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Write an annotated bibliography

Who is this guide for?

We think this guide will be most useful to first- and second-year students.

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a reference list, along with a short summary or evaluation (i.e. an annotation) of each source.

A few key points about annotated bibliographies:

  • Like other bibliographies, annotated bibliographies should be sorted alphabetically by the author's (or authors') last name.

  • The length of each annotation will depend on your professor's requirements. However, if they don't have a requirement, aim for somewhere between 100-200 words.

  • There are different types of annotations - we'll go over those in more detail on the next page. Again, your professor will probably explain what they expect in your annotations. If they do not, you may want to ask them which type they want you to write.

Why write one?

Why is my professor asking me to write an annotated bibliography?

  • Professors often ask you to write an annotated bibliography as one step of a larger research paper, so that you don't have to rush to get all your research done at the last minute.

  • Professors might ask you to write an annotated bibliography as a way to practice a particular citation style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).

How will an annotated bibliography help me?

On a basic level, annotated bibliographies can help you:

  • Keep track of what you read, which sources you found useful (or not), and why

  • Keep track of the citations in case you need to find the sources again

This is probably obvious, but in order to write good annotations, you need to read and understand your sources. Once you do, that knowledge can help you:

  • Decide on a thesis for your research paper

  • Help you form the structure of your paper - here are a few ideas to think about:

    • What are some of the common themes you came across in your reading?

    • What do your sources agree about? What do they disagree about?

    • How did the authors test their hypotheses? Did they use different methods than other authors?

    • Are there things you feel the authors should have talked about, but didn't?

    • What do the authors think needs to be studied in the future?

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