Home / Blog / What is an Annotated Bibliography: Ways to Write it

You know the feeling. You've put hours and hours of effort into your research project, and it's almost complete. All that's left to do is write an annotated bibliography – a key component of any paper or article. 
An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources with a brief description of each source's importance and relevance to the topic under study. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, sort of... Writing an effective annotated bibliography requires understanding the purpose of the assignment and taking the time to properly format, cite, and describe all sources used. If you are finding it a daunting task, you can also seek the digital assistance of writers at Nerdpapers.
If the definition of annotated bibliography has you stumped, you've come to the right place—today we'll take you through a step-by-step guide on how to create yours. With our help, you'll be able to confidently impress your instructors with your format-savvy bibliographies!

Bibliography vs Annotated Bibliography 

It is important to know the difference between a bibliography and annotated bibliography. A bibliography is just a list of the sources you used for your study. An annotated bibliography, on the other hand, gives a summary or analysis of each source.
An annotated bibliography can help you organize your research and can also show you how other people see your subject or area of study. For example, reading other people's accounts can help you come up with new study questions or ways to do your own.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography 

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources (books, articles, websites, etc.) on a particular topic with brief descriptions or summaries of the sources. It's a way to organize and keep track of the resources you've used in your research.
In other words, an annotated bibliography not only includes the relevant information about your sources such as author, title, and publisher but also a summary of the source's main points and its relevance to the topic. It's like having an encyclopedia of all your research at your fingertips! It is important to know the difference between a bibliography and annotated bibliography. A bibliography is just a list of the sources you used for your study. An annotated bibliography, on the other hand, gives a summary or analysis of each source.

According to a research article published by the researchers at Concordia College, adding an annotated bibliography requirement to their course, as a part of enhanced library-based instruction was able to improve students’ research ability. It also allowed them to independently take care of the tasks assigned to them. Additionally, the quality of the annotated bibliographies also improved, with more than 75% of students turning in their annotated bibliography during the research period as compared to earlier.

Steps to write an Annotated Bibliography

How to Search for Sources

  • Use Library Databases: Numerous university libraries offer online databases including content from their collections of books, papers, and other resources. Try conducting a search using the pertinent keywords for your problem to get the results.

  • Look For Scholarly Journals: Scholarly publications are a great resource for finding authoritative research on the subject you're studying. Look for an article that will help you put your topic of interest in the context of a journal that specializes in it.

  • Try Interlibrary Loan Request: If the college library lacks a certain book or resource, don't worry. Through its website, your library allows you to request a loan from another library. We call this an "interlibrary loan".

If you follow these tips, you'll be sure to find good sources that are relevant to your annotated bibliography!

Writing a Source Summary

A crucial step in creating an annotated bibliography is writing a source summary. This assessment of the source's content should swiftly convey to the reader why you believe it to be significant. There are a few key considerations to make while crafting your source summary:

  • Keep it brief: You don't need to go into too much detail in your summary because your annotation will go into more depth on this information. Keep it concise and to the point – anywhere between 3-5 sentences should do the trick.

  • Focus on the main points: Focus on summarizing the main points of the source and draw attention to any major findings or arguments that are made. Avoid summarizing minor details or tangents that don’t relate directly to the larger point of the source.

  • Explain why it's relevant: Be sure to explain why the information included in the source is relevant and helpful to your research paper or project. Explain how it can be used by you or others researching similar topics or issues in the future.

By following these steps, you will be able to craft a clear, concise source summary for each entry in your annotated bibliography that will give readers an overview of what each source covers and why it matters.

Assessing the Source’s Reliability and Quality

You must assess the credibility and value of the source before you can write an annotated bibliography. You'll need to examine various areas of the source, including:

  • Author: Who is the author? Is it a reliable source? Did they have any biases that could affect your interpretation of the data?

  • Authority: Is the author an expert in their field? Have they published other materials on the topic? Do their qualifications seem to support their suitability to write about it?

  • Content: Is the information up-to-date, and right? Are there any claims or numbers in the text that can't be backed up? Is there enough proof to back up your claims or fill in any gaps in the research?

All of these are important questions to ask yourself when figuring out how reliable and good a source is. It's important to be critical of sources and make sure that you only use reliable materials in your annotated bibliography.

Formatting an Annotated Bibliography

Don't worry, formatting an annotated bibliography is not as hard as it sounds. And knowing the right format means that you'll be able to make your mark with any paper you write. Here's how to do it:

  • Use MLA or APA Format: An annotated bibliography follows either MLA or APA format depending on your professor's preference and what type of paper you are writing. MLA stands for Modern Language Association style, and it is typically used for papers in the humanities and liberal arts, while APA stands for American Psychological Association style and is generally used for psychology or social science papers.

  • Source Essentials: For each source in your list, include a full citation—including the author's name, title, publication date, and publisher—plus a brief description of the source. Make sure that each element of the citation aligns with the appropriate guidelines in terms of indentation, etc.

  • Length of Annotation: A frequently asked question is how many words should an annotated bibliography be. The length of an annotation can vary depending on what type of source it is (book vs journal article). Generally speaking, the annotation should be around 150-200 words per entry. In the annotation portion, you should summarize any key information from the source. Make sure to focus on content rather than opinion; annotations are meant to be objective descriptions that help readers to further understand what they might learn if they decide to read the source themselves.

Tips for Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Writing an annotated bibliography can be a time-consuming yet rewarding task. And, if done correctly, can help you identify sources for your research that you might not have otherwise discovered.

Tips for writing an annotated bibliography

Here are a few tips to help you along:

Start With a Good Works Cited Page

When writing an annotated bibliography, the first step is to create a page containing all your references. Make sure the references you include are accurate and up-to-date. If needed, double-check sources with trusted citation guides.

Read Extensively

Annotated bibliographies require extensive reading and research. Take time to read through all of your sources before beginning your annotation – that way you’ll be able to accurately summarize and assess them in your writing.

Be Objective

When writing annotations, make sure they are objective and free of bias or personal opinion. This will make it easier to present an accurate summary of the source material and show readers why it matters for their research project. 

Resources for Further Reading on Annotated Bibliography

For a student or a researcher, it is vital to keep in mind that there is no one "right" way to write an annotated bibliography – instead, it should be tailored for each project or assignment. According to a poll conducted by Modern Language Association, 71% of academic publishers said they take an author's annotated bibliography into account when deciding whether to publish a manuscript.

Thus, it is vital that you look through additional resources in order to create an annotated bibliography that improves your chances of getting your research article published, or your research manuscript accepted. Owl Purdue Annotated Bibliography is capable of addressing several concerns that you may have regarding the formatting and other essentials you may need to better understand how the process works.

Additionally, if you have been specifically asked to tailor the content to a certain citation style, Owl Purdue APA annotated bibliography and MLA annotated bibliography is also capable of addressing your concerns while writing an annotated bibliography.


Whether you're writing a research paper or preparing a presentation, writing an annotated bibliography is an essential part of the research process. You can assess the credibility and relevance of the sources you utilized by reviewing them in an annotated bibliography. It provides your readers with an up-to-date view of the caliber and quantity of sources you've employed, and it can be used as a quick reference to assist you in determining the reliability and utility of your sources.

You can confirm the accuracy of your references and research materials while also saving time and aggravation by creating an annotated bibliography. So, start early and be sure you are prepared for the task at hand if you need to generate an annotated bibliography.

By understanding the definition of an annotated bibliography and following the appropriate formatting guidelines, you can create an effective annotated bibliography that will impress your instructors. So, get started early and make use of resources like Owl Purdue's annotated bibliography to ensure your annotated bibliography is a success!

Related Blogs
Last updated: 23 November, 2023
Last updated: 15 November, 2023