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A+ Guide: Annotated Bibliography

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

What is an annotated bibliography?

A bibliography is an organized list of sources (books, journal articles, web sources, etc.) formatted in a particular citation style (such as MLA, APA, or Chicago).  An annotation is a descriptive paragraph.  So, an annotated bibliography is a bibliography that contains a descriptive paragraph about each of the sources listed in the bibliography.

Why write an annotated bibliography?

Annotated bibliographies demonstrate to your readers the quality and depth of the research you have done for your paper.  The annotations also provide the reader with more information on which of your sources they should read to learn more about specific aspects of your topic.

When preparing for a research paper, writing annotations for your sources compels you to read and understand each source more critically. Annotations help you to examine the relevance and unique contribution of each source to your topic while at the same time, may identify gaps in your research for further study.

Use an annotated bibliography to:

  • Demonstrate to your readers the quality and depth of research you have done on a topic
  • Critically evaluate your sources to determine any gaps in research

Writing the Annotation

The annotation is a short paragraph, 4 - 6 sentences long, that follows a citation.  The annotation explains to your reader why you are using that particular source in your paper and how it connects to your paper.  The annotation should do the following:

  • Summarize
  • Categorize
  • Connect
  • Analyze

Note: You don't have to answer every single question asked in the categories below. Use the questions as a guide when writing about the source. 


Be able to explain the content of the source in your own words. 


Identify the type of source, (i.e. academic journal article, book, etc.)  Who is the author and what is their expertise or background (do they have a degree, do they work or do research in this field)? Note whether the source is from a peer-reviewed journal and written for researchers and professionals, or for everyday people? 


Consider and explain how the source is relevant to your research question.  Note whether the source provides an overview, specific examples, or in-depth research that supports or answers your research question


Is the source well-researched (i.e. does the author include a bibliography of sources showing their research or at least mention where the information came from)? Does the author mention other sources that might have differing views or findings, or is the information or argument one-sided? Does the publisher of the source (i.e. the journal, corporation, organization, or main website) seem to have some influence on what the author is writing? Is there any conflict of interest?

Example of an Annotation

Example 1: (MLA style, book)

Webster, Graham. Celtic Religion in Roman Britain. Totowa, N.J: Barnes & Noble Books, 1987. Print.

Webster, Reader Emeritus at the Department of Extramural Studies at the University of Birmingham, discusses how the religious beliefs and practices of the Celts were integrated while the Celts were under Roman rule.  The author uses archaeological evidence and mythology to discuss the origins of the Celtic religion, the use of the hero figure, and Roman acculturation of the Celts. The book contains an extensive bibliography, photographs, and illustrations that are used by the author to illustrate the evidence presented. The chapter about Celtic sanctuaries, temples, and shrines is especially useful for providing an overview of Celtic burial practices. This book is written for academics but can be read by anyone interested in history.


Example 2: (MLA style, article from a database)

Doniger, Wendy. "The Mythology Of Masquerading Animals, Or, Bestiality." Social Research 71.3 (2004): 711-732. Business Source Complete. Web. 22 Jan. 2014.

Doniger, a professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago provides an overview of bestial masquerades in folktales and mythology and examines the relationship between humans and animals. This article is especially helpful in pointing out the analogy of night and day time transformations, of animals into human, and reality versus fiction. The article contains notes and references. The intended audience is students of mythology, but could also include the layperson.