An annotated bibliography is an essential part of the writing process, especially when it comes to extended papers, such as research papers or thesis works. Even though it is widespread, students still tend to make mistakes while preparing their annotated bibliographies. On, we have prepared a short, yet effective guide on how to write such types of papers. Check it out!

What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a piece of writing which aims to describe sources used in research and their significance. It is written in a form of short entries with reference, brief description, and importance of the source. 

How Long It Should Be?

There is no specific word count for annotated bibliographies as their length depends on the number of sources you use. Typically, each entry should contain 125-250 words; so, if you need to describe 3 sources, for example, your annotated bibliography will contain approximately 600-700 words. However, your professor may demand more or fewer words for each entry, depending on the depth of your research and sources analysis. 

Is There Any Structure? 

Yes, there is a clear structure for an annotated bibliography. It consists of a reference, formatted according to requirements (APA, MLA, AMA, Harvard, etc.), a brief description of the content, the importance of the study, and the reason for use in your research. Each entry should have at least four sentences, according to this structure. However, you may also add other information. For instance, you can mention the author’s credibility: if the author is well-known in your field of study or is one among several specialists in your topic, it’s worth mentioning. You can use a specific quote and mention the source’s strengths or weaknesses. Still, if you criticize the source, you should substantiate your decision to use it in the paper. 

What are the Types of Annotated Bibliographies?

There are two types of annotated bibliographies:

  • Descriptive/Informative — summarized the source
  • Analytical/Critical — analyzes the source, providing an overview of its strengths and weaknesses.

Usually, students are asked to write the second type as it presupposes the use of critical thinking skills, which are essential for an academic career. 

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

Below you will find a step-by-step guide that should help you in writing your annotated bibliography. Make sure to follow each step to get an awesome result. 

  • Choose the strongest and the most relevant sources

It would be much easier to prove their relevance in each entry as you won’t need to discuss their gaps and weaknesses. We also recommend choosing only credible peer-reviewed sources as only those will provide you with clear and accurate data. The better sources you find, the better entries you will have.

  • Study the sources

You cannot write an entry based on an abstract or brief review of the source. Make sure to read each source carefully — you will do it anyway when completing your research further. 

  • Define the main idea of each source

As you are limited in your word count, make sure to state a clear aim and idea of each source you use. It should be written in the first two sentences of your entry.

  • Check the formal data

You may find useful information to include when studying author or academic acceptance of your source. Maybe the author was heavily criticized for his position or was sponsored by a corporation that is interested in specific research outcomes? That would be an important point to mention. 

  • Always connect the source with your research

You may find a perfect source of a well-known author, but if you will mention him only once in your research, there is not much use for it. 

  • Don’t be afraid of being critical

It’s okay to point out the possible gaps in the sources: in such a way, you will be more cautious and attentive while working with them. Still, you should explain why you have decided to use a specific source despite its limitations.

  • Format your annotated bib

It should look nice and perfectly structured, so make sure to follow formatting requirements and make each entry similar in word count to the rest. 

Free Example of an Annotated Bibliography

Below we have written a small entry example with APA formatting. You can rely on it while completing your own writing. 

Peto, T. (2017). Why the voting age should be lowered to 16.” Politics, Philosophy & Economics17(3), 277–297. doi:10.1177/1470594x17705651.

In his article, Peto states that the voting age should be reduced to 16 because of the inconsistency of proof of their political immaturity. The author examined the evidence provided by Chan and Clayton (2006) and demonstrated that the characteristics of 16- and 17-year-olds that were used by the scholars cannot be used to explain their exclusion from the voting booth (Peto 277). Further, the author examined preliminary data from Austria that illustrated that 16- and 17-year-olds were politically mature when allowed to vote. Although the studies used in the article are not numerous, their conclusions can provide scientific argumentation on the necessity to lower the voting age. 

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