How to Create an Annotated Bibliography
- What is an Annotated Bibliography?
- Getting Started
- Reviewing your Sources Critically
- Writing the Annotated Bibliography
- Sample Entry, Chicago Style
- Sample Entry, MLA Style
- Sample Entry, APA Style
What is an Annotated Bibliography?
A bibliography is a list of sources (generally books, articles, or websites) that you use in your paper. In an annotated bibliography, each source is followed by a short summary that describes the source and explains its relevance to your paper topic. Creating an annotated bibliography ensures that you read your sources with care and have a good sense of how they relate to your topic.
Before you can create your annotated bibliography you need to gather relevant sources. Read your assignment sheet carefully. Consider any requirements for the types of sources you need to find:
- How many sources do you need?
- Do you need to find a certain number of books and a certain number of articles?
- Do you need to find scholarly sources, or can you use popular magazines and newspapers?
You also need to consider the topic or question that you are researching. What kinds of information do you need in order to write a paper on your topic? Does your topic need to be narrowed? For more information on developing a topic see the Academic Skills Centre’s online essay guide.
You need good research skills in order to find the sources for your annotated bibliography. There are many indexes that you can use to identify books and articles on your topic. For information and help with locating sources, go to the Library Subject Guide for your course or check out the Library Skills Tutorials.
Reviewing Your Sources Critically
Once you have located your sources, you need to read and consider them critically. Keep in mind that you do not need to read every word of every source. Instead, focus on the argument and evidence presented in the book or article: What topic or question is the work responding to? What is its thesis? How is it organized and what types of evidence does it draw on? Also, consider how the source relates to your topic: How might you use this source in your paper? Does it support or contradict your tentative thesis? How does it compare to other sources that you have read on your topic?
For further guidance on reading academic sources, consult our guides on reading critically and efficiently.
Writing the Annotated Bibliography
Structure and Format
An annotated bibliography includes the full publication information for each source as well as a short, paragraph summary of what the source says.
- Each source is listed in correct bibliographic form. The form that you use depends on the course or discipline that you are in. For example, in history courses, you would create bibliographic entries according to Chicago style. For Politics, you would likely follow MLA style. For a complete listing of the referencing preferences of Trent departments, see the Academic Skills' Documentation Guide.
- Sources are listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.
- Each source is followed by a 3-5 sentence summary that is written in paragraph form.
What to Include in the Summary
Your summary of each source should include the following information:
- For some disciplines, you should include a brief explanation that establishes the author’s expertise. For example, you can mention where the author works and his or her professional title. This information is usually listed on the title page of articles or on the dust jacket of books.
- a sentence (or two) on the general topic or research question that the work addresses
- a sentence (or two) on the thesis or argument of the work
- a sentence on the author’s methodology. For example: What kinds of sources are used? Is it a case study or an overview of scholarship on the subject? How is the book/article organized?
- a sentence on how this source is relevant to your paper, how it will help your research and analysis, or how it compares to other scholarship on the topic
Sample Entry Using Chicago Bibliographic Style
Nicholson, Helen. “Women on the Third Crusade.” Journal of Medieval History 23, no.4 (1997): 335-49.
In this article, Nicholson, a Reader in History at Cardiff University, explores the controversial question of whether, and to what extent, women participated in armed conflict during the Third Crusade [This sentence identifies the author and central question]. After reviewing different historians’ views on the issue, she examines the widely different depictions of women’s participation in the crusade given in Muslim and Christian accounts [This sentence explains the sources that she used]. Nicholson exposes the biases within both Muslim and Christian accounts to examine how Muslim sources tended to exaggerate women’s participation in armed conflict while Christian sources tended to conceal women’s roles. Ultimately, she argues that while women played many important support roles during the Crusades, their participation in armed conflict was limited to extremely dire battles [The previous two sentences explain the thesis of the article]. This article will be essential to my paper in that it provides an excellent overview of the primary and secondary sources associated with the debate over women in the Crusades; it will help to support my argument that, while they were essential to the Crusades, women were limited in the roles that they could play within them due to social stigma [This sentence explains how the article will be relevant to the essay topic and argument].
Sample Entry Using MLA Referencing Style
Chappell, Drew. “Sneaking Out After Dark: Resistance, Agency, and the Postmodern Child in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter Series.” Children’s Literature in Education, vol. 39, no. 4, 2008, pp. 281–93, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-007-9060-6.
In this article, Chappell, a professor at California State Fullerton, examines the innovative form of child heroism that Rowling develops through the character of Harry Potter [This sentence introduces the author and general topic]. Contrasting Harry with traditional child-heroes such as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and Oliver Twist, Rowling argues that Potter is a new, postmodern hero in that he encounters good and evil and right and wrong as ambiguous continuums instead of clear binaries. Rather than accepting adult authority, Harry must constantly question whether authorities are acting for good or for evil and find ways to enrich his powers beyond what is sanctioned by the adult world [The previous 2 sentences contain the thesis statement]. Chappell’s work spans all of the books from the Harry Potter series as she develops her argument by examining several “trajectories” including: freedom and control, institutions and injustice, rule compliance, and defiance [This sentence explains how Chappell develops his arguments]. This article will be important to my paper in that if offers insight into the complex and ambiguous relationship between good and evil in the books, a relationship that will be central to my discussion of the characters of Potter and Snape [This sentence explains the relevance of the source to the essay topic and argument].
Sample Entry Using APA Style
Morey, D. F. (2006). Burying key evidence: The social bond between dogs and people. Journal of Archaeological Science, 33, 158-175. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2005.07.009
In this article, Morey documents the widespread human practice of burying domesticated dogs and questions what this practice can reveal about relationships between the two [This sentence demonstrates the topic of the article]. He argues that dog burials have been more frequent and more consistent than burials of other types of animals, suggesting that humans have invested dogs with spiritual and personal identities. Morey also demonstrates that the study of dog burials can help scholars to more accurately date the domestication of dogs; thus, he challenges scholars who rely solely on genetic data in their dating of domestication to consider more fully the importance of archaeological finds [The previous 2 sentences explain the article’s argument]. To support his arguments, Morey provides detailed data on the frequency, geographic and historical distribution, as well as modes of dog burials and compares the conclusions he draws from this data to those found by scholarship based on genetic data [This sentence gives an overview of the method used in the article]. This article is useful to a literature review on the domestication of dogs because it persuasively shows the importance of using burial data in dating dog domestication and explains how use of this data could change assessments of when domestication occurred [This sentence explains the relevance of the article to the assigned topic].