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Annotated Bibliography: What is an Annotated Bibliography?

This guide is designed to help students create an annotated bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of citations of published literature where each citation is followed by a brief annotation of about 150 - 200 words. The annotation describes the contents and purpose of the book or article and should inform the reader of its relevance, accuracy, and quality. Depending on your assignment, an annotated bibliography may be one stage in a larger research project, or it may be an independent project standing on its own.

Annotated bibliographies are designed to answer the question:"What would be the most relevant, most useful or most up-to-date sources for this topic?"

As an assignment, an annotated bibliography allows you to engage in the work of scholarship in a critical fashion, encouraging the student to utilise their knowledge, research and critical thinking skills.

The purpose of an annotated bibliography

Not to be confused with the abstract which merely gives a summary of the main points of a work, the annotated bibliography always describes and often evaluates those points. Whether an annotated bibliography concludes an article or book, or is even itself a comprehensive, book-length listing of sources,- its purposes are the same:

  • To illustrate the scope and quality of one's own research
  • To review the literature published on a particular topic
  • To provide the reader/researcher with supplementary, illustrative or alternative sources
  • To allow the reader to see if a particular source was consulted
  • To provide examples of the type of resources available on a given topic
  • To place original research in a historical context


What is an Annotated Bibliography? - Learning Centre, University of NSW
Bibliography Planner samples - OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab
How to Write an Annotated Bibliography - University of British Columbia

Help and Information


Some of this content is from a guide produced by the University of California Santa Cruz