How to write an annotated bibliography

How to write an annotated bibliography

Author: Tyler Jensen
  1. Explain what an annotated bibliography is and how it is different than a normal bibliography.

  2. Provide the format for an MLA annotated bibliography.

  3. Describe any formatting differences in an APA or Chicago style annotated bibliography.

  4. Explain how to summarize sources in an annotated bibliography.

This packet should help a learner seeking to understand how to conduct research for a paper and who is confused about how to write an annotated bibliography. It will explain the format for an annotated bibliography and how it might be used during the research phase of writing a paper.

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What is an annotated bibliography?


Don’t be frightened by the idea of writing an annotated bibliography. In fact, annotated bibliographies are very simple to write. Let’s first start by looking at what exactly an annotated bibliography is.

              Annotate simply means to supply with critical or explanatory notes, or to make comments about something.

              A Bibliography is a list of sources that are used or referred to. If we were making a bibliography it would only list the sources without any notes or description.

A normal MLA bibliography would look something like this:



Goetz, Hans-Werner, and Steven W. Rowan. Life in the Middle Ages: from the Seventh to the Thirteenth Century. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 1993. Print.

The New English Bible; New Testament. [New York]: Oxford UP, 1961. Print.

"The Peasants Revolt." Middle Ages. Web. 13 Dec. 2010. <http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/the-peasants-revolt.htm>;.

To make this bibliography an annotated bibliography we just need to add a review under each source. 

So now you can see that an annotated bibliography is notes and comments about a credible source but in a specific format.  The three most commonly used formats are:

  • MLA
  • APA
  • Chicago style


Before looking at what makes these styles different lets first look at how they’re similar.

  1. All sources must be sited in alphabetical order.
  2. Just below the cited source is where the annotation is written.
  3. The annotation can either be notes and/or reflections about the cited work. Annotations can range from 3 sentences to 3 paragraphs. This all depends on what your teacher has assigned. 



Here is an example of an annotated bibliography in MLA format.

Notice that under each source I only have one paragraph. Each paragraph is divided into two parts. The first three or four sentences summarize the article, and the second half of each paragraph is a summary or reflection about what I thought of the reading.

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Source: Tyler Jensen

MLA, APA, and Chicago Style annotated bibliography resources

For more information on writing MLA, APA and chicago style annotated bibliographies go to:




Things to remember...


  • The most time consuming part of making an annotated bibliography is actually reading all of the information.
  • Every assignment is different. Be sure to check with your teacher to see what style (APA, MLA, Chicago style) she wants the annotated bibliography written in. Also, check with your teacher to see how long your annotation should be and how many sources you need.