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Write an Annotated Bilbiography  

Last Updated: May 13, 2015 URL: Print Guide Email Alerts
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What is an Annotated Bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of information sources, such as books, journal articles, web sites, etc. Bibliographies are most commonly found at the end of journal articles, books and government reports, but they may also appear as single book-length publications.

An annotated bibliography provides bibliographic information and brief commentaries on a list of sources. These commentaries can be either descriptive or critical in nature. Selective and critical annotated bibliographies are often called guides to the literature. Annotations should provide an overview of what the source is, while assessing its value or relevance. The annotated bibliography may be assigned as an initial step in your research project, or it can be a standalone assignment that surveys a body of literature. Like all bibliographies, sources in an annotated bibliography are listed alphabetically in a chosen citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.)


Planning your Annotated Bibliography

The extent of the information included in the annotation will depend on the purpose of your bibliography and the intended audience. If you are completing your annotated bibliography for an assignment, pay attention to the details of the assignment in order to determine the type of annotation required.

  • Some assignments only ask you to summarize a source. This is referred to as a descriptive bibliography. Attention should be paid to the argument of the source, rather than on your evaluation.
  • Your assignment may ask you to comment on similarities or differences between sources.
  • Other assignments may require that you focus on the sources independently, without comparing or contrasting them to others.
  • Your assignment may be part of a larger research project, and will require you to demonstrate your awareness of the literature. This type of assignment usually asks that you to critically evaluate the sources and discuss their relevance to your project.
  • Your assignment may ask that you include a preface or introductory paragraph for your bibliography. This structure usually requires that you explain the purpose of your research, the scope of your investigation, and a rationale for how or why you chose your sources.

It may be useful to organize your bibliography into sections, depending on the number of sources you have chosen to include. Organizing the sources by categories can help you to structure your future research.


Descriptive Annotations

A descriptive annotation describes the content of the work without judging it. It does point out distinctive features.

Sample Annotations

1. Lee, Yun-Suk, Barbara Schneider and Linda J. Waite. “Children and Housework: Some Unanswered Questions.” Sociological Studies of Children and Youth 9 (2003): 105-25.

               The American research reviewed in this study indicates that when mothers are employed outside the home, kids are more likely than their fathers to take up the slack. The amount and type of housework vary by children’s age (older kids do more than younger kids), race and ethnicity (African American and Latino kids do more than European American and Asian American kids), and gender (girls do more and different kids of domestic chores than boys, and the gender gap is even more pronounced for minority kids), and by the mother’s marital status (kids do more housework in a single-parent and divorced-parent homes than in two-parent homes). Ironically, the disproportionate amounts of household work performed by girls and the sex typing of chores suggest that as mothers challenge stereotypical sex roles outside the home, they may be reinforcing them at home. 

2. Boocock, Sarane S., and Kimberly A. Scott. Kids in Context: The Sociological Study of Children and Childhoods. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

Kids in Context gives a comprehensive overview that examines alternative perceptions children and childhood and empirical evidence about children’s social worlds, from their day-to-day experiences in their homes, neighbourhoods, and schools to the impact on their lives of political, economic, and social trends at the global level. Variations in childhoods resulting from inequalities of race, ethnicity, gender, and social class are compared. In keeping with the authors’ view of children as active participants in society rather than simply as passive recipients of adult care and control, each chapter contains data gathered directly from children, and examples of children’s contributions to their families, communities and societies are noted. The final chapter contains assessment of alternative strategies for enhancing children’s status and well-being.  


Critical Annotations

A critical annotation is evaluative when discussing works and considers how a book, article, website, etc. stands up against most of the published works in a particular field of study. This type of annotation would include how a work relates and compares to other works on the topic, and whether the work would be useful to others exploring the topic.

Sample Annotations

The words in bold indicate what part of the annotation makes it a critical one.

Bandelj, Nina., Viviana Zelizer, and Ann Morning. Materials for the Study of Childhood. Princeton, N.J.: Department of Sociology, Princeton University, 2001.

            This work is an invaluable guide for the study of children’s social worlds assembled by researchers at Princeton University. Part 1 contains a selected bibliography of social science literature, grouped by the following subjects: general, historical and cross-cultural perspective; households; schools; production and consumption; literature, popular arts and media; child welfare and inequalities among children, children’s organization of their lives, including use of time and space; and methods for studying children and childhoods. Part 2, which contains information on data sources, research centers, and other resources for the study of children and childhoods, including listings of Internet websites and of sociologists, in the United States and elsewhere, who conduct research and/or teach courses about childhood, will be helpful to experienced researchers and teachers as well as to those new to the field.

Corsaro, William A. We’re Friends, Right? Inside Kids’ Culture. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press, 2003.       

            Drawing on thirty years of ethnographic research with children, Corsaro provides a wealth of colorful empirical examples demonstrating the complexity of children’s peer worlds, the intricacies of their interactions, and the variables that shape the contours of their cultures. With careful attention to the details of gaining access to and acceptance in children’s social worlds, Corsaro is able to trace the processes by which children establish and maintain friendships, resolve conflicts, negotiate adult-child interactions, and use play to create their social selves.

Examples taken from:

Bowman, Vibiana ed. Scholarly Resources for Children and Childhood Studies. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2007.


Language to Use

Sometimes it can be difficult to come up with the appropriate language  to describe a source and its argument and relevance. Here are a list of suggestions compiled by the University of Toronto, New College Writing Centre that may help you to structure your thoughts.

account for clarify describe exemplify indicate question
analyze compare depict exhibit investigate recognize
argue conclude determine explain judge reflect
assess criticize distinguish frame justify refer to
assert defend evaluate identify narrate report
assume define emphasize illustrate persuade review
claim demonstrate examine imply propose suggest


The evidence indicates that . . . The article assesses the effect of . . .
The author identifies three reasons for . . . The article questions the view that . . .

Citation Style Guides

Organize your bibliographic content according to a citation style. Here are some guides of the most frequently used citation styles compiled by the Western University:


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