Guide to Annotated Bibliographies

By: Olivia Garrone

Often used as one of the first steps in writing a paper, the annotated bibliography is an ideal way to analyze the sources you plan to use. Looking for a place to start? Learn the basics with our guide below.

Step One: Choose your style

Professors will often specify which citation style to use. If yours doesn’t, use the style you have done in the past for the class or department you’re in. As a last resort, default to MLA for humanities classes, CBE/CSE for specific life and medical sciences, and APA for just about everything else.

Step Two: Cite your sources 

Once you’ve chosen the appropriate style for your annotated bibliography, consult the corresponding style guide to write your citations. Purdue Owl has helpful guides on how to write MLA, APA, and other major styles. Remember to follow the style guide beyond the basic citation format, remembering to order your citations alphabetically and indent appropriately. 

Step Three: Write your annotations

There are three basic components of annotations: summary, evaluation, and reflection. Annotated bibliographies can focus on one of the components or combine them. Professors often specify the expected type and length of annotations for assignments; otherwise, you can default to incorporating a paragraph or a few sentences on each of the three main components in the following sequence.

  • Summary. Begin your annotation by summarizing the source. Keep your summary concise, focusing on the main ideas and the important points most relevant to the paper you will be writing.
  • Evaluation. Next, take a critical look at the source and evaluate its merits. Does the information seem reliable? What are the strengths of the source? What are the weaknesses of the source? Provide a short critique. 
  • Reflection. Finally, reflect on how you plan to use the source in your final paper. Which parts of the paper will this source inform? What parts of the paper will this source inspire, influence, or otherwise affect? Did this source challenge your overall understanding of the topic? 

Repeat this annotation process for each source, then you’re done. Take a look below for an example of a short APA style annotated citation.

APA Example: 

Gillborn, D. (2015). Intersectionality, Critical Race Theory, and the Primacy of Racism: Race, Class, Gender, and Disability in Education. Qualitative Inquiry, 21(3), 277–287.

Evidenced by an English study on Black Middle Class families, Gilborn explores the vital role of intersectionality in Critical Race Theory. He begins by defining the complex concepts of whiteness, intersectionality, and Critical Race Theory. Then, he dives into the striking study on special education referrals for Black youth, finding that regardless of their economic capital, Black families have a significantly harder time getting their children the disability labels and accommodations they need in the classroom. Meanwhile, he finds that negative labels for their children come much more easily from the schools. While these findings are illuminating, they are held back by the small sample size of the case study itself. Nevertheless, this study could be used to support the importance of recognizing and responding to intersectional issues when discussing a vision for the practical application of Multicultural Education in classrooms. 

Works Consulted

“A Guide to Annotated Bibliographies.” The Writing Center, George Mason University, 2014,

“Annotated Bibliographies.” The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “Annotated Bibliography Samples.” Purdue Online Writing Lab,

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