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Tools for Effective Writing

Everything you need to become successful in your academic writing.

Writing an Annotated Bibliography

In an annotated bibliography, there are two main parts: the bibliography and the annotations.

For the bibliography, you will first need to determine what citation style is most appropriate to cite the bibliographic information for your sources. This information might be included in the assignment guidelines or may be something you want to discuss with your instructor. You can learn more about citations in the De Paul Library Citation Guide.

There are also several different types of annotations to choose from when writing your annotated bibliography. Again, this is something you should clarify with your instructor or decided based on the scope of your assignment. Here are some basic types of annotation styles:

Summary annotations
There are two kinds of summarizing annotations, informative and indicative.

Summarizing annotations in general have a couple of defining features:

  • They sum up the content of the source, as a book report might.
  • They give an overview of the arguments and proofs/evidence addressed in the work and note the resulting conclusion.
  • They do not judge the work they are discussing. Leave that to the critical/evaluative annotations.
  • When appropriate, they describe the author’s methodology or approach to material. For instance, you might mention if the source is an ethnography or if the author employs a particular kind of theory.

Informative annotation
Informative annotations sometimes read like straight summaries of the source material, but they often spend a little more time summarizing relevant information about the author or the work itself.

Indicative annotation
Indicative annotation is the second type of summary annotation, but it does not attempt to include actual information from the argument itself. Instead, it gives general information about what kinds of questions or issues are addressed by the work. This sometimes includes the use of chapter titles.

Critical/Evaluative
Evaluative annotations don’t just summarize. In addition to tackling the points addressed in summary annotations, evaluative annotations:

  • evaluate the source or author critically (biases, lack of evidence, objective, etc.).
  • show how the work may or may not be useful for a particular field of study or audience.
  • explain how researching this material assisted your own project.

Combination
An annotated bibliography may combine elements of all the types. In fact, most of them fall into this category: a little summarizing and describing, a little evaluation.

Elements in an Annotated Bibliography

  1. Bibliography according to the appropriate citation style (MLA, APA, CBE/CSE, etc.).
  2. Explanation of main points and/or purpose of the work—basically, its thesis—which shows among other things that you have read and thoroughly understand the source.
  3. Verification or critique of the authority or qualifications of the author.
  4. Comments on the worth, effectiveness, and usefulness of the work in terms of both the topic being researched and/or your own research project.
  5. The point of view or perspective from which the work was written. For instance, you may note whether the author seemed to have particular biases or was trying to reach a particular audience.
  6. Relevant links to other work done in the area, like related sources, possibly including a comparison with some of those already on your list. You may want to establish connections to other aspects of the same argument or opposing views.