What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

As you are writing a research paper, it is important to cite all of your work sources in order to give proper credit. For typical essays, a bibliography page contains the authors of the work, titles, the date that the work was published, and page numbers. But for major papers, such as a PhD dissertation, you are often required to go further. This is where an annotated bibliography comes into play.

Whenever you work on an important academic paper, you are required to include an annotated bibliography containing sources that are relevant to your topic, accurate, and contain research from reputable authors. What is an annotated bibliography? The definition of an annotated bibliography is a list of citations to the works that are used in your essay. This can include academic journals, magazine articles, and books.

Annotated Bibliography Format

Note that the style in which you structure the annotated bibliography differs in subtle ways depending on whether your project guidelines require the use the APA, MLA or Chicago/Turabian bibliography format. Below you can find an annotated bibliography template for each of the bibliography example.

How to Make An Annotated Bibliography

Composing an annotated bibliography requires the use of various intellectual abilities including concise exposition, analysis that is brief yet highly informative, and scouring the library for the best possible sources.

The first step is to seek out and make a list of citations from books, journals and other relevant works that might be helpful in your own research. Then select the sources that would best allow you to accomplish your goals. Do not simply include the sources that support your hypothesis; it is also important to include works, which offer a variety of perspectives and opinions.

Cite your sources based on the formatting style as stipulated by your academic institution or adviser.

Write a short, informative annotation that provides a summary of the main purpose and scope of the work. The content should include an examination of the reputability of the author, a discussion on the intended audience, a compare/contrast with another source that you used, or an explanation on how this source enhances your annotated bibliography topic.

Example of Annotated Bibliography

MLA Style Sample
               Henderson, James. Winning at Life: How to Be Your Best Self.

                        Tweek Publishing, 2015.

Henderson’s book offers useful advice on how to overcome a lack of confidence and succeed through self-acceptance. Rather than explaining the points in a dry, clinical manner, Henderson incorporates a great deal of humor and even uses anecdotes based on his own personal experience in order to make his book more relatable to the reader.  The chapters of his book deal with advice on such aspects as how to influence people, how to project confidence, and how to increase what he calls the “likeability factor.”

While the book serves to help the reader overcome their personality weaknesses, the main purpose is to provide a non-judgmental approach to succeeding at life by focusing on the positive traits that everybody possesses rather than lecturing or otherwise putting down the reader. The result is an uplifting way to conquer fears and insecurities.

This book could easily be incorporated into college courses related to public relations, diplomacy, and even psychology. Several chapters are tailor-made for students who are about to enter the real world for the first time and who might not yet have honed their personality skills sufficiently. The book is engaging and easy to read, making it suitable for both young adults and mature readers alike.

The MLA style includes three paragraphs: a summary, an assessment of the work, and an explanation for how it applies to the writer’s own research.

APA Style Sample
               Nowak, M. (1999). Revolution: Growing Up in Communist Poland.
               London: Pennington Press.

This book of nonfiction offers a unique account of a Polish teenager growing up in the country during its days of communist dictatorship rule. He discusses his day-to-day life of living in Krakow, the third largest city in Poland, during the political turmoil of the late 1980s. But aside from putting up with nuisances such as the food shortages and his politically active father constantly being harassed by the secret police, he writes about endearing encounters and friendships that he developed in a time of paranoia and uncertainty.

While Nowak notes that his experiences likely differed from that of his fellow compatriots living in Poland at the time, it nonetheless serves as an informative look about the life of a typical Polish kid. His work appears sincere, is easy to relate to, and is free of exaggerations or anything else that would call into question the authenticity of his experiences.

The APA style includes a summary and assessment. For this style, discussing the usefulness of the work as it relates to the person’s own research is not required

Chicago/Turabian Style Sample
               Calipari, Anthony James. Life in the Mob. New York: King Books, 1999.

Calipari’s book offers a comprehensive examination of what life is like for New York mafia figures and their immediate family members. Calipari interviews more than 50 participants who discuss how their associations with organized crime effected them in their professional and personal lives. The author also discusses and provides an overview of the history of some of the most notorious crime families. The book also provides exclusive photos of family life, including vacations and social gatherings.

The Chicago/Turabian style consists of one paragraph and merely requires a summary.

Recommended Reading: What is a Rhetorical Analysis.