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How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Elements of an Annotation

Sample elements of a critical annotated bibliography

Check with your instructor to determine what he/she wants to be included in annotations. In general, an annotation should inform the reader of the quality and relevance of the source. Annotations are detailed but succinct, typically about 150 words, and include:

  • a brief summary (2-4 sentences) of the article, including the author’s name and what you think is the author’s primary point or thought;
  • a description of the intended audience;
  • how the article illuminates your bibliography topic;
  • an evaluation of the source’s usefulness, reliability, strengths and weaknesses and its value for your research;
  • how this specific article relates to another article in your bibliography

For more information, see:

Types of Annotations

There are different kinds of annotations, depending on what might be most important for your reader to learn about a source. Three common types of annotated bibliographies are Descriptive, Informative, and Critical.

A Descriptive annotation may summarize:

  • The main purpose or idea of the work
  • The contents of the work
  • The author’s conclusions
  • The intended audience
  • The author’s research methods
  • Special features of the work such as illustrations, maps, and tables

This type of annotation seeks to answer the question, Does this source cover or address the topic I am researching?

There are different kinds of annotations, depending on what might be most important for your reader to learn about a source. Three common types of annotated bibliographies are Descriptive, Informative, and Critical.

An Informative annotation:

  • Summarizes what the content, message, or argument of the source is
  • Generally contains the hypothesis, methodology, main points, and conclusion or results
  • Does not include any editorial or evaluative comments about such content

This type of annotation seeks to answer these types of questions, What are the author's main arguments? What conclusions did the author draw?

There are different kinds of annotations, depending on what might be most important for your reader to learn about a source. Three common types of annotated bibliographies are Descriptive, Informative, and Critical.

A Critical annotation includes value judgments or comments on the effectiveness of the work. In this context, critical means evaluative and may include both positive and negative comments. A critical annotation may contain the information found in a descriptive annotation and discuss some of the following features:

  • The importance of the work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
  • The author’s bias or tone
  • The author’s qualifications for writing the work
  • The accuracy of the information in the source
  • Limitations or significant omissions
  • The work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
  • Comparison with other works on the topic

This type of annotation seeks to answer these types of questions:

  • Is the author's presentation of the facts objective?
  • Is the methodology sound? Is this source useful for my audience?
  • Are the conclusions still valid in light of new research?
  • What contribution does this make to the field?
  • Does this source address all the relevant issues?
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