This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.
Contributors: Geoff Stacks, Erin Karper, Dana Bisignani, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 12:16:22
A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).
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.
Why should I write an annotated bibliography?
To learn about your topic: Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully. You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information. At the professional level, annotated bibliographies allow you to see what has been done in the literature and where your own research or scholarship can fit. To help you formulate a thesis: Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So, a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting, and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and responding to a variety of sources on a topic, you'll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you'll then be able to develop your own point of view.
To help other researchers: Extensive and scholarly annotated bibliographies are sometimes published. They provide a comprehensive overview of everything important that has been and is being said about that topic. You may not ever get your annotated bibliography published, but as a researcher, you might want to look for one that has been published about your topic.
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.
The bibliographic information: Generally, though, the bibliographic information of the source (the title, author, publisher, date, etc.) is written in either MLA or APA format. For more help with formatting, see our MLA handout. For APA, go here: APA handout.
The annotations: 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.
Formatting your cover page for an annotated bibliography can be rather challenging when you don’t know how to do it right. First you need to settle whether or not your bibliography is a stand-alone bibliography or part of a more detailed paper (thesis, dissertation, essay, etc.). Then you need to decide what formatting style you’ll be using for your paper (APA, MLA, or Chicago).
An annotated bibliography is in fact a thorough list of citations. These citations are usually taken from documents, articles, journals, books and e-books. Each citation comes with a brief that is no longer than 150 words; the brief is an evaluative and descriptive paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of an annotation is to inform the reader on the quality, relevance and accuracy of the sources cited. Let’s have a closer look on how to format an annotated bibliography cover page in the following styles: APA, MLA and Harvard.
Annotated bibliography cover pages aren’t particularly addressed in the 6th edition of the APA manual. The best thing that you can do is to follow the guidelines your professor has given you for the paper. When creating an annotated bibliography cover page in APA, the following general guidelines on the style might really help:
- The title page of an APA formatted paper consists of the title of the paper, the name of the author, and your educational institution.
- It must have a running head in the upper left corner of the page and a number in the upper right corner. You must the title in the upper part of the page in the center using lowercase and uppercase letters.
- Everything should be double-spaces having 1” margins on all sides.
- The recommendations from APA say that it is necessary to use Times New Roman font of size 12.
Unless you have specific instructions from your professor, you need to use these instructions while preparing a cover page for an annotated bibliography in APA.
In case your annotated bibliography is included in a paper, then a cover page is not required. However, if you are required to submit only the annotated bibliography, you are advised to include a cover page. Then again there no specific rules for doing that. If your professors ask you to format your paper in MLA, the annotated bibliography cover page should be formatted like a title page of any MLA academic paper. You need to take into account several rules here:
- MLA papers do not need a separate page for a title. You can use the 1st page of your annotated bibliography (upper left corner, to be more specific).
- You need to include your name, your supervisor’s name, the date and the course.
- The title must be written according to the usual capitalization standards.
- You have to double space before and after the title.
- Upper right corner must contain a header with your last name and the number of the page after a single space.
These guidelines should assist you in writing a cover page of annotated bibliography.
Last but not least, we have the Harvard type of formatting. When writing a cover page of an annotated bibliography in the Harvard format, it is important to consider the guidelines of organizing the title page of a paper completed in this style.
- The title should be centered in the upper part of the page and all the letters must be capitalized.
- In the next line after the title you need to write your name.
- After 4 lines down you mention the name of the course, the name of your tutor, university, its location and the date (every part is on the separate line).
- There must be a header in the upper right corner of the page (the title of your paper) followed by a number of the page.
There you have it guys! Formatting a cover page for an annotated bibliography isn’t that difficult after all. To make things easier for you when citing a source in a given format, you can always use the Free Citation Generator.
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