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How to prepare an annotated bibliography: Home

This guide explains the purpose of an annotated bibliography and describes the process of creating one.

Annotations vs Abstracts

Abstracts are 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. They can also contextualise the source with other sources in the list.

Choosing the correct format for your citations

Check with your tutor or supervisor to find out which style is preferred. See the University's guide to referencing, Re:Cite for information and style guidelines. There is also a library guide on managing references that may help with the compiling of your bibliography.

Example of an annotation in APA style

Taken from Cultural Anthropology by Josephine Z. Kibbee

Gulick, J. (2003). The Humanity of Cities: An Introduction to Urban Societies. Granby, MA: Bergin and Garvey.
This overview text uses empirical findings to describe aspects of life in cities and presents theories and interpretations of urban life. Each chapter addresses a set of issues of major concern to urban scholars, such as the evolution of cities, livelihoods, subcultures, and social problems. Included throughout are references to both the classic and contemporary literature in the field, culminating in a bibliography of over 500 items. The subject index is particularly well constructed, providing easy identification of topics such as AIDS and the homeless as well as individual cities and subcultures.

The Process

Creating an annotated bibliography calls for a variety of skills:  critical analysis, informed library research and the ability to be precise and succinct.

First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and sources that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.

Cite the book, article, or source 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, and explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

The Purpose

When an annotated bibliography is created as a stand-alone document, it guides researchers to sources on a particular topic.

When an annotated bibliography is attached to a research paper, it provides readers with additional insight into the sources quoted, paraphrased, or referred to in the paper.

In the preparation of an annotated bibliography you should be able to refine your thinking about the topic.

Example and advice

Additional sources for the creation of an annotated bibliography

The Chicago Manual of Style (also available online)

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed., 2009 (refer to page 133).
LB 2369 G53 2009
WEB Reference & WEB Reserve; VAN Reference Desk

Fink, Arlene. Conducting research literature reviews, c2010.

MLA style manual and guide to scholarly publishing 2008

Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 7th ed., 2007 (refer to page 148).

Primary Sources

A primary source is a document, speech, or other sort of evidence written, or made during the time under study. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event, process or material.

Examples include:

  • original documents
  • autobiographies 
  • diaries
  • e-mail 
  • interviews 
  • letters
  • minutes 
  • news film footage 
  • official records
  • photographs
  • raw research data 
  • speeches
  • trade documents
  • building plans
  • creative works (art, drama, films, music, novels, poetry)
  •  relics or artifacts (buildings, clothing, furniture, jewelry, pottery).

Examples of Primary Sources: Plato's Republic, Diary of Anne Frank, film footage of the assassination of President J. F. Kennedy.