How do I write an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is an expanded version of the regular bibliography lists of sources you will find at the end of your thesis or book. The difference is that an annotated bibliography contains an additional feature: a paragraph or annotation under each bibliographic entry.

The purpose of an annotated bibliography is to provide the reader with a complete overview of articles and books written on a particular topic. Learning some background on the annotated bibliography as well as a few key steps for writing it will help you quickly create an effective annotated bibliography for your assignment or research paper.

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography gives your readers an idea of the work that a professional researcher would do. Each published article contains statements about previous research on the topic at hand.

Your teacher may require you to write an annotated bibliography as a first step to a major research assignment. Most likely, you will first write an annotated bibliography and then write a research paper using the sources you found.

But you may find that your annotated bibliography is a stand-alone assignment: it can also be used as a research project, and some annotated bibliographies are published. A separate annotated bibliography (one that is not accompanied by a research project assignment) is likely to be longer than the first-step version.

What should it look like?

Write an annotated bibliography in the same way as a regular bibliography, but add one to five brief sentences under each bibliographic entry. Your sentences should summarize the original content and explain why and why the source is important. You might mention the following:

The source’s thesis is what you support or do not support

The author has a unique experience or point of view related to your topic
The source provides a solid foundation for the article you are going to write, leaves some questions unanswered, or has a political bias.

How do you write an annotated bibliography?

Find some good sources for your research, and then expand on them by consulting the bibliographies of those sources. They will lead you to additional sources. The number of sources will depend on the depth of your research.

Determine how deep you need to read each of these sources. Sometimes you will need to read each source carefully before placing it in an annotated bibliography; other times, a cursory review of the source will suffice.

When you do your preliminary research on all available sources, your teacher may not expect you to read each source carefully. Instead, you will likely have to read portions of the sources to get the gist of the content. Before you begin, consult with your teacher to determine whether you need to read every word of every source you plan to include.

Arrange your entries in alphabetical order, as in a regular bibliography.

Go to if you need to make an annotated bibliography.