Writing an Annotated Bibliography and its Usefulness to Your Research

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources that has been referred to within the course of the research and have been directly quoted or implicitly used in the research paper with short paragraphs (called an annotation) about each source, this annotation provides an overview or a brief account of the available research that has been cited, hence the annotation is preceded by the citation of the source. 

An understanding of citation styles

Before going into annotated bibliography, an understanding of citations is important. Each source in the annotated bibliography has a citation which is the information a reader needs to find the original source, this information is coded according to formats that have been established in the field of academic research. These formats are called citation styles. Some examples of commonly used citation styles include:

  • APA style: It is the style recommended by the American Psychological Association (APA) and used in many of the social sciences. 


  • MLA style: developed by the Modern Language Association (MLA), the MLA style is most commonly used to cite sources within the language arts, cultural studies, and other humanities disciplines.
  • Chicago style: The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) covers a variety of topics from manuscript preparation and publication to two different documentation systems Notes-Bibliography System (NB) and Author-Date System used for respective subject disciplines. 


  • The annotated bibliography format varies based on the citation style you’re using.

The explanation for the styles would run into a whole blog by itself, but we recommend that you explore the guidelines at 

  1. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines
  2. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_general_format.html (official handbook has to be purchased)
  3. https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html


Annotated Bibliography v/s Literature Review

The literature review and the annotated bibliography deal with the sources you have used for your research but they are not similar.

  • Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. The annotated bibliography is a compilation of ordered list of sources for additional reading and may detail the credibility or relevance of the reading to the topic under study.
  • They are structurally different from each other, as the literature review is presented in a more conversational tone, as it looks to relate the findings of the source to the research question under review but the annotated bibliography is separated from each other and are arranged alphabetically. 
  • The literature review also consists of an essay layout with an introduction to the topic, an understanding of how the sources are related and a concluding summary of the background of research. The annotated bibliography relies on the citation style that is used like APA, MLA or Chicago on how it is represented in the paper.  


Writing the annotated bibliography

Annotated Bibliography is a list of citations that are included in the reference section of your research paper. These citations can be books, journals, websites, and other written sources. The descriptive and evaluative comments are depicted under the citation format you use in your research paper. Before writing your annotated bibliography, researchers has to make sure if there is any particular requirement in regards to the type of annotated bibliography your institution demands:

  • Summary/descriptive – provides a concise overview of the main argument and focus is on the key arguments and methods of each source.
  • Critical/evaluative – in addition to providing an overview, it analyzes the sources while comparing its strengths and weaknesses and the validity of the methods or conclusions that have been provided as a result of the study being cited. 
  • Combination – This is when the annotated bibliography requires both a description and evaluation of the sources with an added crust of how the source is reflective to your own research. 
  • The annotated bibliography for each source might include a short description of the author, basically to highlight his/her qualification and expertise in the respective domain of study.
  • Arrange the entries alphabetically.
  • The annotation should include a summary of the overall argument relevant to your research and selected details about the content with use of essential keywords that were helpful to you as well. 
  • The researcher should be careful to keep it concise with only a brief outline of argument(s) and main ideas. For particular sources, you can highlight any special features of the text that were unique or helpful. 
  • The referencing style that your paper follows should be consistent with every annotation in your bibliography. 

The main purpose of having an annotated Bibliography is to give credit to the authors who have contributed to the paper. They can also help you verify the accuracy of your sources.

Annotated Bibliographies are often used in research papers because they make it easy to find your sources. 

They are especially helpful if you are writing a paper on a topic that has many different articles or books to choose from. Annotated Bibliographies make it easier for readers to look at all of the sources you have used so that they can read them more easily and learn more about them. They can also help you find specific information you need. By annotating your bibliography, you can highlight certain passages in books that you want to refer back to when writing your paper. This way, it will be easier for readers to find those passages more easily when they read your paper.

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