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Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Need to write an annotated bibliography for class, but don't know where to start or what to do? This guide will help you find resources and format your bibliography.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited. Unlike abstracts which are purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes, annotations are descriptive and critical; they expose the author's point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority.


The Process

Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research

  • First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on 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:
    • evaluate the authority or background of the author,
    • comment on the intended audience,
    • compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or
    • explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.


The annotation should include most, if not all, of the following:

    • SUMMARY:
      • Explanation of the main purpose and scope of the cited work;
      • Brief description of the work's format and content;
      • Author's intellectual/academic credentials;
      • Theoretical basis and currency of the author's argument;
      • Work's intended audience;
      • Value and significance of the work as a contribution to the subject under consideration;
      • Possible shortcomings or bias in the work;
    • YOUR USE:
      • Any significant special features of the work (e.g., glossary, appendices, particularly good index);
    • Your own brief impression of the work.


An annotated bibliography is an original work created by you for a wider audience, usually faculty and colleagues. Copying any of the above elements is plagiarism and intellectual dishonesty.


Text from this page has been adapted from:

Olin Library Reference
Research & Learning Services
Cornell University Library
Ithaca, NY, USA

Roger Williams University 


Email Butler University Libraries
Irwin Library: 317-940-9227
Science Library: 317-940-9937

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