A bibliography is a list of books, articles, and other sources of information that form the literature of a subject. A bibliography may include additional resources to those directly used in the paper. Whereas, an annotated bibliography is a bibliography that includes brief notes about each entry. To annotate means to add notes. The purpose of an annotated bibliography is to provide your reader with a fairly complete list of relevant scholarly sources on a given topic. Each entry of an annotated bibliography provides full bibliographical information as well as commentary, generally 2-10 sentences, about each source.

Reasons behind writing an annotated bibliography
Depending on your specific assessment, you may be asked to create an annotated bibliography for the following reasons:

  • To familiarize yourself with the material available on a particular topic
  • To demonstrate the quality and depth of reading that you have done
  • To exemplify the scope of sources available—such as journals, books, websites and magazine articles
  • To highlight sources that may be of interest to other readers and researchers
  • To explore and organize sources for further research, e.g. as the first step toward a literature review

Briefly, a good annotated bibliography.

  • Encourages you to think critically about the content of the works you are using, their place within the broader field of study, and their relation to your own research, assumptions, and ideas;
  • Provides evidence that you have read and understood your sources;
  • Establishes validity for the research you have done and of you as a researcher;
  • Gives you an opportunity to consider and include key digital, multimedia, or archival materials in your review of the literature;
  • Situates your study and underlying research problem in a continuing professional conversation;
    Provides an opportunity for others to determine whether a source will be helpful for their research; and
    Could help researchers determine whether they are interested in a topic by providing background information and an idea of the kind of scholarly investigations that have been conducted in a particular area of study.

Types of annotated bibliography
There are different kinds of annotations:

  • Summary/Informative annotations sum up the content of the source and give an overview of the arguments, evidence addressed in the work and a conclusion.
  • Indicative annotations give general information about what kinds of questions or issues are addressed in the source.
  • Evaluative or critical annotations provide a summary of the source as well as assess the strengths and weaknesses of the source or the usefulness of the source.
  • Combination annotations combine elements of all the types: summary, description, and evaluation.

Structure of an annotated bibliography
There are two parts to every entry in an annotated bibliography: the citation and the annotation.

The Citation
The citation includes the bibliographic information of the source. The documentation style required for this information depends upon your particular academic field and will usually be assigned by your professor (some common styles include MLA, APA, CBE, and Chicago). Follow the instructions for the assignment and the guidelines in the appropriate documentation handbook. Citations are organized alphabetically.

The Annotation
The annotation is a brief paragraph following the citation.
An annotated bibliography encompasses the following

An annotation may contain all or part of the following elements depending on the word limit and the content of the sources you are examining:

  • The background of the author(s)
  • The content or scope of the text
  • The main argument
  • The intended audience
  • The research methods (if applicable)
  • Any conclusions made by the author(s)
  • Comments on the reliability of the text
  • Any special features of the text that were unique or helpful (charts, graphs etc.)
  • The relevance or usefulness of the text for your research
  • In what way the text relates to themes or concepts in your course
  • The strengths and limitations of the text
  • Your view or reaction to the text

Styles of annotations

  • If your assignments do not indicate which citation format you need to use, decide which kind of citation format is appropriate to the paper and its sources (see APA and MLA below). Or you may want to check with your instructors, since they may have a different style they want you to follow.
  • APA style of documentation is used for disciplines in natural and social sciences, such as psychology, nursing, sociology, and social work. It is also used in economics, business, and criminology.

MLA style of documentation is generally used for disciplines in the humanities, such as English, languages, film, cultural studies, or other theoretical studies.

Example: 1.
Citation (MLA)
Gilbert, Pam. “From Voice to Text: Reconsidering Writing and Reading in the English Classroom.” English Education 23.4 (1991): 195-211. Print.

Gilbert provides some insight into the concept of “voice” in textual interpretation and points to a need to move away from the search for a voice in reading. Her reasons stem from a growing danger of “social and critical illiteracy,” which might be better dealt with through a move toward different textual under-standings. Gilbert suggests that theories of language as a social practice can be more useful in teaching. Her ideas seem to disagree with those who believe in a dominant voice in writing, but she presents an interesting perspective.

Example: 2.
Citation (APA)
Balkrishna, A., Guar, V., Telley, S. (2009). Effect of a yoga practice session and yoga theory session on state anxiety. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 109 (3), 924-930.

This study took 300 participants who were unfamiliar with yoga and tested the effects of this ancient method on reducing the participants’ State of Anxiety. Participants were assigned to either the yoga practice group or the yoga theory group. Before and after a 2hour session, participants’ State Anxiety scores were tested via the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Both groups showed a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms after the session. The anxiety scores of the yoga practice group decreased by 14.5% and the yoga theory group’s scores declined by 3.4%.

The key to a successful annotated bibliography is to be concise; since each entry’s commentary is brief, you need to select the information carefully. Determine the source’s central idea(s) and be concise in conveying that information. An entry to an annotated bibliography is not an appropriate time to go into great depth or detail. Primarily, you want to give the reader a general idea of what the source is about. This will require the ability both to determine what is central and to write about the ideas concisely and objectively.

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