Annotated Bibliography Writing Guide — Tips on MLA and APA

You are definitely aware that each piece of academic writing requires a reference list. That's the easy part.

However, if you are going to write the annotated bibliography (either as a part of your college task or just for your own convenience) for the first time, you will need to know what it is and how to do it right either in MLA or APA format.

What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is an organized list of citations to books, articles, and websites with a short summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources. Usually, the annotation consists of one paragraph with 100-150 words. But its length may vary depending on the purpose of the writing and your task.

Your bibliography has a clear indication of the relevancy and reliability of each source you use in your piece of academic writing. We have summarized the reasons for you to prepare it.

  • It helps you learn more about your topic.
  • You will analyze if the source is accurate and useful.
  • Determining how the sources in your reference list connect with each other.
  • Think of how this source adds to your knowledge on the subject, whether it is relevant to your research question.
  • Get a literature review on scholarly journal articles, books, government reports, websites, etc. you may use in your current or larger research projects.
  • Describe items that other students and researchers may find interesting in this topic.

Depending on the purpose, there are two major types of bibliographies.

  1. Descriptive or informative
  2. Analytical or critical
    • An analytical or critical annotation both summarizes and analyzes what is being said by the author. It evaluates whether the source is credible, handy, and relevant for the research you are conducting, as well as discovers the weak and strong points of the material presented.
    • Read the analytical or critical annotated bibliography template

However, there is one more type — combination. There, you should use both descriptive and analytical comments.

Always follow your instructor's directions if your bibliography is intended to be prepared for a class since its elements may vary. There may be additional kinds of information you will be asked to add. However, a typical one follows this outline.

  • Citation (the title, author, publisher, date, etc.) in the appropriate formatting style (you will learn about two main formatting styles, MLA and APA, further in this article)
  • The annotation:
  • Summary of the main points of the work or its purpose
  • Proof of the author's authority or qualification
  • Comments on the usefulness, relevance, and accuracy of the source in relation to the topic you are researching on a massive scientific scale and your own research project

Tips on Writing the Annotated Bibliography

1. Read the course task instructions carefully

If you are writing the annotated bibliography as a part of your assignment, read the requirements of your instructor. Check what type of annotation you are supposed to write. Here are some possible variations:

  • summarize only instead of writing an analytical annotation as well;
  • compare several sources on a given subject;
  • dwell on the place of the work during the investigation of this topic;
  • write more than 150 words for the annotation and to break it into sections.

2. Choose your sources

You will need a relatively narrow research question to succeed. During the research process, find sources that seem to be the most relevant to your subject matter. First, skim the works you think may be appropriate for your research. Then, read works that turned out to be the most useful for your research more carefully.

3. Format your annotated bibliography properly

Be sure to use the assigned bibliographic style (usually required either in the MLA (Modern Language Association) or APA (American Psychological Association) formats) to create bibliography entries that start each annotated source on your list.

Annotated bibliography in MLA format

MLA (Modern Language Association) format is frequently used for humanities such as languages, film, and cultural or other theoretical studies. It includes the list of the following core elements in this particular order:

  1. Author
  2. Title of source
  3. Title of container
  4. Other contributors
  5. Version
  6. Number
  7. Publisher
  8. Publication date
  9. Location

For more information on using MLA annotated bibliographies and examples, check the MLA Formatting and Style Guide

Annotated bibliography APA

APA (American Psychological Association) format is used to cite sources within the social and natural sciences like psychology, nursing, sociology, and social work. It has the following structure:

  1. Author
  2. Year of publication in brackets
  3. Title of work
  4. Publisher City
  5. State: Publisher

Read this APA citation guide for basic APA bibliography rules and examples.

4. Summarize and analyze your source

Rephrase the central idea of the source and how it adds to the topic you are researching (both in the framework of your research and general contribution to the investigation of this matter). Also, include information about whether the author deeply delves into the subject or just offers the general overview. What type of evidence does the author use? Is the material accurate?

Compare your ready document against this guide and ensure everything is in place.

When writing your annotation bibliography, mind the following things:

  • Length
    Usually, annotations constitute one paragraph that is approximately 100-150 words long.
  • Person
    Annotations are always written in the third person.
  • Wording and language
    Use the author's vocabulary as much as possible in order to convey their idea. Apply various sentence structures and avoid repetitive phrases. Note that full sentences are preferable.

Now, you are aware that creating an annotated bibliography requires a series of organized steps and some serious preparation. You will need all your analytical and intellectual skills to create it just the way you need to. It will be hard. But in the end, you will have a reference list with informative and evaluative annotations on each source you are using in your research.

Use this guide to write the annotated bibliography like an expert! But, if you feel like that's too much for you, ask our team of professional writers to do the job. With our service, you will get your work done on time with minimum efforts from your side.