Marymount California University Library

AM 201: Western Civilization Art Since the Renaissance

Steps to an Annotated Bibliography

In many courses you will be asked to create and submit an annotated bibliography to accompany a paper. You may even have to submit this bibliography in advance of the final paper so that your professor can review it and give you feedback.  But what is an annotated bibliography (AB), why are you asked to do this, and how do you create one? Read on for the answers!

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography (AB) is a formal document that lists and briefly describes or evaluates all of your sources (whether an in-progress, or working, bibliography or the final bibliography).

Depending on your professor's requirements, you will write either a descriptive or evaluative paragraph for each one of your sources. A descriptive AB essentially asks you to summarize the main ideas/points of the source, while an evaluative AB asks you to write critical judgments of your sources. In both types, you must carefully analyze your particular source and then articulate how you intend to use that source in your paper.

Why are you asked to write an Annotated Bibliography?

What is it you will learn by doing an annotated bibliography? By writing these annotations, you will:

  • Demonstrate the quality and depth of your reading on your topic
  • Reflect on your sources, which encourages you to be selective and thoughtful - not just grab anything!
  • Work from a research plan and begin organizing your sources for further stages of research

How do you create an Annotated Bibliography?

The nature of your AB depends upon the requirements specified in your assignment. For example, should the annotations be evaluative or descriptive? How long should each annotation be (typically a paragraph of 4-5 sentences)? Is it a working bibliography or a final bibliography? This is all information that you need to determine.

General steps to follow for a descriptive annotated bibliography:

1. Search for the appropriate type and number of sources

2. Create a bibliography document with a reference for each source

  • Be sure to use the appropriate style (e.g. MLA, APA, Chicago)
  • Include your research question/topic in the document
  • For books, skim the table of contents or index and select certain chapters
  • Read each source (fully or strategically)

3. Write an annotation for each source

  • Summarize the main ideas/points
  • Identify unique or interesting information


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