What Is an Annotated Bibliography – Definition

When you need to write an annotated bibliography and the term just sounds like a bunch of words to you, you should understand its meaning. Simply, an annotated bibliography is a list of sources with small descriptions. It’s usually used to show the reader the amount of research that was already conducted on a particular topic. An annotated bibliography can be written as independent writing or be a part of your research project.

What Is an Annotated Bibliography – Definition

Why Do You Need an Annotated Bibliography?

You need an annotated bibliography so you can learn more about your subject. If you are on the path of writing a research project, an annotated bibliography will be a great help. It’s very useful to start writing the bibliography (collecting sources), but it will be more beneficial if you write an annotation to each source you’ve picked. It’s all because you need not only to read the source, but also to think critically on its content. Because of the annotated bibliography, you will have a clear look on the sources and how they fit your own project. Also, it will help with formulating a thesis and to find the real purpose of your research. It’s very important to make your thesis interesting, actual, and debatable. By filtering information from picked sources, you will find answers to what topics are most discussed and what the current issues are, and you will be able to formulate your own viewpoint.

Also, annotated bibliographies assist others who are interested in the topic. Profoundly designed annotated bibliographies are sometimes printed in different scientific journals or published on scientific sites. Such annotated bibliographies usually present a deep overview of literature that was written about a particular issue or scientific field. As you are a potential candidate to get your annotated bibliography published, you should take a look at already existing material on the Internet or in your university library.

Formatting Your Annotated Bibliography

Usually, an annotated bibliography consists of citations and annotations.


If you have ever written a bibliography, you know how a citation looks. Pay attention, however, because your tutor may give you a certain formatting style for your bibliography (mostly used: APA, MLA, Chicago.) Devote some time to find out more about what is annotated bibliography – example in APA.


The usual length of an annotation is about 100-300 words. This is a general recommendation, so your tutor may have other ideas of how an annotated bibliography should look. Don’t forget to read the guidelines for your assignment and take into account your tutor’s wishes.

You may include such information to your annotation:

  • Conclusions of the source
  • Main strengths and weaknesses of the source
  • Brief summary
  • Interrelations with other sources
  • Explanation for why this source is relevant to the topic
  • Description of author’s background

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