This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.
Contributors: Geoff Stacks, Erin Karper, Dana Bisignani, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 12:16:22
A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).
An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation. Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following.
- Summarize: Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say? The length of your annotations will determine how detailed your summary is.
For more help, see our handout on paraphrasing sources.
- Assess: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
For more help, see our handouts on evaluating resources.
- Reflect: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?
Your annotated bibliography may include some of these, all of these, or even others. If you're doing this for a class, you should get specific guidelines from your instructor.
Why should I write an annotated bibliography?
To learn about your topic: Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information. At the professional level, annotated bibliographies allow you to see what has been done in the literature and where your own research or scholarship can fit. To help you formulate a thesis: Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So, a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.
To help other researchers: Extensive and scholarly annotated bibliographies are sometimes published. They provide a comprehensive overview of everything important that has been and is being said about that topic. You may not ever get your annotated bibliography published, but as a researcher, you might want to look for one that has been published about your topic.
The format of an annotated bibliography can vary, so if you're doing one for a class, it's important to ask for specific guidelines.
The bibliographic information: Generally, though, the bibliographic information of the source (the title, author, publisher, date, etc.) is written in either MLA or APA format. For more help with formatting, see our MLA handout. For APA, go here: APA handout.
The annotations: The annotations for each source are written in paragraph form. The lengths of the annotations can vary significantly from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages. The length will depend on the purpose. If you're just writing summaries of your sources, the annotations may not be very long. However, if you are writing an extensive analysis of each source, you'll need more space.
You can focus your annotations for your own needs. A few sentences of general summary followed by several sentences of how you can fit the work into your larger paper or project can serve you well when you go to draft.
HOW TO PREPARE AN ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY
This is the list of references usually written at the end of your research project. They comprise of the books, journals, websites and any other article that you have used for your research. They are also referred to as citations. They are important in informing the reader about your sources hence giving your research credibility, accuracy and quality assurance.
There are several different styles of writing an annotated bibliography cover page which include;
If you are not sure which style to use, always check with your teacher. The most commonly used styles though are APA and MLA. Wrongly writing your references or failure to include them in your research paper can be costly.
An annotated bibliography usually has three components;
- The citation
- A brief summary of the source
- The writer’s personal view on the source
APA CITATION STYLE
This style is used mostly in citing sources in social sciences.
In in-text citation, APA uses the author and the year of publication only. It can be used in two ways e.g.
According to Coche (2012), Budweiser’s direct competitors include the Coors, Heineken and Miller. This can also be cited as: Budweiser’s direct competitors include the Coors, Heineken and Miller (Coche, 2012).
In a reference list, the style may vary depending on the sources but generally follow the same pattern starting with the author, the date, title and then the source. Below is a table showing how to cite different sources.
|website||Group Author. (Year). Title of page. Retrieved from http://xxxxxxx|
|book||Author, A., & Author, B. (year). Title of book. Publisher location: Publisher Name. DOI|
|Online journal||Author, A. (Year it was Published). Article title. Journal Name, Volume (Issue), pp. Page(s). Retrieved from URL|
|Print journal||Author, A., & Author, B. (Year it was Published). Article title. Journal title, Volume (Issue), pp. Pages.|
Double spacing is used with a 1 inch margin on all sides and ½ inch margin from the header. The header should be the title of the research paper on the left end and a page number on the right end.
MLA CITATION STYLE
It’s primarily used in citing sources for humanities papers. Generally, MLA follows tis format: Author, A., and Author, B. Title. Secondary Contributors. Publication Information. Medium.
Secondary contributors are others who added to the book such as translators and editors.
The table below shows how to cite from different sources
|Author, A. “Page Title.” Website Title. Sponsoring Institution/Publisher. Publication Date: Page Numbers. Medium.|
|Book||Author, A. Title. City: Publisher, Year Published. Medium|
|Journal||Author, A. “Article.” Title Series Volume. Issue (Year Published): Page(s). Medium|
|Magazine||Author, A. “Article.” Title Date Month Year Published: Page(s). Medium.|
Note that in both citation styles, you always start with the author’s last name then the first name. In case of a middle name, just use an initial. E.g. Last, First, M.
HOW TO SUMMARIZE YOUR SOURCES
Reading the preface and the abstract can quickly give you an idea of what the book is all about. The table of contents can help you easily identify the chapters that are relevant to your research. Read only those topics that are relevant since your annotated bibliography needs to be brief. In this section, talk about the audience the book is intended for, the author’s style of writing and the coverage of the book.
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