Annotated Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a paragraph, usually about 150 words in length, known as the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to evaluate the relevance and accuracy of the cited sources. Unlike abstracts, that are descriptive summaries, annotations are descriptive and critical; they reveal the author's point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority.

A Bibliographic Citation is the written description of a text, book, journal article, essay, report, web page or some other material that has been quoted or used as an authority. A complete citation for a single-authored book includes author, title, publication information and year. A complete citation for a journal article includes author, article title, title of the journal, volume number, issue number, page numbers and year.

The elements of a complete citation of other types of publication are different. See the relevant Referencing Style for further information on specific types of publications.

Preparing an Annotated Bibliography:

  • Locate and record citations to books, journals and documents on your topic. Examine and review these.
  • Select those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.
  • Cite the book, article, or document using the required referencing style.
  • Write a concise annotation on the central theme and scope of the work.
  • Include:
    • An evaluation of the authority or background of the author
    • A comment on the intended audience
    • A comparison of this work with another you have cited or an explanation on how this work illuminates your bibliography topic

Critically Appraise the following:

Author's credentials - institutional affiliation (where author works); educational background; past writings.

Date of Publication
Publication date on the title page or on its reverse or copyright date; last update on web pages.

Edition or Revision:
Indicates the work has been updated or become a standard source.

Whether publisher is well-known or the work is published by a university press, an indication the work has academic merit.

Title of Journal
Whether the journal is scholarly (peer-reviewed), professional or trade, or a popular magazine.

Types of Journals

Scholarly journals

  • Cite sources in footnotes, reference lists or bibliographies
  • Articles are written by an expert or researcher in the field
  • Target audience is fellow researchers or students; language use is that of the discipline covered
  • Purpose is to report original research or experimentation.

Trade or Professional journals

  • May cite sources but often do not
  • Articles written by writers or free-lance journalists with subject expertise
  • Target audience is people in a particular trade or profession
  • Language use is appropriate to an educated reader
  • Published by professional or commercial bodies
  • Purpose is to provide information to a wide readership

Popular magazines

  • Seldom cite sources
  • Information is frequently second hand and original source often obscure
  • Articles are usually short and written by reporters or staff writers
  • Target audience is the general public
  • Language used is familiar, plain simple journalistic style
  • Purpose is to provide general information and /or entertain

Content Analysis


  • Read the preface to determine the author's intentions for the book.
  • Scan the table of contents and the index to get an overview of the material it covers.
  • Note whether bibliographies are included.
  • Read the chapters that specifically address your topic.

Journal Article

  • Look at the table of contents of the journal. Read the author's credentials and the abstract of the article.
  • Look for a bibliography at the end of the article which may indicate the depth of the research.
  • Read the article.

Intended Audience

  • Note type of audience the author is addressing.
  • Note intended level - elementary, technical, advanced.


  • Note whether the information is fact, opinion, or persuasive (facts can usually be verified; opinions are interpretation of facts).
  • Note whether the information is well-researched, supported, objective and impartial.


  • Note whether the work updates other sources.
  • Note whether the work substantiates other works have read, or adds new information.
  • Note whether your topic is extensively or marginally covered.
  • Note whether the material is from a primary or secondary source (scholars use this primary material to help generate an historical interpretation which is a secondary source).

Evaluating Web Pages

  • Accuracy whether the page lists the author and institution that published the page and provides a means of contact.
  • Authority whether author credentials and whether they are included.
  • Objectivity whether accurate objective information is provided and advertising limited.
  • Currency whether the page is current, updated regularly (as stated on the page) and the links are also up-to-date.