What is an annotated bibliography?
An annotated bibliography provides a brief account of the available research on a given topic. It is a list of research sources that includes concise descriptions and evaluations of each source.
The annotation usually contains a brief summary of content and a short analysis or evaluation. Depending on your assignment you may be asked to reflect, summarise, critique, evaluate or analyse the source.
An annotated bibliography may be a component of a larger project or it may be a stand-alone assignment. While an annotation can be as brief as one sentence, the standard annotated bibliography consists of a citation followed by a short paragraph. An example is provided below.
Please note: the advice in this guide is general. We strongly recommend that you also follow your assignment instructions and seek clarification from your lecturer/tutor if needed.
Purpose of an annotated bibliography
Depending on your specific assignment, an annotated bibliography might:
- review the literature of a particular subject;
- demonstrate the quality and depth of reading that you have done;
- exemplify the scope of sources available—such as journals, books, web sites and magazine articles;
- highlight sources that may be of interest to other readers and researchers;
- explore and organise sources for further research.
When set as an assignment, an annotated bibliography allows you to get acquainted with the material available on a particular topic.
Questions to consider
You need to consider carefully the texts that you select for your annotated bibliography. Keep the following questions in mind to help clarify your choices.
- What topic/ problem am I investigating?
- What question(s) am I exploring? Identify the aim of your literature research.
- What kind of material am I looking at and why? Am I looking for journal articles, reports, policies or primary historical data?
- Am I being judicious in my selection of texts? Does each text relate to my research topic and assignment requirements?
- What are the essential or key texts on my topic? Am I finding them? Are the sources valuable or often referred to in other texts?
Which writing style should I use in the annotations?
- Each annotation should be concise. Do not write too much—remember, you are writing a summary, not an essay. Annotations should not extend beyond one paragraph unless otherwise stipulated in your assignment guidelines. As this is not an extended piece of writing, only mention significant and relevant details.
- Any information apparent in the title of the text or journal can be omitted from the annotation.
- Background materials and references to previous work by the same author usually are not included. As you are addressing one text at a time, there is no need to cross reference or use in-text citations to support your annotation.
- Unless otherwise stipulated, you should write in full sentences using academic vocabulary.
What does an annotated bibliography look like?
An annotated bibliography starts with the bibliographic details of a source (the citation) followed by a brief annotation.
As with a normal reference list or bibliography, an annotated bibliography is usually arranged alphabetically according to the author’s last name. An annotated bibliography summary should be about 100 - 200 words per citation—check with your lecturer/tutor as this may vary between faculties and assessments. Please also check with your lecturer about the elements each annotation should include.
Contents of an annotated bibliography
An annotation may contain all or part of the following elements depending on the word limit and the content of the sources you are examining.
- Provide the full bibliographic citation
- Indicate the background of the author(s)
- Indicate the content or scope of the text
- Outline the main argument
- Indicate the intended audience
- Identify the research methods (if applicable)
- Identify any conclusions made by the author/s
- Discuss the reliability of the text
- Highlight any special features of the text that were unique or helpful (charts, graphs etc.)
- Discuss the relevance or usefulness of the text for your research
- Point out in what way the text relates to themes or concepts in your course
- State the strengths and limitations of the text
- Present your view or reaction to the text
The citation goes first and is followed by the annotation. Make sure that you follow your faculty’s preferred citation style. The summary needs to be concise (please note the following example is entirely fictitious).
In the sample annotation below, each element is numbered (see Key).
(1) Trevor, C.O., Lansford, B. and Black, J.W., 2004, ‘Employee turnover and job performance: monitoring the influences of salary growth and promotion’, Journal of Armchair Psychology, vol 113, no.1, pp. 56-64.
(2) In this article Trevor et al. review the influences of pay and job opportunities in respect to job performance, turnover rates and employee motivation.(3) The authors use data gained through organisational surveys of blue-chip companies in Vancouver, Canada to try to identify the main causes of employee turnover and whether it is linked to salary growth.(4) Their research focuses on assessing a range of pay structures such as pay for performance and organisational reward schemes.(5) The article is useful to my research topic, as Trevor et al. suggest that there are numerous reasons for employee turnover and variances in employee motivation and performance.(6) The main limitation of the article is that the survey sample was restricted to mid-level management,(7) thus the authors indicate that further, more extensive, research needs to be undertaken to develop a more in-depth understanding of employee turnover and job performance.(8) This article will not form the basis of my research; however it will be useful supplementary information for my research on pay structures.
(3) Aims & Research methods
(5) Usefulness (to your research/ to a particular topic)
(8) Reflection (explain how this work illuminates your topic or how it will fit in with your research)
Both Reference Lists and Bibliographies are placed at the end of your essay, assignment or thesis (unless your lecturer has specified differently, which may be the case for theses). Citations (references) are then arranged alphabetically by author or responsible organisation, or where no author is given, by title. (If the first word is a definite/indefinite article it should be ignored, e.g. The Story of Art should be filed alphabetically under Story). Citations by the same author are then arranged chronologically, with the most recent first.
It is important you consult with your lecturer or Course Notes to determine whether a Reference List or Bibliography is required.
Reference List (Example)
About Jenny Holzer 2011, dvd, Microcinema International, San Francisco, California.
Art + soul : a journey into the world of aboriginal art2010, television program, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney, 4 October.
Art Farmer 1978, Art, sound recording, Cadet Records, Chicago, Ill.
Chains = Cantene/Titanus 2011, motion picture, British Film Institute, London.
Colli, MG 2009, Bilbao_6 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, photograph, viewed 4 January 2012, <http://www.flickr.com/photos/52355315@N08/5757476385/>.
Di Trocchio, P 2011, Manstyle : men + fashion, exhibition catalogue, 11 March-27 November, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Vic.
Eales, S (ed.) 2003, The Jacaranda atlas, 3rd edn, John Wiley & Sons, Brisbane.
Fujimoto, Tetsuo 1998, Work 98-1, Fibre art : Hemp cloth, polyester threads, Pellon backing and natural plant dyes Exhibited at: Textural Space exhibition, Surrey Institute of Art & Design, 27 Apr - 23 Jun 2001.
Google Earth 6.0. 2008. Hylands House and estates 51°42'39.17"N, 0°26'11.30"W, elevation 60M. 3D Buildings data layer, viewed 31 August 2011, <http://www.google.com/earth/index.html >.
Gorman, P 2001, The look: adventures in pop & rock fashion, Sanctuary Publishing Ltd, London.
Gough, P 2017, What makes art good or bad?, video recording, Youtube, viewed 17 July 2017,
Le Corbusier, c. 1950-1954, Notre-Dame du Haut, exterior, Ronchamp, France, viewed 12 January 2012, Oxford Art Online database.
Liebovitz, A 2002, Dancers: photographs by Annie Liebovitz, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.
Melbourne Water 2012, Weekly water report 5 January 2012: Chart view Daily residential water use in Melbourne, Melbourne Water, Victoria, viewed 12 January 2012, <http://www.melbournewater.com.au/content/water_storages/report>.
Mojang 2009, Minecraft, video game, Xbox 360, Mojang, Sweden.
Nefertari with Isis, n.d. photograph, viewed 4 January 2012, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ankh_isis_nefertari.jpg>.
Sallowsky, M 2006, RMIT buildings - Brunswick campus, digital image, RMIT University, Melbourne, viewed 12 January 2012, <http://www.rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=218ujxd8tspl1>.
Turner, JMW 1812, Snow storm: Hannibal and army crossing the alps, Oil on canvas, 145×2360 mm, Turner Collection, Tate Gallery, Britain.
Ubisoft Entertainment 2012, Assassins creed III, computer program, Ubisoft Australia.