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What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Black male student sitting at Franklin library table writing in a notebook.                  According to APA Manual (7th Ed.), "[a]n annotated bibliography is a type of student paper in which reference list entries are followed by short descriptions of the work called annotations" (p. 307). 

There are a couple main types of Annotated Bibliographies:

  • Descriptive or Informative Annotations
  • Critical or Analytical Annotations

What is the difference between Descriptive vs. Critical Annotations?

Descriptive annotations describe or summarize the source without evaluating the source. Critical annotations summarize the source, as well as evaluate or analyze the content.

Summaries might include author information, main points or arguments, conclusions, why the source is useful, distinctive features (charts, images, etc.),as well as other descriptive information. Consult with your instructor about what they would like included.

Evaluations might include strengths and weaknesses of the source, applicability to your research, reliability and bias of source, comparison to other sources, as well as other evaluations. Consults with your instructor about what they would like included.  

How do I format an Annotated Bibliography? 

When formatting an annotated bibliography, follow APA Style guidelines for margins, font, line spacing, and references as you would any other paper. Your instructor should set all other requirements such as number of references to include, length and focus of each annotation, etc. 

If you have no other guidance on formatting your annotated bibliography, follow the APA Manual's formatting:

  • References should be formatted and ordered the same as you would entries in a reference list (in alphabetical order)
  • Start annotations as a new paragraph below the reference entry with a .5 in. indent from the left margin (similar to a block quotation). Do not indent the first line of the annotation.
  • If the annotation is multiple paragraphs, indent the first line of the second and any following paragraphs an additional .5 in. 

What is an Annotated Bibliography


American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). 

Pierce College Library. (2020, October 29). Annotated bibliographies

Purdue OWL. (2021). Annotated bibliography samples.

University of Maryland Global Campus Library. (2021, July 29). How to write an annotated bibliography - APA Style (7th edition)

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