What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

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An annotated bibliography is a list of sources (usually articles and books) on a selected topic accompanied by a brief summary and evaluation of each source.

Examples and Observations

An annotated bibliography is really a series of notes about other articles. The purpose of an annotated bibliography is to present an overview of the published literature on a topic by summarizing the key articles. Olin and Uris libraries ([Cornell University] 2008) offers practical advice on preparing an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotations. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy and quality of the sources cited. The annotation is a concise and succinct analysis.

  • "Although preparing an annotated bibliography is time-consuming, it can be very helpful during the drafting or revising stage. If you realize, for instance, that you need more information on a particular topic, your annotations can often direct you to the most useful source."

Basic Features of an Annotated Bibliography

  • "Regardless of the format you choose for your annotated bibliography, your audience will expect to see clear citation formats like MLA, APA, or Chicago. If your readers decide to look up a source, they need to be able to find it easily, so providing them with complete and accurate information in a familiar, readable format is critical.
    "Your description of sources' content will vary in terms of depth, depending on your purpose and your readers. For some projects, you might merely indicate the topic of a source, while for others you might thoroughly summarize your sources, describing their conclusions or even their methodologies in detail. Comments per source in annotated bibliographies can range in length from a sentence to a paragraph or two.
    "Annotated bibliographies often go beyond summary to tell the reader something important about their central question or topic, and how each source connects to it. You might help the reader understand the significance of studies in your field generally, or you might evaluate their significance with regard to the question you are researching."

Characteristics of an Excellent Annotated Bibliography

  • "Annotated bibliographies are written alphabetically, by surname of author and should have a consistent format or structure. The annotation is usually quite short, just one or two sentences and comes immediately after the bibliographical source. The actual style and length may vary slightly from one discipline to another or even between institutions, so you should always check for any specific style or format to be used and be consistent in your writing and presentation."
    "What differentiates an excellent annotated bibliography from an average one? While the criteria may vary between courses, institutions, and subject and disciplinary areas, there are some common points that you should be aware of:
    a) Relevance to topic. . . .
    b) Currency of literature. . . .
    c) Breadth of scholarship. . . .
    d) Variety of sources. . . .
    e) Quality of individual annotation. . . ."

​​Excerpts From Collaborative Writing: An Annotated Bibliography

  • In this introduction to the special issue, Beard and Rymer claim that collaborative writing is coming to be viewed as a way of constructing knowledge. They provide a brief overview for the many contexts of collaborative writing discussed in the special issue.
    Bruffee has observed an increase in the use of collaborative learning strategies in both the classroom and the workplace, and he attributes this increase to the growing discussion of social constructionist theory. In the writing classroom, collaborative learning can take the form of peer editing and reviewing, as well as group projects. The key to success for collaborative learning in any classroom is semi-autonomy for the students. While the teacher serves as the director of group processes, there must be some degree of autonomy for the students so that they may take some responsibility for the direction of their own learning.


Bruce W. Speck et al., Collaborative Writing: An Annotated Bibliography. Greenwood Press, 1999

Beard, John D., and Jone Rymer. "The Contexts of Collaborative Writing." The Bulletin of the Association for Business Communication 53, no. 2 (1990): 1-3. Special Issue: Collaborative Writing in Business Communication.

Bruffee, Kenneth A. "The Art of Collaborative Learning." Change March/April 1987: 42-47. 

Avril Maxwell, "How to Write an Annotated Bibliography." Score More: Essential Academic Skills for Tertiary Education, ed. by Paul Adams, Roger Openshaw, and Victoria Trembath. Thomson/Dunmore Press, 2006.

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Nordquist, Richard. "What Is an Annotated Bibliography?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-annotated-bibliography-1688987. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). What Is an Annotated Bibliography? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-annotated-bibliography-1688987 Nordquist, Richard. "What Is an Annotated Bibliography?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-annotated-bibliography-1688987 (accessed June 8, 2023).