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WRIT 014 - Critical Writing and Reading

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources that gives the publication information and a short description — or annotation — for each source.

  • Each annotation is generally three to seven sentences long.
  • In some bibliographies, the annotation merely describes the content and scope of the source;
  • In others, the annotation also evaluates the source’s reliability, currency, and relevance to a researcher’s purpose.

Purdue Online Writing Lab has more information and provides examples of Annotated Bibliographies for APA, MLA, and Chicago Styles.

Purpose: An annotated bibliography shows that the author has understood the sources used during research on a topic and gives researchers sufficient information in order to decide whether to use the specific work.

Additional resources:

Creating an annotated bibliography

There are three steps to creating an annotated bibliography:

1) Select resources

Find books, articles, and other documents that contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Examine and review the items, selecting those that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.

2) Cite materials

Cite the book, article, or document using the citation style required by your instructor - APA, MLA or Chicago.

3) Write the annotation

Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the resource. Verify the type of annotation you are required to write with your instructor. The two basic types are descriptive and evaluative annotations. Annotations for each resource are typically between 50 and 150 words.

Descriptive annotations (also known as "informative" annotations) provide only a summary of the author's main ideas. Descriptive annotations are typically two to three sentences long, and describe the content but include no critical remarks evaluating the source’s quality.

Descriptive annotations may include the following types of information:

  • The main purpose of the work
  • The intended audience of the work
  • Background or credibility of the author
  • The conclusion or results of the work

Evaluative annotations (also known as "critical" annotations) summarize the essential ideas in a document and provide judgments—negative, positive, or both—about their quality. Evaluative annotations are typically three to four sentences long. Evaluative annotations usually begin with broad comments about the focus of the source, then move to an evaluation of the source.

Evaluative annotations may contain the following type of information:

  • The importance of the work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
  • The author’s bias or tone
  • The author’s qualifications for writing the work
  • The accuracy of the information in the source
  • Limitations or significant omissions of the work
  • The work’s contribution to the literature of the subject
  • Comparison with other works on the topic