if similar studies have been done. 
  • If illustrations or charts are used, are they effective in presenting information?
  • Analyze the sources that were used by the author(s). Did the author(s) miss any important studies they should have considered?
  • Your opinion of the source -- do you agree with or are convinced of the findings?  
  • Your estimation of the source’s contribution to knowledge and its implications or applications to the field of study.

Worksheet for Taking Notes for Critical Analysis of Sources/Articles

Additional Resources:

Hofmann, B., Magelssen, M. In pursuit of goodness in bioethics: analysis of an exemplary article. BMC Med Ethics 19, 60 (2018).

Jansen, M., & Ellerton, P. (2018). How to read an ethics paper. Journal of Medical Ethics, 44(12), 810-813.

Research & Learning Services, Olin Library, Cornell University Library Critically Analyzing Information Sources: Critical Appraisal and Analysis

Formatting An Annotated Bibliography

How do I format my annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography entry consists of two components: the Citation and the Annotation.


The citation should be formatted in the bibliographic style that your instructor has requested for the paper. Some common citation styles include APA, MLA, and Chicago. For more information on citation styles, see Writing Guides, Style Manuals and the Publication Process in the Biological & Health Sciences.

Many databases (e.g., PubMed, Academic Search Premier, Library Search on library homepage, and Google Scholar) offer the option of creating your references in various citation styles. 

Look for the "cite" link -- see examples for the following resources:

University of Minnesota Library Search

Library Search Citation and List


Google Scholar

Google Scholar Citation List



Sample Annotated Bibliography Entries

An example of an Evaluative Annotation, APA style (7th ed). (sample from University Libraries, University of Nevada).

APA does not have specific formatting rules for annotations, just for the citation and bibliography.

Maak, T. (2007). Responsible leadership, stakeholder engagement, and the emergence of social capital. Journal of Business Ethics, 74, 329-343.

This article focuses on the role of social capital in responsible leadership. It looks at both the social networks that a leader builds within an organization, and the links that a leader creates with external stakeholders. Maak’s main aim with this article seems to be to persuade people of the importance of continued research into the abilities that a leader requires and how they can be acquired. The focus on the world of multinational business means that for readers outside this world many of the conclusions seem rather obvious (be part of the solution not part of the problem). In spite of this, the article provides useful background information on the topic of responsible leadership and definitions of social capital which are relevant to an analysis of a public servant.


An example of an Evaluative Annotation, MLA Style (10th ed), (sample from Columbia College, Vancouver, Canada)

MLA style requires double-spacing (not shown here) and paragraph indentations.

London, Herbert. “Five Myths of the Television Age.” Television Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 1, Mar. 1982, pp. 81-69.

     Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: “seeing is believing”; “a picture is worth a thousand words”; and “satisfaction is its own reward.” London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He does not refer to any previous works on the topic. London’s style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly illustrates London’s points, but does not explore their implications leaving the reader with many unanswered questions.


Additional Resources

University Libraries Tutorial -- Tutorial: What are citations? Completing this tutorial you will:

  • Understand what citations are
  • Recognize why they are important
  • Create and use citations in your papers and other scholarly work

Additional Resources

University of Minnesota Resources

Beatty, L., & Cochran, C. (2020). Writing the annotated bibliography : A guide for students & researchers. New York, NY: Routledge. [ebook] 

Efron, S., Ravid, R., & ProQuest. (2019). Writing the literature review : A practical guide. New York: The Guilford Press. [ebook -- see Chapter 6 on Evaluating Research Articles] 

Center for Writing: Student Writing Support

Resources from Other Libraries

Annotated Bibliographies (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Writing An Annotated Bibliography (University of Toronto)

Annotated Bibliographies (Purdue Writing Lab, Purdue University)

Annotated Bibliography (UNSW Sydney)



What is an annotated bibliography? (Santiago Canyon College Library): Oct 17, 2017. 3:47 min.

Writing an annotated bibliography ( Oct 22, 2020. 4:53 min.

Creating an annotated bibliography (Laurier University Library, Waterloo, Ontario)/ Apr 3, 2019, 3:32 min.

How to create an annotated bibliography: MLA (JamesTheDLC) Oct 23, 2019. 3:03 min.

Citing Sources


Citations are brief notations in the body of a research paper that point to a source in the bibliography or references cited section.

If your paper quotes, paraphrases, summarizes the work of someone else, you need to use citations.

Citation style guides such as APA, Chicago and MLA provide detailed instructions on how citations and bibliographies should be formatted.


Health Sciences Research Toolkit

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Top Reasons for Non-Acceptance of Scientific Articles
Avoid these mistakes when preparing an article for publication.

Annotated Bibliographies
Guide on how to create an annotated bibliography.

Writing guides, Style Manuals and the Publication Process in the Biological and Health Sciences
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Last Updated: Aug 28, 2023 9:45 AM