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Annotated Bibliography

What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

Before answering what is an annotated bibliography, we need to ask what a bibliography is. A bibliography, also referred to as works cited or references, is a list of sources from either books, websites, journals or periodicals that people use when researching a particular topic. Some sites provide an annotated bibliography maker. The two common ones are APA annotated bibliography and MLA annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography includes an evaluation or summary of each source cited. Depending on the type of assignment that one is doing, an annotated bibliography may do one of the following:


After you are through with checking your sources, you need to ask yourself how it all plays into your research. Sources that you use should support the argument that you seek to put forward, it should also be helpful to you as a writer. The annotated bibliography APA or annotated bibliography MLA format should also enable you to understand the topic you are writing on, giving you an in-depth understanding of what you knew before. It is advisable to check an annotated bibliography example to get it better.


An APA bibliography format or annotated bibliography MLA format may merely summarize the sources that you have used, from the main arguments put forward to the point of the article or book and all the topics that it covers. How long your annotations are will determine how detailed your summary will be. It should answer what the book is about when someone goes through it.


It is the evaluation of a source after you summarize it. How useful it is should play into your assessment and how it compares to the rest of the sources you have used. How does the author think of the topic, do they have a different view or are they biased towards the subject? These are some of the questions one needs to ask themselves as they create the annotated bibliographies. Before writing one though, you should write an annotated bibliography example and ask for the opinion of an expert. However, all the sources that you use should have a goal at the end, and they should contain reliable information.

Types of Annotated Bibliographies

There are two types of annotated bibliography, descriptive and analytical.

  • Analytical

An analytical annotation, also known as critical annotation, analyzes and also summarizes the material. It describes how applicable the conclusion that the author has reached is. It looks at both the strengths and weaknesses of the argument. It also looks at how the research is conducted and what it says. Most MLA and APA bibliography format are critical or analytical.

Annotated bibliography example in the critical form

Breeding evil. (2005, August 6). From the Economist, 376(8438), 9.

The article from the Economist points towards the effects that gaming has on the people who use it. It focuses on the controversies that video games have and the age range of those that critique them. It goes further to state that the chief critics are above 40 years of age, and it’s not just about the video games, but the issue also lies in the age difference. The writer does not go into details on all the research done that relates gaming and violence. Instead, he points to a few studies done on the issue. He wants readers to take his word that research conducted is unsatisfactory instead of giving them everything and letting them make up their mind. He sees age as the primary factor over violence and bases his opposition to the games on it. He also stresses on the good that video games have in most areas of human life. Anyone that seeks to further research on the controversy that surrounds video games should use this article. However, if one aims to have concrete information on all the aspects that surround it, they should look into all the research done relating to this issue. Taking the author’s word and opinion as final is not encouraged. The author, in this case, sees the generational gap as the main reason for all the controversies.

As you can see, the last sentence of the article is critical of the author’s research.

  • Descriptive

It is also known as an informative annotated bibliography. It summarizes and describes a source just like an abstract would do. It points to why the information is useful for the research on a question or topic. It points out the distinctive features of the source. A descriptive APA annotated bibliography or MLA annotated bibliography should also point out the main arguments that the author raises. It does all this without evaluating the conclusion that the author reached or what he has to say.

Annotated bibliography example in the descriptive form

Breeding evil. (2005, August 6). From the Economist, 376(8438), 9.

It is an article from the Economist that seeks to describe the controversy that surrounds video games. In his part, the author believes that the media has gone back to the time of the ancient Greeks with their skepticism and that this controversy is nothing new. The author also notes that those who criticize video games are over 40 years old and it is them that do not understand the young generation. He further says that as the younger generation ages, the controversy will fade out. For him, the opposition to video games is about the age factor and has nothing to do with the violence attributed to them. In exploring the controversy around video games, the article is distinctive as it looks at it from a generational point of view and is for the general audience.

With regard to the concluding sentence of the annotation, it is important to note how it highlights the distinctive features of the item but does not discuss the conclusions of the author.


As pointed out in this article, there are a few things you should look out for before writing an annotated bibliography APA or MLA format. The first is understanding ‘what is an annotated bibliography?’ Research on the sources that you are going to use and ensure that the information that is presented is reliable. Review the items that you will use and only choose the ones that give a broader perspective on your topic. Finally, you can write the citations and annotations. The complete quote should come before the annotations. You should use the annotated bibliography maker that some websites provide before doing it manually. Good luck!

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