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IT 102: Information Technology for Scientists: Creating an Annotated Bibliography

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, websites, periodicals, etc.) that have been used for researching a topic. A bibliography normally includes the standard bibliographic information for each resource listed (author, title, publisher, etc.).

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

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.

Sample APA Annotation

The following example uses APA style (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition, 2010) for the journal citation:

Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51, 541-554.
The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

Source: Olin Library Reference, Research & Learning Services, Cornell University Library

Sample MLA Annotation

This example uses MLA style (MLA Handbook, 8th edition, 2016) for the journal citation:

Waite, Linda J., et al. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review, vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 541-554.
The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

Source: Olin Library Reference, Research & Learning Services, Cornell University Library

Sample Chicago Style Annotation

This example uses the Chicago format for a journal citation.

 Waite, Linda J. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological
          Review
 51, no 4 (1986): 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

Source: Purdue OWL

Citation Style Guides at MU Library

These guides are available at the library Reference Desk.

Annotated Bibliography

Creating an Annotated Bibliography

There are three steps to creating an annotated bibliography:

1) Select resources 

Locate books, periodicals, and documents that may 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, Chicago or AMA.

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
  • 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