Annotated Bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations for books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, which is the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

Annotations vs. abstracts

Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in online databases. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they expose the author's point of view, clarity, and authority.

Writing an annotation

First, locate and record citations for books, articles, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas about your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.

Cite the book, article or document using the appropriate style.

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that address the following:

  • Main focus or purpose of the work
  • Intended audience of the work
  • Usefulness or relevance to your research topic (or why it did not meet your expectations)
  • Special features of the work that are unique or helpful
  • Background and credibility of the author
  • Conclusions or observations reached by the author
  • Your own observations or conclusions

Sample annotated bibliography entry for a journal article

IMPORTANT NOTE: These examples use the APA, MLA and Chicago formats for the journal citations. They are for general guidance only. Standard APA and MLA practice requires double spacing which is not rendered here. Style manuals for APA, MLA and Chicago are located at the reference desk in the library.

APA

Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional
family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51(4), 541-554.

MLA

Waite, Linda J., Frances Kobrin Goldscheider, and Christina Witsberger. "Nonfamily Living and the
Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review
51.4 (1986): 541-554. Print.

Chicago

Waite, Linda J., Frances Kobrin Goldscheider, and Christina Witsberger. "Nonfamily Living and the
Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review
51.4 (1986): 541-554.

The annotation:

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.