The annotated bibliography
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The Annotated Bibliography. A Basic Guide. Important Definitions. Bibliography —a compilation of citations bound together by a common subject matter.

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Important definitions
Important Definitions

  • Bibliography—a compilation of citations bound together by a common subject matter.

  • Annotation—a brief commentary following a citation. The writer usually provides a summary of the article/chapter, a response to the source, and an evaluation of the source regarding its clarity and overall effectiveness.

The annotated bibliography1
The Annotated Bibliography

  • The purpose of the annotated bibliography is to support you in your research endeavors by providing a convenient summary of the sources you’ve already consulted, thus saving you from re-reading the source unnecessarily.

So what do you do first
So What Do You Do First?

  • Critically read the article/chapter, etc.

  • Engage in a “dialogue” with the text (remember Adler’s comments about marking up a book?)

  • Ask questions about the purpose, tone, content, language, and audience.

Some questions to ask while reading
Some Questions to Ask while Reading

  • Who is the author of the source? What are his credentials? Does he display any biases?

  • Where was the source published? Was it published in a particular magazine or journal? If so, what kind of journal is it (academic, etc)? If a book, what press published it? Is this publishing company known for particular types of work? What kinds?

  • Who is the intended audience of the work?

Questions to ask while reading
Questions to Ask while Reading

  • What do I already know about this topic? Do I agree or disagree with the author? Why?

  • Why did the author write the article? What is its purpose?

  • What is the author’s thesis (the controlling idea)? What are the supporting points?

  • Does the author support his thesis/assertions? If so, how?

Even more questions to ask
Even More Questions to Ask 

  • Does the article achieve its purpose? Why or why not?

  • Was the article organized?

  • Were the sources cited by the article/book credible?

  • Did the article change your view on the subject in some way? If so, how?

  • Overall, did you find the article convincing? Were there certain ideas you could accept, but others you would reject?

The fun part writing the annotation
The Fun Part: Writing the Annotation

  • An annotation may contain most, if not all, of the following points:

    • Summary of the information

    • Personal response

    • Questions which connect the source to your own knowledge and experience.

Parts of the whole the summary
Parts of the Whole: The Summary

  • State the source’s thesis and main points.

  • Briefly describe the key assertions made, and how they are substantiated.

  • Describe the usability—as well as the limitations—of the source.

  • Keep this summary to no more than 3-4 sentences.

Parts of the whole the response
Parts of the Whole: The Response

  • How did you react to the source, as a whole?

  • Briefly describe the relevancy, accuracy, and quality of the source and its conclusions.

  • Be sure to document your response to the author’s ideas, style, purpose, and overall argument.


  • Again, consider the source’s overall effectiveness, clarity, and purpose.

  • Do you have any questions regarding the author’s thesis or the assertions underlying that statement?

  • How can you connect your personal experience with the information contained in the article?

  • Do not ask questions answered by a simple “yes” or “no.” These tend to limit your dialogue with the text.

Creating the annotated bibliography
Creating the Annotated Bibliography

  • Start with the citation in MLA format.

  • Pay attention to the details of the citation:

    • Capitalization

    • Punctuation

    • Use of Italics

    • Indentation


    • Bronte, Charlotte. Shirley. London: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print.

The annotation review
The Annotation: Review

  • Summarize the source’s thesis and main points.

  • Respond critically to those ideas presented.

  • Ask questions. Limit yourself to 2-3 questions, at most. Remember, you do not have to answer these questions; just raise them.

Annotation example
Annotation Example

  • This sample annotation was taken from the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) website (

  • Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1995. Print.

  • Lamott's book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecurities and failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters in Lamott's book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one's own internal critic. In the process, Lamott includes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun.

  • Lamott offers sane advice for those struggling with the anxieties of writing, but her main project seems to be offering the reader a reality check regarding writing, publishing, and struggling with one's own imperfect humanity in the process. Rather than a practical handbook to producing and/or publishing, this text is indispensable because of its honest perspective, its down-to-earth humor, and its encouraging approach.

  • Chapters in this text could easily be included in the curriculum for a writing class. Several of the chapters in Part 1 address the writing process and would serve to generate discussion on students' own drafting and revising processes. Some of the writing exercises would also be appropriate for generating classroom writing exercises. Students should find Lamott's style both engaging and enjoyable.


  • Borglund, Sue. "The Annotated Bibliography." Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. Web. Oct. 2010.

  • The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2010. Web. Oct. 21, 2010.