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Writing an Annotated Bibliography: How To

A general resource guide to writing an annotated bibliography. Your professor may have additional instructions for an assignment.


Albert Einstien: "if we knew what we were doing, it would be called research."

Image source: astronomy_blog.  Flickr.  CC BY-NC-SA 2.0



  1. Search for and record citations on your topic.
  2. Search for a variety of sources:
  3. Use subject specific database -- select a subject from the ALL SUBJECTS bar. 
  4. Search EDS, which searches the library's full-text articles as well as books.
  5. Still unsure of where to look?  Ask A Librarian.
  6. Write down synonyms or keywords for your topic.  Use these in your search. Can't think of synonyms?   Look at the words used in the abstracts of articles or books that you find.  
  7. Try to find "core" sources or sources that are considered major scholarly articles on your topic. Not sure if you have a "core" source?   Google Scholar can give you a rough idea of the importance of your source:  If a high number of articles cite yours, it is considered important. Paste the title of your article in Google Scholar search box.  Look at the number of other articles that cite your article title:

Google scholar results entries have a "cited by" link that lead you to other articles that have used that source.

  1. Evaluate your sources.   
  2. Pay attention to the references found in your sources' Works Cited or Bibliography.  From the Works Cited, you can garner additional sources of information on your topic.
  3. Run a citation search in Google Scholar on several of your scholarly journal articles.   Click on the Cited by link (above, circled) to find works that have cited your scholarly journal article.  

Get Your Pieces

        The typical annotation contains the following information in approximately 150 words:

  1. Author information: Who is the author? What is her/his educational/professional background? Are they qualified to write about this topic?
  2. Purpose: What is the purpose of this research? Is the purpose stated or implied?  
  3. Audience information: To what audience is the author writing (scholars, teachers, the general public, etc.)? Is this reflected in the author's style of writing or presentation?
  4. Author bias: Does the author show any biases or make assumptions upon which the rationale of the article rests? If so, what are they?
  5. Methodological information: How did the researcher obtain the data? I 
  6. Conclusion: What conclusions does the author draw? Are these conclusions specifically stated or implied?
  7. Conclusion justification: Are the conclusions justified from the research or experience? Are the conclusions in sync with the original purpose of the research and supported by the data? Are the conclusions skewed by bias?
  8. Relationship to other works: How does this work compare with others cited? Does it conflict with conventional wisdom, established scholarship, government policy, etc.? This may be difficult to do if you are only examining a small body of research.
  9. Time frame: Is the work current? Is this important? How does the time in which it was written reflect on the information contained in this work

Write Your Annotations


  1. Check your assignment instructions. What type of annotation did your professor specify?
  2. Begin reading your major sources -- this will give you a good grounding and provide context for your other sources. 
  3. As you read, take notes and compose a rough annotation. 
    1. You may find at this point that your annotation is wordy and includes too many details. That's fine and normal at this point.  Later on you can shorten and clean things up.
  4. After you've written your first draft begin cleaning up and condensing your annotations.
  5. Annotations should be between 100-200 words.
  6. Check annotations for grammatical, punctuation, and style errors. 
  7. Avoid the passive voice: Change "handedness was addressed by the author" to "the author addressed handedness..."
  8. Check your citations for accuracy and completeness.  Be sure your citations consistently follow the appropriate style