Writing an Annotated Bibliography: A Comprehensive Guide

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Writing an Annotated Bibliography: A Comprehensive Guide
Post By tapaflcouk On 8, Oct

An annotated bibliography is a type of document that provides a short summary of each reference. This summary relates the research topic and research references. When you are conducting research on a topic, you provide a complete list of references. These are the references that helped you throughout your research. If you fail to provide references, you might end up submitting the plagiarised work. Therefore, it is important for a researcher to add each reference in the bibliography. This will help you to go through the paper and summarise the related information in the form of annotation.

This document adds to the relevancy and quality of sources that you are going to use in your thesis. There are different methods for creating an annotated bibliography. You can choose an annotated bibliography method as per the nature of research and university instructions. It will make your research work more organise and complete. Furthermore, it will increase the worth of your research work. Apart from this, it will increase your credibility as a researcher.

Purpose of Creating an Annotated Bibliography:

It is a list of each reference that include in your research paper. An annotated bibliography includes descriptive information of each research reference. It will always contain two major types of information. In the first type, there is formal documentation of every reference. You can follow specific instructions for the documentation and citing the source. There are several methods of citing a reference, such as APA and MLA. This way of documentation will be the same in an annotated bibliography.

The other type is annotation. This type again relates to the references that you include in your research work. Each annotation is a brief summary of each reference you add to your research work. But part of this, it will include some other information too. For example, the information might include the credibility details of the reference. Furthermore, it might add the usefulness of each reference.

Types of an Annotated Bibliography:

You can develop your annotations when you have a complete understanding of annotations. In this regard, you must have a critical academic eye to develop your references. There is not a single way to create an annotation. There are four different types of developing an annotation. You can develop them according to your choice. You can choose any of the types while creating an annotation. It is important for you to follow the instructions of research references. If you are following the MLA style of reference, then you should follow the same annotation style. Let’s discuss each of the types in detail.

Descriptive Annotation:

In this type of annotation, you explain the book, article and other sources. This type of annotation will help you to provide a summary of the references. Apart from this, it will provide the arguments and describe the main points of that reference. There are several other things you should add to this type. Those are:

  • You should provide the name of the author or authors
  • A short summary of your research work. It will help your reader to know about previous research and how it relates to your current work.
  • Summarise the main points of the paper. You can also mention the name of chapters if there are any.
  • Apart from this, you can add any information that can help you to write a descriptive annotation.

Again, a descriptive annotation will follow the referencing style of your research work. If you are following the MLA style, you should write annotation according to this style.

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Informative Annotation:

In this style of annotation, a researcher provides a summary of different sources. In this summary, you will explain the main points of that reference. You will provide this short summary with the help of various topics you covered in the study. In this summary, you will focus on the reference. You will explain to your readers that why this reference was important. You will also explain that why you included this reference in your bibliography. This type of annotation is different from the descriptive type of annotation.

The descriptive annotation focuses on generic information. But, this type of annotation focuses on actual information. It will provide findings, inferences and information on methodology. Furthermore, you should discuss the research results and the conclusion of the source. So, this type of annotation focuses on providing the information. It will help your reader to understand the tone of your research.

Evaluation Annotation:

It is the third type of annotation. This type of annotation is way different from the earlier two types of annotations. The first two types of annotations focus on providing summaries. But, this type of annotation provides a brief comparison between sources. In this type, you need to explain the research goals and objectives. Also, you need to explain that why you chose such resources and how they helped you in your research work.

Apart from this, you will provide the justification of references and information. If there is any biased opinion, you need to justify that too. For this purpose, you must have in-depth research skills. Such skills will help you to dig deep information. In this type of annotation, you can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the paper as well. In the end, you should correlate your evaluation annotation with your research topic. It will help you to build coherence and relevancy.

Combination Annotation:

It is the fourth and final type of annotation. This type of annotation does not follow a specific format. You can write this type of annotation with the help of the above three types. First, you can use descriptive annotation to describe the general information. You can use the informative type of annotation to describe the specific information. This information might be related to the author and research topic. You can also explain the reason behind choosing that reference.

Then, you can discuss the remaining proportion of your annotation with evaluation annotation. You can compare the different aspects of your reference. Finally, you can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your source. So, it is a type of free-style annotation that can help you to write the annotation part. You can either follow all three types or any two of these. Just like other types, it will help you to summarise your work.

Format of Annotated Bibliography:

It is the third step of the annotated bibliography. It is important for a researcher to follow the format of annotation. Also, it is as important as the overall format of your research work. In this part, it will include a title, annotation and citation. It is also important to remember that annotation is the same for all. It depends upon you that how you want to create a title and citations. Further, it will base on your style and format. There are three major types of bibliography style. Those three types are MLA, APA and Chicago. Let’s discuss each of these types in detail.

APA Format:

It is the first type of formatting style. This type of formatting is used in scientific research papers, technical papers and dissertation papers. You have to follow APA citation and APA formatting. It will help you to create your research title and headers throughout your research. You should remember few things when you are creating APA formatting annotated bibliography. You should find a research topic and look for sources that are related to your topic. Format of APA annotated bibliography is as same as you format an APA reference list. You should follow the same order while creating the format. Here are few guidelines:

  • There must be a right-aligned page number.
  • It is optional to add the running header.
  • There must be one-inch margins.
  • There must be double spacing.
  • The title must be in the centre.
  • There must be a hanging indent for the second and subsequent lines of the citation.
  • There must be indent annotation of five spaces.

Once you format your APA bibliography, you can create a citation for each reference. The composition of your citation will base on the type of sources you have selected. There is a specific instruction to format each source.

MLA Format:

It is the second type of formatting. This style of formatting is most popular among college and high school students. They follow this style in arts and humanities research papers. This format style follows MLA citation and formatting. For example, it will follow the surname and page number header. There are few important things that you need to remember while formatting this style. Here are those:

  • There must be double-spacing in MLA format.
  • You should use hanging indents for citations.
  • There must be an indent at the beginning of the annotation.
  • It is between 100 to 300 words.
  • There must be a title with the name of “Annotated Bibliography”.

Again, an annotated bibliography will depend upon the citations. There are different formats to cite each source. You should follow the instruction to create the references. The MLA style of formatting breaks down the core elements of your citation. It will break into author, a title and the title of the container. Apart from this, it will add contribution, version and number. Furthermore, it will add publisher, date of publication and location.

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Chicago Format:

It is the third type of formatting that catch-all all types of styles. It will include author, date and notes-bibliography citation. The citation in this style may vary, but annotation will remain the same. But, you need to include the annotation of the source you used in your paper. You can add an annotation in two different ways. Those are summary and evaluative. For this purpose, you need to analyse each source. It will help you to explain the source and why you chose it for your research. Apart from this, there are several other things you need to address. Those are:

  • You need to check the credibility of the author.
  • You need to identify your audience.
  • Also, you need to explain how this source helped you in your research.
  • You can compare and contrast the source with other sources in your bibliography.

You must add the annotation and reference citation in this style of formatting. It is a unique style as it adds author-date and notes-bibliography.

Difference between Abstract, Annotation, and Literature Review:

If you do not own good academic skills, then you might get confused between these three aspects. As mentioned earlier, an annotation is a summary of your source. All these three are different from each other. Let’s discuss each:

Literature Review:

There is always a proportion for literature review in each research paper. This section of the study helps the reader to analyse the previous researchers. Apart from this, it will help the writer to bolster his thesis. It will indicate that how a researcher will follow this research. As a researcher, you should identify the research gaps in the existing researches.


It is also a type of summary. A writer does not write this section of the study for evaluation purposes. This section of the study contains 150 to 250 words. In the APA style of formatting, a writer should add this section after the title page. You can thank your teachers and parents who motivated you throughout your research. Furthermore, you should give credit to other researchers in this part.

So, this was a short difference between annotation, literature review and abstract. Most of the time, students mix these three aspects with each other.


An annotated bibliography is a summary of sources. This summary will help you describe the research topic and references. There are four different types of annotated bibliographies. Those types are descriptive, informative, evaluative and combination. Each of these types follows a different style. For example, if you want to explain generic information, you can use a descriptive style. If you want to discuss strengths and weaknesses, you should use an evaluative style. Furthermore, you need to align your annotation style with your research format. There are three main formats, and those are APA, MLA and Chicago. You should cite your annotation according to your research format.

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