How to Write Annotated Bibliographies

Introduction  | Bibliography Style  | Why are you writing an Annotated Bibliography?  | Sample Informative/Descriptive Annotation  | Critical Annotation | Sample Critical Annotation

Introduction

This handout will give suggestions of how to write annotated bibliographies. Individual instructors may give instructions which vary from these examples. Always check with your instructor to ensure that you are writing the bibliography as he/she wants it written.

Bibliography Style

Write your bibliographic entry according to the appropriate style guide (APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, etc) and add an annotation to each entry. The annotation describes the essential details of the work and its relevance to the topic. For more information on APA, MLA and Chicago/Turabian, consult our guides on these styles.

Why Are you Writing an Annotated Bibliography?

As a student, you are normally writing an annotated bibliography as an indication of the sources you intend to use for an assignment, paper or thesis. In this case, your purpose is to write an informative or descriptive annotation.

What an annotation should include:

Sample Informative/Descriptive Annotation

An Informative/descriptive annotation describes the content of the work without judging it. It does point out distinctive features.

London, Herbert. "Five Myths of the Television Age." Television Quarterly 10 (1) Spring 1982: 81-89.

Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: "seeing is believing"; "a picture is worth a thousand words"; and "satisfaction is its own reward." London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He doesn't refer to any previous works on the topic. London's style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader.

Critical Annotation

In other cases, annotated bibliographies are written to assess the literature on a chosen topic more broadly. Here, the compiler of the annotated bibliography would normally be more critical and evaluative when discussing the works, in considering not only how a book, article, website, etc. is relevant to an assignment, but how well the work stands up aginst most of the published works in a particular field of study

In addition to the suggestion above, this type of annotation would more specifically include:

Sample Critical Annotation

In addition to "What an annotation should include," a critical annotation evaluates the usefulness of the work for a particular audience or situation. The words that are in bold indicate what has been added to the descriptive annotation to make it a critical annotation.

London, Herbert. "Five Myths of the Television Age." Television Quarterly 10 (1) Spring 1982: 81-89.

Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such truisms as: "seeing is believing"; "a picture is worth a thousand words"; and "satisfaction is its own reward." London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his personal opinion. He doesn't refer to any previous works on the topic; however, for a different point of view, one should refer to Joseph Patterson's, "Television is Truth" (The Journal of Television 45 (6) November/December 1995: 120-135). London's style and vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly illustrates London's points, but does not explore their implications, leaving the reader with many unanswered questions.