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Master of Public Administration (MPA)

What is APA Style?

APA Style is a standardized writing format, established by the American Psychological Association, which you may need to follow when submitting projects or papers. If you have questions about APA formatting, look at our APA Style Guide.


RefWorks logo

RefWorks is a powerful online research management tool designed to help you easily gather, organize, store and share your research and to instantly generate citations and bibliographies. See our RefWorks research guide for information about using refworks. 


Creating an Annotated Bibliography

Good news! Annotated bibliographies aren't all that bad, we promise! 

An annotated bibliography is just taking your APA citations, like you've been doing, and adding a summary of that resource beneath the citation. Your instructor will likely have specific requirements on the types of resources you're allowed to use (peer-reviewed, professional, etc.). Be sure to double-check the assignment requirements before you get started, so you don't have to redo anything! 

Below is a brief example of what an annotated bibliography would look like for an imaginary paper called My Little Pony: Success is magic:  

When creating an annotated bibliography you will need to know how to summarize and analyze written materials. You will also need to know how to do library research. 

  1. Develop a research question and thesis, and come up with search terms (keywords).
    • example research question: Does the My Little Pony TV series model good social/emotional behavior?
    • example search terms: "my little pony" ; "my little pony" and "social emotional behavior"
  2. Locate books, journals, and articles that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic.
    • Pro tip: save these resources in RefWorks, so you don't lose them! 
  3. Examine and read resources. Then choose the works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic. 
  4. Cite the book, article, etc. using APA citation style.
  5. Summarize each book, article, etc. based off the central claim or theme that the author(s) have made. 
  6. Review your work; be sure that your annotations are based on on the citations you have selected.

Pro Tip: using RefWorks to generate APA citations can save you a lot of time! Just be sure to double check any citations that RefWorks creates for you. They're not always 100% correct! 


Annotated bibliographies consist of two parts:

  1. The bibliographic citation: The citations (bibliographic information - title, date, author, publisher, etc.) are formatted using APA style.
  2. The annotations: The annotations for each source are written in paragraph form, usually 3-7 sentences or 80-200 words.

Depending on your assignment your annotations will generally include the following:

  1. Summary: What are the main arguments? What is the point of this source? What topics are covered? What is the source about?
  2. Evaluate/Assess: Is this source credible? Who wrote it? What are their credentials? Who is the publisher? Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
  3. Reflect/React: State your reaction and any additional questions you have about the information in your source. How does this source fit into your research? Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic. Compare each source to other sources in terms of its usefulness and thoroughness in helping answer your research question.

Video: Annotated Bibliographies

After finalizing your resources, it's time to create your annotated bibliography! If you're still feeling nervous, the below video walks you through how to create an annotated bibliography. 

Graduate Student Writing Guide

The Graduate Student Academic Writing Guide was created specifically for graduate students as a step-by-step overview of the research writing process. It contains sections on how to:

  1. develop a topic
  2. locate information
  3. evaluate your sources

It also provides writing tips and resources, as well as resources for preparing an annotated bibliography and conducting a literature review.

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