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University of Newcastle Library guides

Annotated Bibliography: Writing Annotations

This guide is designed to help students create an annotated bibliography

Creating an annotated bibliography

While an annotation can be as short as one sentence, the average entry in an annotated bibliography consists of a work's citation information followed by a short paragraph of three to six sentences, roughly 200 words in length. Similar to the literature review except for the shorter length of its entries, the annotated bibliography is compiled by:

  • Considering scope: what types of sources (books, journal articles, web sites, etc.) will be included? How many (a sampling or a comprehensive list)?
  • Conducting a search for the sources and retrieving them
  • Evaluating retrieved sources by reading them and noting your findings and impressions
  • Once a final group of sources has been selected, giving full citation data (according to the bibliographic style [e.g., APA, Chicago, MLA] prescribed by your lecturer) and writing an annotation for each source.

Annotations begin on the line following the citation data and may be composed of complete sentences or verb phrases (the cited work being understood as the subject) - again depending upon your lecturer's requirements. The annotation should include most, if not all, of the following:

  • Explanation of the main purpose and scope of the cited work
  • Brief description of the work's format and content
  • Theoretical basis and currency of the author's argument
  • Author's intellectual/academic credentials
  • Work's intended audience
  • Value and significance of the work as a contribution to the subject under consideration
  • Possible shortcomings or bias in the work
  • Any significant special features of the work (e.g., glossary, appendices, particularly good index)
  • Your own brief impression of the work

Although these are many of the same features included in a literature review, the emphasis of a bibliographic annotation should be on brevity.

Composing annotations

  • 150 to 200 words only
  • Summarise main arguments and ideas
  • Evaluate the reliability and credibility of your source. 
    This is the most important section of the annotation and should be approximately 50% of annotation
  • Usefulness in answering the question. 
    In terms of the question does this article represent a single truth or contested truths?