An Annotated Bibliography provides additional information (such as summary or evaluation) for each source listed. Composing an annotated bibliography helps students learn about and explore their research topics, create connections between sources, and synthesize the information. Additionally, an annotated bibliography helps other researchers who are interested in the topic or conducting their own research on it by providing useful information to guide their research.
Depending on the requirements for the assignment or writing situation, an annotated bibliography will include one, two, or all of the following after each bibliographic citation:
A Summary of the source’s main topic. This includes the author’s perspectives, ideas, and the main points he or she makes.
An Evaluation of the source, which usually responds to the following questions: How useful was the source? Was the source up to date, or have advances in the field made the information out dated or obsolete? How does this source compare to other sources on the same topic?
A Reflection on how the source fits with your research topic, question, and focus. The reflection is where the writer can connect the individual source to his or her overall research, the writing process, and the progression of his or her ideas.
The length of the summary, evaluation, and reflection depends on the depth of the paper and the requirements of the assignment. Usually, each component receives a couple sentences, but they do not all need to be the same length, nor do they all need to be included. If the focus of the assigned annotated bibliography is the types of sources, then the summary and evaluation will be longer and more in-depth. If the focus is to synthesize the information (or internalize and process the ideas), then the evaluation and reflection will be longer and more in-depth.
An MLA Annotated Bibliography will list the author's alphabetically according to their last names. For multiple sources by the same author, the sources are arranged alphabetically by title. The publication information is formatted and arranged according to the MLA guidelines and the type of source it is. Each citation listed has a hanging indent: the first line of the citation is flush with the left margin while each of the following lines is indented 1/2" or 5 spaces. The annotation appears in paragraph form below its corresponding citation.
Let's look at an example:
Let's look at another example:
Notice how this annotation is much longer than the first example and each of these annotations fills a page. The student focuses on a detailed summary but then also reflects on the larger applications of the source. There is no evaluation provided.
Source: Images courtesy of Conan Kmeicik