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Writing an Annotated Bibliography

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources you plan to use in your research project with notes explaining why you want to use them.  For each source, cite, then summarize and evaluate.  Usually, you will write one or two paragraphs for each source, but be sure to check assignment instructions.  Annotations can be just a sentence, or they can be a full page for each source.

Why Write an Annotated Bibliography?

Writing an annotated bibliography helps you engage deeply with your sources and think about how you will use them in your research paper.  After you finish your annotated bibliography, writing your research paper will be a lot easier.  You will save time and produce better results.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography:

Before you write, make sure that you have the best sources you can find.  Read all of your sources and take notes.  Are you 100% satisfied with the sources you found?  Are they high-quality and relevant for your topic?  If you think you can find better sources, do!  Ask a librarian if you need help.

Once, you have good sources, write your annotated bibliography by following these steps for each source:

  • Cite
  • Summarize - What is the source about and what does it say?
  • Evaluate - Why is the source credible?  How will you use it?  Why is it better than other sources?

Also make sure that your annotated bibliography as a whole follows the formatting guidelines of the style you are using (e.g., margins, headers, page numbers, etc.).

What is in the Evaluation?

Student often struggle with the evaluation part of an annotated bibliography, but think back to the tools we used to evaluate sources - The 5 W's!  These will give you a framework for what to include.

Who created it?

  • Why should you trust them?  Are they qualified?
  • Did you detect any bias?

What type of information is it?

  • What type of source is this (newspaper, magazine, scholarly article, video...)? 
  • What type of information does the source contain (statistics, interviews, opinions...)?
  • What claims does the source make, and do they sound reasonable?

Where did you find it?

  • What organization published the source?  Why should we trust them?
  • For websites, what is the domain (.edu, .gov, .org...)?

When was it created/updated?

  • Is the source current for your topic?

Why is this a good source?

  • How does the source support your thesis or answer your research question?
  • Why is this source better than others?  There are many sources on your topic.  What makes this one special?
  • What were the source's strengths and weaknesses?

Examples in MLA 9

Format Guidelines:

  • Your professor may require a longer entry for each source, so be sure to follow directions!
  • Use a ½ inch hanging indent for the citations and indent the annotation 1 inch.
  • Double-space the entire annotated bibliography (not shown).


Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New Press, 2021.

This book claims that the modern criminal justice system unfairly treats African Americans and compares this to Jim Crow laws and segregation. Due to mass incarceration, there are disproportionately many African Americans in prison. The author (Associate Professor of Law, Ohio State University) makes logical arguments that are easy to follow. Unlike many other sources on the topic of race and mass incarceration, this book provides extensive statistical evidence to support the author’s claims. For example, while African American males make up 14% of the total U.S. population, they make up over 40% of the U.S. prison population. This source will help show that there are racial differences in incarceration rates and that mass incarceration leads to institutionalized racism.

Al-Tahrawi, Khalil. "Virginia Seen as Good for Business." Washington Post, 31 Dec. 2021, p. A12. Opposing Viewpoints.

A recent survey by the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council ranked Virginia as the most business-friendly state in the nation and Maryland as thirty-sixth. Virginia’s low taxes and fewer corporate regulations make it ideal for business. The author of this newspaper article offers a balanced look at the survey results, pointing out that the organization conducting the survey is very conservative and that there is some disagreement about whether low taxes make a state business-friendly. States with higher taxes are able to spend more on infrastructure, such as roads, schools, colleges and other features that enhance the state economy. The author presents viewpoints from the governor of Virginia and several Maryland politicians. This article will help to demonstrate that state policies impact how attractive a state is to business owners.

Makeba, Mariam, et al. "An Investigation into Alleged Hauntings." British Journal of Psychology, vol. 94, no. 2, 2021, pp. 195-211. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection.

The authors of this article examine two supposedly haunted sites in England in order to determine the cause of the hauntings. They find that the “hauntings” are caused by psychological mechanisms activated by environmental factors such as lighting and magnetic fields. This article was published in the peer-reviewed scholarly journal British Journal of Psychology and the authors are professors at two prestigious universities. Their findings are similar to other articles on this topic, which explain reports of “ghostly activity” as psychological reactions to environmental stimuli. This article, however, identifies several new factors that were not considered in other articles – such as changes in lighting and magnetic fields. This supports my thesis that paranormal events have real-world psychological explanations, and it demonstrates how environmental factors can deceive the mind.