College Hacks: How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

Do you need to draft an annotated bibliography and don’t know where to start? Not many students enjoy writing exercises that is a crucial part of their academics. If research assignments give you headaches, we’ve got you covered on matters annotated bibliography.

A brief explanation of what it is will suffice before we delve into the nitty-gritty of an annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography is a list of your sources that you format like a reference list. It should be in alphabetical order as you will see in any online annotated bibliography maker.

In it, you make a list of citations to articles, documents and books, you have cited in your paper. You should also remember to use the appropriate style format, whether APA, Chicago style or MLA.

What is Its Purpose?

When writing an annotated bibliography, you don’t just list down the sources you’ve used in the research. You have to accompany it with an evaluative and descriptive paragraph of about 150 words. It takes about 4 to 5 sentences.

In your description, you should include the relevancy of the source to the research topic. In that, it should indicate why the cited source is relevant, its quality and accuracy. You should aim at informing the reader by exposing:

• The point of view of the author

• Appropriateness and clarity of expression

• Authority

That implies that the annotation should be both descriptive and a critical review of the literature. Depending on your research topic, you should also provide an overview of the research, arguments, and central issues within the subject area.

The same applies to what an annotated bibliography creator produces.

The Structure

You may be asked to write an annotated bibliography as a stand-alone assignment or at the start of a research project, as an assessment task. In the former scenario, such a job will help you develop your critical thinking and research skills. For the later, it provides you with a chance to reflect on discoveries made on the topic, and encourage you to carry out the survey.

Also, read: How to Create an Impressive Business Biography for Your Website

An annotated bibliography comprises of two parts, a reference, and the annotation. Some faculties may refer to reference as a citation. Take note of that. What you can include in the annotated bibliography will depend on the given instructions for the assignment.

  • Reference

You have to abide by the required referencing style and present the details of the source. It is similar to writing a reference list or bibliography. You need to note down the surnames of the author(s), in alphabetical order.

  • Annotation

The instructions given by your lecture will determine what you can or cannot include in this section. An easy way may be summing up the contents of the source. However, it should be concerning the topic.

An annotation can include a summary of the central concepts and ideas of the source. Evaluate them and add your opinion on the thoughts and ideas. You could also explain as to why the annotation relates to the topic.

The Process

Writing an annotated bibliography may consume more time than you think. The first step is finding the sources that relate to the topic of the paper. Once you have the relevant references in hand, you don’t have to go through them, one at a time.

To minimize the time spent on research, skip to the right sections that relate to the study. Take notes and highlight the key ideas as you read them. As you do this, keep in mind the value you would like to provide to your readers, even if you’ll opt for using a bibliography builder.

When writing the summary of the annotation, you should provide a brief outline of the main points of the author. Also, remember to give an overview of the methodology and approach used. Your primary focus should be, to understand the main ideas.

If asked to evaluate on analyze a source critically, it means you need to consider the strengths and limitation of the source. Identify any assumptions made by the author, check the flow of arguments, and demonstrate how the study contributes to the scholarly discussion on the topic.

As you read through the instructions of the assignment, find out if you need to write a reflection in the annotated bibliography. Here, you need to address the usefulness of the source, to the research.


Writing a useful annotated bibliography is no easy task. If you want your research to be valuable, you should allocate adequate time to it. With time and practice, you can easily combine doing the research and writing the annotated bibliography, into one.

However, you should remember to read through the given instructions carefully. Identify the areas that you need to cover, as per the given instructions. That’s the first step towards writing an excellent annotated bibliography.

Eva Read is a professional writer and a content manager. She find inspiration in music, yoga and books. Her life motto is “Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.”

Eva Read

Eva Read is a professional writer and a content manager. She find inspiration in music, yoga and books. Her life motto is "Opportunities don't happen. You create them."