Skip to Main Content

Tutoring Service: Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Overview of the Avondale University Tutoring Service.



Purpose of an Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of sources—formatted like a bibliography or reference list—that includes a commentary on each source. This commentary is called an annotation (Monash University, 2020). Writing an annotated bibliography can be helpful preparation for an essay. Collecting sources for a reference list is useful, but when you have to evaluate each source and write annotations, you are forced to engage with the source more carefully. In other words, you will begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information (Purdue University, 2020). 

Key Components of an Annotation

Each annotation in an annotated bibliography has five key components:

  1. citation reference
  2. a short statement that explains the purpose/focus of the journal article/work.
  3. a short summary of the methods/findings/arguments in the work
  4. consideration of the usefulness/limitations of the journal article/work.
  5. an evaluative comment on the journal article/work, and how it might be incorporated into your own work.

Developing an Annotation

Before you begin writing your annotation it can be helpful to respond to each of the five components in a table:

Formatting an APA Annotated Bibliography

If you are required to submit an annotated bibliography, make sure you follow the guidelines of the relevant style guide: 

  • Arrange annotations in alphabetical order.
  • Citation in hanging indent, stand-alone sentence and used as the title for the annotation.
  • No additional space between citation and body paragraph.
  • Write annotation in one present-tense paragraph.
  • Text is left-justified and lines double-spaced.
  • Use full sentences and transition words like furthermorehowever and therefore.
  • 150-200 words in length for each annotation.
  • Be concise, do not repeat information or cross-reference (i.e. no in-text references).

Sample Annotation (University of New England, 2020)

Need to contact a tutor?


Use this template to develop an annotation


This resource page has been developed to help you write an annotated bibliography, however, your lecturer may have specific ideas of what should and shouldn't be included in your assignment. Always ask your lecturer if unsure.