Annotated Bibliographies

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of the resources consulted in the research process - the sources can be journal articles, websites, books, or people interviewed. A citation for each source includes the author, title, and publication details of the source. Annotated bibliographies include annotations providing additional description and/or evaluation for each source.

The purpose of the annotation is to help the reader of the bibliography evaluate the relevance of each source in relation to the research topic.

Annotations vs. Abstracts

Abstracts briefly describe the main points presented in a research source. Annotations can be simple descriptions and may include evaluative comments. Annotations should be concise. Depending on the assignment, they may include:
  • a brief description of the resource
  • the intended readership for the resource (researchers, students, parents, etc.)
  • statement of relevance of the resource to the research topic
  • authority of the authors (background, education, credibility)
  • conclusions of the authors
  • your conclusions as a researcher, about the resource

Sample Citations with Annotations

These are two examples of annotations using the APA Style, based on the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition.

Book Citation with Descriptive Annotation (APA)

Hessler, P. (2006). Oracle bones : a journey between China's past and present. New York : HarperCollins.

This book explores the human side of China's transformation, viewing modern-day China through the lives of people that the author met as a teacher and traveler, and linking the ancient and the present.

Journal Article Citation with Evaluative Annotation (APA):

Shaojun, M., Hoang, M-A., Samet, J.M., Wang, J., Cuizhu, M., Xuefang, X., Stillman, F.A. (2008). Myths and attitudes that sustain smoking in China. Journal of Health Communication, 13, 654-666. doi:10.1080/1081073-002412222

China has the world's largest number of cigarette smokers and is viewed as a lucrative market for multinational tobacco companies. Through focus groups and interviews with urban and rural Chinese people, the multinational research team identified eight myths and misconceptions about smoking. The myths and misconceptions involve smoking as an individual freedom, smoking as an important social tradition, tobacco sales as a significant economic factor, smoking as a legal practice, higher quality cigarettes seen as less harmful, and the perceived harmlessness of second-hand smoke. The authors conclude that to address the social norms, economic misconceptions, and public health consequences associated with the persistence of smoking in China, the central government must take a strong leadership role, but given the apathy they so fully document here, they are unclear on where the impetus for this campaign will come from or the most effective forms it might take.

More Examples

Citation Styles

The IC Library has copies of style manuals that provide examples and instructions for creating and formatting an annotated bibliography. Course instructors will indicate the preferred style on the course syllabus. Regardless of the style used, it is important to be consistent throughout the bibliography. See also our Citation page.