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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

This guide is designed to help you learn more about writing annotated bibliographies and how they can be useful for conducting research.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is an enhanced list of citations that briefly summarizes each article, book, or other source of information and explains why it is important for your topic.  It can be divided into two distinct parts: the annotation and the bibliography.

  • A Bibliography is a list of articles, books, and or other sources of information that have been used for researching a topic. This list is called “References” In APA format or “Works Cited” in MLA format.  All academic papers should have a bibliography that lists the sources used for its creation. 
  • An Annotation is a short paragraph that summarizes a source and describes how it is relevant to your research.  To annotate literally means “to make notes.”

There is not an official format for annotated bibliographies, though usually the bibliographic citation is written in APA or MLA format.  If this is being done for a class, ask the instructor which format you should use.‚Äč

Created by Kimbel Library Instructional Videos at Coastal Carolina University


Example of entries on an Annotated Bibliography

Henderson, R., & Honan, E. (2008). Digital literacies in two low socioeconomic classrooms: Snapshots of practice. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, (7)2, 85-98.

Provides snapshots of digital practices in two middle-level classrooms within low socioeconomic suburbs in Australia during one school term. Ethnographic research techniques were used to investigate (1) teachers' pedagogical approaches to using digital literacy practices with low-income students; (2) students' access to digital technologies at home and at school; and (3) how home literate practices compared to the practices valued in school. Results underscore the need to disrupt teachers' deficit views of these students' home digital literacies so that school practices can be built upon the knowledge and literacies students already have. 

(Beach et al., 2009)

Frazen, K., & Kamps, D. (2008). The utilization and effects of positive behavior support strategies on an urban school playground. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 10, 150-161. doi: 10.1177/1098300708316260.

This study examined the effectiveness of a school-wide PBS recess intervention across three grades—2nd, 3rd, and 4th.  The intervention included a token economy system for following five operationally defined, positively stated school rules.  A multiple baseline design across grades was used to determine the effectiveness of the swPBS recess intervention on inappropriate behaviors.  Intervention was implemented across the three grades at staggered times.  When intervention was implemented, inappropriate behavior demonstrated a change in level for all grades and a decrease in variability for one grade (2nd). Trend was relatively stable across all phases for two classrooms and a slight increasing trend was observed during baseline for the 4th grade that stabilized once the intervention was implemented. Experimental control was demonstrated when (1) baseline behavior remained consistent despite the implementation of intervention in other grades, (2) only when intervention was implemented was a change in behavior level observed, and (3) experimental control was demonstrated at three distinct points. 

(McCoy, 2015)

Why are Annotated Bibliographies useful?

An annotated bibliography demonstrates your understanding of a topic.  It's easy to add a source to a reference list and forget about it when you just need a citation, but you will read and evaluate that source more carefully when you have to write an annotation for it. Since annotations need to be more than just a summary and explain the value of each source, you are forced to think critically and develop a point of view on the topic.  Writing an annotated bibliography is a great way to start preparing a major research project because you will see what arguments have already been proposed in the literature and where your project can add something new to the larger body of work.

Reading published scholarly annotated bibliographies is an efficient method for starting research since they will provide a comprehensive overview of a topic and introduce what other researchers are saying about a topic.



Beach, R., Bigelow, M., Dillon, D., Dockter, J., Galda, L., Helman, L., . . . Janssen, T. (2009). Annotated Bibliography of Research in the Teaching of English. Research in the Teaching of English, 44(2), 210-241. Retrieved from

McCoy, D. (2015). Annotated bibliography #1 behavior research methods [Class handout]. Behavior Analysis, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH.

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