Annotated Bibliography: Writing the annotation

Types of Annotations

Depending on the intended purpose of an Annotated Bibliography, an annotation may be presented in one of the following formats:

1. Descriptive or informative

This type of annotation provides an overview of the main points, arguments, and conclusions presented by the source without evaluating.
This can include:

  • Information about the author,
  • Summary of the content and a statement of the central points,
  • Description of the methodology,
  • Level of applicability of the source to the topic under investigation,
  • Indication of the elements of the text, e.g. graphs, tables, glossary.

2. Analytical or critical

This type of annotation evaluates the source’s strengths and weaknesses and its relationship to the specific field of research.
This can include:

  • Comments on the usefulness, trustworthiness and accuracy of the source as it relates to the field of research or audience,
  • Interpretations of the source,
  • Level of applicability of the source to your own research project,
  • Limitations of the study such as biases, sample size or lack of evidence.
  • Contribution to the research field with emphasises on its significance,

3. Combination

This approach is the most common type of Annotated Bibliography as it incorporates elements of the descriptive and analytical annotation types. Thus, in addition to a summary of the principal ideas of the source, the annotation provides an evaluation of its strengths and weakness to indicate the quality of the source and relevance to the research topic.This kind of annotation usually begins with broad comments on the focus of the source, then moves to more details followed by evaluative comments.

Strategies when Working on the Annotations

Instead of writing about the whole content of a source ask yourself why the content is presented, and how and why the author has addressed your research topic.

Familiarise yourself with the complete text of the source but focus on the Introduction and Conclusion sections which clarify the intent of the text and discuss the research results.

As you read the text note down the key terms, theories and main ideas and consider how they relate to the source’s field of research.

The following questions can help you form the basis of your evaluation:

  • What is the main idea or findings?  
  • Who are the authors and how do they compare with other authors?
  • What methods did the author use in the research?
  • Does the research methodology seem appropriate?  
  • What were the key findings?
  • Is there unique information in the source or is it recycling other research? 
  • How does the source confirm, challenge or change your research focus?
  • Should you or should you not include the source in your paper?  Why or why not?


Rules for Writing Annotations

When writing annotations it is important to consider the following: 

  • The length of the annotation depends on its purpose and task requirements, but should be brief; in most cases one paragraph long, 
  • The paragraph should contain a statement of the work's major ideas from which the rest of the sentences can develop, and should not repeat any information found in the citation itself,
  • Write in full sentences using an academic writing style,  
  • Use present tense verbs, "Smith states..." or "The evidence indicates that..." 
  • Present the annotation in your own words,
  • Include page numbers if a quotation supporting the statement is used, however,
  • No in-text citations are included,
  • Use transition words, e.g. furthermore, moreover, however, and therefore,
  • Avoid adjectives such as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’,
  • Arrange your Annotated Bibliography in alphabetical order from A-Z according to the first author surname of each cited source.

Please consult with your lecturer or tutor for more specific guidelines on how to present the annotation. 

Annotation vs Abstract

It is important to note there is a difference between an annotation and an abstract.

Abstracts are descriptive summaries of a text. Their purpose is to help readers make a quick decision about whether reading the whole text will assist their research.

Annotations include information about the source and its evaluation. They inform about the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources in relation to the research topic.