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Annotated Bibliographies: How To

More guides and examples

See the Annotation example with labled elements below. 

Example book-length annotated bibliographies

Annotated bibliographies at Davidson

When completing an annotated bibliography for an assignment, it is good to keep in mind that the type of annotation and the elements included in the annotation are usually specified by your instructor. 

Steps for writing an annotated bibliography


1. Select a topic

  • Be careful not to select a topic too broad or too narrow as both will make it difficult to select sources for your topic.  
  • Your professor can help you define a topic that will best fit the assignment. 

2. Find background information

  • Identify reference works and fundamental writings on the subject.  
  • Start by looking at the Reference Sources/Background tab on a Research Guide for a related subject. 

3. Find sources

  • Define what types of sources you will need to consult
  • To find books and bibliographies, search the Library Catalog.
  • To find articles, look at the Find Articles tab on a Research Guide for a related subject. 
  • You can use Zotero to help manage the sources you find. 

4. Select sources

  • Select sources that are informative, timely, and that work together to provide good coverage of your topic. 
  • Keep in mind that you may have to find more sources about certain aspects of your topic as you continue. 

5. Determine what citation style, types of annotations, and elements of annotations are needed.


6. Read, review, and evaluate the sources

  • As you read, take note of the information in a source, how it fits into your topic, and any of its strengths or weaknesses. 

7. Create the citations and annotations

  • Keep your citations consistent with the citation style you are using. 
  • Be sure to include all of the needed elements for your annotations. 
  • You can use Zotero to create an annotated bibliography. Check the Annotated Bibliographies page in the Zotero Guide to learn how. 

8. Write an introduction, if needed. 

  • Introductions are not always included in an annotated bibliography. Consult your assignment or instructor to see if an introduction is desired. 


9. Review for content

  • Ask yourself: Does it cover my topic well? Is it a good representation of the sources available on the topic? Would it help me if I were researching this topic?

10. Review for style and form

  • Check to make sure that your entries follow the citation style you are using. Check the overall organization and make sure it contributes to understanding the topic. 

Uses for annotated bibliographies

  • They can help you discover gaps in your research
  • They can help you decide which sources to pursue further
  • They can help you understand and remember what's in each source
  • They can direct your final research project by establishing a basis for your topic and a thorough understanding of your sources

Types of annotations

Annotations can be any of the following types or combinations of them:

  • Descriptive: states the topic of the source only
  • Summary: summarizes the source but does not take a stance or make an argument about the source
  • Evaluative: evaluates the source, which may include placing the work in context of other research or evaluating its usefulness

Elements of annotations

Annotations may include all or some of these elements:

  • Full citation and publication information. Use a consistant citation style; bibliographies always include this element
  • Information about the author(s) and their motives
  • Summary of the source
  • Evaluation of the source, including what makes the source useful for your research or for your audience
  • Information about the intended audience of the source, including any potential author bias
  • Context for the source, including how it compares to other sources in the bibliography

Differences in citation styles

The style of annotated bibliographies is governed by the citation style being used. Please consult the guides for each style. 

Note: MLA does not require the annotation to be seperated from the citation; the annotation may start directly after the citation. 

Annotation example

The following example is based on MLA citation style. Check with your professor to see if they have additional or alternative information they would like included in your annotations.

Churchill, Suzanne, and Adam McKible. "Little Magazines and Modernism:
An Introduction." American Periodicals, vol. 15, no. 1, 2005, pp. 1-5. JSTOR,
Authors Suzanne Churchill and Adam McKible are established
researchers of little magazines, having written multiple books and articles on the subject. This academic article serves as an introduction to little magazines and to an issue of American Periodicals devoted to them. As such, it seeks to define little magazines and place them in the context of their time: at the center of modernism. While the article does not necessarily present new scholarship or ideas about the periodicals, it does provide a useful and enthusiastic introduction to them. This article is particularly useful because it seeks to provide a definition for little magazines that is more inclusive than definitions found in other sources.


  • Full citation
  • Information about the authors
  • Information about the intended audience
  • Summary
  • Evaluation
  • Context

Citation management

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