Skip to Main Content

Annotated Bibliographies

Research & Writing Tutors

Research and Instruction Librarian for Music & Fine Arts

Profile Photo
Karen Olson
she/her/hers
Contact:
Christiansen Hall of Music 147 (Music Library)
& Rolvaag Library 306
507-786-3362
Website

What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

Annotated bibliographies combine a bibliography with short descriptions of each resource in the list. Those short descriptions are the annotations.

Professors often assign annotated bibliographies near the beginning of the research process. The benefits of doing this are:

  • You start looking for sources sooner rather than later.
  • You get practice reading and summarizing scholarly literature.
  • You begin to understand what has already been written about your topic.
  • You begin to see how different researchers might agree or disagree with each other.
  • Your professor can suggest other places to look for information, based on what you've already found.

What Goes Into an Annotation?

Most annotations are 2-4 sentences long. Your professor may provide specific guidelines for your annotations, but they often include:

  • a brief summary of the most important points
  • an indication of the quality or reliability of the source (For example, is it peer-reviewed? Or not peer-reviewed, but written by an expert? Or full of misinformation? Do other sources you have found agree or disagree with it?)
  • an indication of how it will be useful to your particular project

The summary always appears in annotations. The descriptions of the source's quality and usefulness may or may not appear, depending on what your professors want you to include.


Sometimes, when you find scholarly articles, they will come with an abstract summarizing the article. This abstract is not an annotation. The annotation should be in your own words and should be tied specifically to your project.

For example, let's say you are writing a paper about Beyoncé as a feminist, and you find this article (I am providing an APA style citation).

Olutola, S. (2019). I ain't sorry: Beyoncé, Serena, and hegemonic hierarchies in Lemonade. Popular Music and Society, 42(1), 99-117. https://doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2019.1555897

 

The article comes with an abstract (see below, boxed in orange) -- great! You can skim the abstract to determine if the article is useful for a project about feminism and Beyoncé. (Answer: Yes.)

Screenshot of the first half-page of Olutola's article. The abstract is highlighted by an orange box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But you should not use this abstract for your annotation. Instead, summarize the article in your own words and explain how it will be helpful for your particular project, as in the image below.

Screenshot of a sample annotation of Olutola's article:  [Summary] Olutola challenges the popular idea that Beyoncé's work consistently situates her as a radical progressive. Beyoncé's inherently hierarchical person as "Queen Bey" does not align with the artist's efforts to be seen as a voice for Black equality and empowerment. Olutola describes several moments from Beyoncé's career, including her music video for "Sorry," where the artist's depictions of other women reinforce negative stereotypes about Blackness. [Use for your project] Olutola's work is useful as a balance to the enthusiastic, but less nuanced, appraisals of Beyoncé's fans. Olutola's final interpretations of Beyoncé's photoshoots with her children will be especially helpful for explaining the tension between her roles as an artist, queen, mother, and icon.

How To Format an Annotated Bibliography

The basic format for an annotated bibliography is nearly same as the bibliography or works cited page of your research paper. Prepare an alphabetized list of your sources, cited according to the system your instructor asks you to use. Underneath each citation, enter the annotation for the source.


For example, if your instructor wants you to use MLA citations, the entry for Olutola's article would look like this. MLA format requires a .5 inch hanging indent for the citations; that is, every line after the first line should be indented half an inch on each citation. Each new citation starts flush along the left margin. The annotations get treated as a block of text indented 1 full inch, so they are further to the right.

Olutola, Sarah. "I Ain't Sorry: Beyoncé, Serena, and Hegemonic Hierarchies in Lemonade." Popular Music and Society, vol. 42, no. 1, 2019, pp. 99-117. RILM, https://doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2019.1555897. Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

Olutola challenges the popular idea that Beyoncé’s work consistently situates her as a radical progressive. Beyoncé’s inherently hierarchical persona as “Queen Bey” does not align with the artist’s efforts to be seen as a voice for Black equality and empowerment. Olutola describes several moments from Beyoncé’s career, including her music video for “Sorry,” where the artist’s depictions of other women reinforce negative stereotypes about Blackness. Olutola’s work is useful as a balance to the enthusiastic, but less nuanced, appraisals of Beyoncé’s fans. Olutola’s final interpretations of Beyoncé’s photoshoots with her children will be especially helpful for explaining the tension between her roles as an artist, queen, mother, and icon.

Click here to a view a sample annotated bibliography using MLA style.

Click here to view a sample annotated bibliography using APA style.

Click here to visit our general guide for the major citation systems.