Skip to main content

Writing an Annotated Bibliography: Purpose & Types

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

Purpose

The purpose of an annotated bibliography is to present an overview of the published literature on a topic. 

Different types of annotations serve different purposes:

  • Descriptive annotations provide a summary of the work.  
  • Evaluative annotations criticize or include value judgments of the work.
  • Combination annotations summarize and evaluate the work.

Basically, annotated bibliographies:

  • Review the literature on a particular topic;question mark cloud
  • Provide the reader with sources of information;
  • Illustrate the quality and scope of one's research;
  • Place original research in an historical context;
  • Establish relationships between sources;
  • Highlight strengths and weaknesses of the sources.

 

Image source:  Flickr.  Micky Aldridge.  CC BY 2.0.

A descriptive annotation provides a summary of the work.  

Descriptive annotations may also be called summative annotations. These types of annotations do not evaluate the quality of the work, nor provide any statements on the relevance to your paper.

Descriptive annotations provide the following:

  • Hypothesis or thesis;
  • Methodology;
  • Author's main points;
  • Conclusion or results of the work.

Descriptive annotations answer the following questions:

  • What are the author's main arguments?
  • What conclusions does the author draw?

An evaluative annotation includes value judgments; it comments on the effectiveness of the work. Evaluative annotations are also called critical annotations.

Evaluative annotations:

  • Evaluate the information;
  • Address whether the work is useful to research being conducted;
  • Examine strengths or weaknesses.

Evaluative annotations answer the following questions:

  • How will this source be useful for my research? 
  • What are the author's qualifications?
  • Is the work objective or unbiased?  
  • What type of methodology is used?  Is it sound? 
  • What are the strengths, limitations or omissions?  
  • What contributions does this make to the field? 
  • How does this work compare to other works in the field?

A combination annotation includes elements of a descriptive and critical annotation--it summarizes as well as evaluates.

Combination annotations:

  • Discuss the hypothesis or thesis;
  • Address the methodology;
  • Summarize the author's main points;
  • Provide a conclusion or the work's results;
  • Evaluate the information;
  • Address whether the work is useful to the research being conducted;
  • Examine strengths or weaknesses.

Combination annotations answer the following questions:

  • What are the author's main arguments?
  • What conclusions did the author draw?
  • How will this source be useful for my research? 
  • What are the author's qualifications?
  • Is the work objective or unbiased?  
  • What type of methodology is used?  Is it sound? 
  • What are the strengths, limitations or omissions?  
  • What contributions does this make to the field? 
  • How does this work compare to other works in the field?

 

Loading ...

Do's and Don'ts Of Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Do:

  • Summarize the central theme/scope of the article
  • Explain how this resource ties into the purpose or idea of your project
  • Do include information on the author

Don't:

  • Do not write a "thumbs-up/thumbs-down review
  • Do not skim the article, read it carefully before writing
  • Do not plagiarize
  • Do not copy and paste the abstract