How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography
To compile a list of resources on a particular topic geared toward a specific, defined
audience. Although an annotated bibliography can be comprehensive- including all
resources on a particular topic- most are selective, meaning that the compiler makes
informed decisions about what to include and exclude. In addition to providing a simple
list, annotated bibliographies also offer the reader information about each resource
included, helping the reader to make decisions about what resources have to offer, and
which resources they may wish to look at in further depth. Thus, annotated
bibliographies serve as pathfinders, or the first step for researchers/ readers in exploring a
Unlike abstracts, which summarize the content of a resource, annotations are both
informative and evaluative. The annotation should offer a thorough yet concise overview
of the major points of the work, how it can/ should be used, its usefulness, and how it
compares to other works on the same topic.
The focus of an annotation will vary depending on the topic of the bibliography (i.e. a
medical bibliography might focus more on currency than a guide to Shakespeare) and the
type of resource (the compiler might be able to assume that readers are familiar with the
function and arrangement of a dictionary and thus not go into exhaustive detail on these
points). However, most evaluative annotations will include the following points:
1. Purpose of the work- intention of the work (i.e. provide definitions or in-depth
2. Scope- parameters of the work (geography, time periods, formats, genres, etc.)
3. Content and Arrangement- what type of information is included and how is the
work used/ accessed
4. Authority- Author’s credentials/ knowledge. This can usually be treated briefly,
unless there is something outstanding
5. Treatment/ Audience- For whom is the work intended and how well does it reach
that audience
6. Value of the work- especially in comparison to similar resources
7. Special features
8. Any possible shortcomings/ bias
Annotations are generally a paragraph in length. Some of the above points can be
combined and/ or addressed briefly.
Compiling Your Own Bibliography
Finding, choosing, and annotating the works to be included in your bibliography
comprises the bulk of your project. However, a few other points must be considered:
Topic and scope:
Make sure you carefully define the parameters of your bibliography. Consider the focus
of your particular topic, what time/ geographic/ intellectual periods you wish to cover,
what formats (i.e. print, electronic, text, images, etc.).
Who is the intended audience for your bibliography (children, high school students,
college students, general adult, scholars, seniors, parents, etc.)?
Once you have chosen an audience be sure that the resources you choose are appropriate,
and evaluate resources with your intended audience in mind.
How will you organize your resources? Alphabetically? Topically? Chronologically?
Do you need to use cross-references (for instance, if you choose a topical arrangement,
and a resource spans more than one topic). Choose an arrangement that makes sense for
your topic and audience.
Choose a citation style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) and be accurate and consistent in how
you cite your resources.
Sample Annotation
Macmillan dictionary for children. (2007). New York: Simon & Schuster Books for
Young Readers.
Containing 35,000 up-to-date entries and more than 3,000 detailed images, the Macmillan
Dictionary for Children is geared toward children between the ages of eight and twelve.
It provides users with the customary definitions, pronunciation guides, syllable divisions,,
parts of speech, and plural forms. The dictionary also supplies more in-depth
information, including verb forms, example sentences, homophones, synonyms,
photographs, and illustrations, and a reasonable number of word histories. Editors take
special care to present users with non-sexist definitions. Its reference section includes an
abundance of information devoted to North America and the United States, as well as
facts and data about the countries of the world, the geography and climate of the Earth,
journeys of discovery, and the solar system. This dictionary succeeds as an excellent
resource for elementary school children. Its in-depth definitions can appeal to an
audience beyond the age of twelve, and its plain and direct language and appealing
visuals make it appropriate for an eight year-old.
London, Herbert. "Five Myths of the Television Age." Television Quarterly 10 (1) Spring
1982: 81-89.
Herbert London, the Dean of Journalism at New York University and author of several
books and articles, explains how television contradicts five commonly believed ideas. He
uses specific examples of events seen on television, such as the assassination of John
Kennedy, to illustrate his points. His examples have been selected to contradict such
truisms as: "seeing is believing"; "a picture is worth a thousand words"; and "satisfaction
is its own reward." London uses logical arguments to support his ideas which are his
personal opinion. He doesn't refer to any previous works on the topic; however, for a
different point of view, one should refer to Joseph Patterson's, "Television is Truth" (The
Journal of Television 45 (6) November/December 1995: 120-135). London's style and
vocabulary would make the article of interest to any reader. The article clearly illustrates
London's points, but does not explore their implications, leaving the reader with many
unanswered questions.
(Taken from
Further Reading
University of California Santa Cruz Guide
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Guide
Cornell University: How to Critically Appraise a Source