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Literature Review for Graduate Students in Education

Annotated Bibliography

Annotate: to add or make notes.

An annotated bibliography is a way to organize your sources. It is more than a citation and more than just a reiteration of the article.

An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation. Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following.

Summarize: Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say? The length of your annotations will determine how detailed your summary is.

For more help, see our handout on paraphrasing sources.

Assess: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?

For more help, see our handouts on evaluating resources.

Reflect: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?

Your annotated bibliography may include some of these, all of these, or even others. If you're doing this for a class, you should get specific guidelines from your instructor.

from Purdue Online Writing Lab, (OWL)


  • Find 
  • Read 
  • Choose 
  • Cite 
  • Annotate

               -your sources.

Be specific

•Author - who wrote the text? why? what experience have they?
•Brief summary of text - what are the aims and conclusions made?
•Why did you use this information - mention: reliability of the research; who was the intended audience? why did you like this text? what were the limitations of the text?
•A reflection - how did you use the text?

Be brief

That is what annotation means.

Format for an Annotated Bibliography

The format of an annotated bibliography can vary, so if you're doing one for a class, it's important to ask for specific guidelines such as which citation style to use for the format of each entry. Do you list each source in MLA, APA, or another style? Your professor should either suggest a style or help you choose one.

The annotations for each source are written in paragraph form. The lengths of the annotations can vary significantly from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages. The length will depend on the purpose. If you're just writing summaries of your sources, the annotations may not be very long. However, if you are writing an extensive analysis of each source, you'll need more space.

You can focus your annotations for your own needs. A few sentences of general summary followed by several sentences of how you can fit the work into your larger paper or project can serve you well when you go to draft.