Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Learn how to write and format an annotated bibliography in APA Style (7th ed.).

Conducting research and documenting your findings is an essential part of the academic writing process. There are times when you will need (or be required) to conduct initial research prior to deciding on a thesis or focus for your writing. An annotated bibliography is a helpful tool to help you track and assess your sources.

Similar to formatting a paper, an annotated bibliography is formatted with double spacing and has a title page. An annotated bibliography does not typically include a list of references, since the annotated bibliography itself is a list of references, only each entry also provides information about the source.

Components of an Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography includes a reference entry and a short annotation (paragraph) for each source. How annotations are written depends on the purpose of the research. There are two main components for each source included in an annotated bibliography:

  • Bibliographic Information: This includes the same information you would provide in a reference list, formatted according to a reference entry for the particular type of source it is.
  • Annotation: This is a short paragraph about the source that oftentimes summarizes the source and evaluates the usefulness of the source for your research paper or project, but what you include in the paragraph will largely depend on your particular assignment requirements.

Purposes of Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Writing an annotated bibliography is an effective way to document the research process and better prepare for a first draft. By requiring an annotated bibliography, your professor is setting you up for success. Some of the purposes and benefits of writing an annotated bibliography include the following:

  • Formulate a thesis: Conducting research is a prewriting activity that can help narrow the focus of a topic that you are researching. Writing annotations for each source can help you understand the breadth and depth of a subject and determine your focus.
  • Review the literature: An annotated bibliography can help you analyze the available literature on a subject. This is especially helpful for relatively new or persuasive topics where it is important to read about multiple sides of an issue.
  • Illustrate the direction of your research: An employer or professor may want a preview of your research prior to the final draft of your paper. An annotated bibliography is a way to show your current research and its usefulness.
  • Help other researchers: When other researchers find your paper particularly engaging, they often will examine your reference entries. However, an annotated bibliography provides more information about a source, such as a summary, which allows researchers to make an informed decision about whether to locate that source. With a references list, the reader has to guess whether a source will be useful and relevant.

Ways to Annotate Sources

There are several ways to write annotations depending on the purpose or the requirements of the assignment or research. Common approaches to writing annotations include the following:

  • Summarize the source: Summarizing the source means to state briefly the main ideas of the source in relation to the current research. For instance, a medical book may have multiple chapters, but the only part to summarize for this source is the information that pertains to the research for the current paper’s topic. Please note: A summary must be written in your own words.
  • Evaluate the source: To evaluate a source means you determine the strengths and weaknesses of the piece in relation to a particular research topic. When evaluating a source, the reliability and validity of the source are also determined. Reliability refers to the source’s credibility. Is it biased? Is the article from a website that is also selling a product related to the subject of the article? Is there a hidden agenda in the source? Validity indicates the accuracy or correctness of the information. Is the information gathered from experts? Is it just the opinion of the author? Is the author an authority on the topic at hand? What are their professional or academic credentials?
  • Reflect on the usefulness of the source: How does this source fit in with the current research project? Is this a source you can use in your paper? Does it help define a problem or present an argument that would add depth and detail to your research? Is it better suited as a starting point to find other sources (i.e., is it useful only for background information)?
  • Combination: Any combination of the above approaches to writing an annotation may be required. You may choose to write a separate short paragraph for each approach, or combine them into one annotation. As always, it is essential that you are careful to restate things in your own words to avoid plagiarizing an authors’ original words or ideas.

Sample Annotated Bibliography

Note. When formatting an Annotated Bibliography on a Word document, the bibliographic references have hanging indents.

Baker, B. (2003, November 27). Version control helps keep rework to a minimum. *EDN, 48*(26), 227-232. https://doi.org/10.9999/1.111111

This is a short article geared mostly toward digital developers who either are programming more than 10,000 lines of code or are programming within teams. It also emphasizes the importance of a VCS, but more so in the development environment. For this project, the only thing I might use this for is the simple statement that while a VCS is great for any work environment, without the discipline to use it regularly, they are worthless.

Huber, T. (2005, May). *JEDI version control system*. SourceForge. https://jedivcs.sourceforge.net

This site includes detailed instructions for operating an open source VCS. It is written for a technical audience that must have some background on this particular system. What is interesting about this site is the idea of open source. Maybe there are other version control systems available via the Internet through shareware sites. This particular site will probably not be used in writing the final project, but it is a source that can lead to further research on this idea of freeware for a VCS.

McVittie, L. (2007). Version control, with integrity. *Network Computing, 12*(21), 34-45. https://doi.org/10.9999/2.222222

This is an informative article with an overview of the details inside a VCS—branching, configuration, repository, access management, and more. What makes this article valuable though is the overview of several version control systems on the market (at least in 2001). After reading through the overview of several products, if one fits what my company is looking for, I can begin searching for that product and further information on the Internet. This article may or may not be used in the actual writing of the final proposal, but it will be useful information for further research on the project.

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