C. Munzenmaier Hamilton College Urbandale, IA

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Annotated Bibliography
Overview Online Tool Hints
Class Materials Resources


A bibliography is a list of sources. An annotation is a brief description.

An annotated bibliography includes all the information you'd put in your Reference list, plus a brief description of the source.

For examples of annotated bibliographies, see

Why not just call it a "list of sources"? Knowing the term bibliography makes it easier to find good information. For example, a Google search for ADHD and annotated bibliography turns up a site with articles, interviews, and "links to other credible and useful resources." The New Horizons site has everything you need to narrow your topic and find good information on ADD/ADHD, including a bibliography.

Why make a list of sources? When you choose a topic for a paper, it's smart to check out whether enough sources are available. You can also review your list to be sure that your sources don't favor just one side of an issue. As you look for sources, you're building background that will help you understand what you read. According to Raygor, a research paper is "a record of intelligent reading." Choosing your sources carefully will give you more to think about, and therefore more to write about.

Why add a description? In a capstone course, having an overview of quality resources saves you time. If you give a presentation, you can hand out a list of recommended sources for those who want more information.

Here's an example of how you might create a list of sources on the job: an article on market research that includes recommended resources.


In this course, your annotated bibliography should cover sources you could use in your argument paper. Your list of possible sources should

• include at least six credible sources on the topic (nothing from the National Enquirer, please!)

• cover the full range of arguments on the topic, pro and con

Suppose you argue that "gay marriage doesn't hurt anybody." An opponent says, "What about Stanley Kurtz's Scandanavian study?" You won't prove your point by replying, "What study?" You need to know all of the arguments commonly made for and against your position. For another example, see "Gun Control Buzzwords" at SpeakOut.com.

• include more than one type of source. You might include sources from a professional journal, reliable Web sites, and metasites.

• include a brief (2–4 sentence) summary of what the source covers and a short (1–2 sentence) explanation of why it's credible or useful. You might also explain how it fits into your research.

Consider these questions:

  • What audience is this source intended to reach?
  • What could this source be used for?
  • Why does this information matter?
  • Does anything makes this source more valuable than others on the same topic?
  • Why can you trust this source?

• be written in APA format

An online tool will take you step-by-step through creating an APA bibliography; free registration is required.

  1. Click on the Bedford Bibliographer link.
  2. First-time users will be asked to provide an email address and choose a password.
  3. Once you log in, you will see a New Project button in the top right corner. You will also be able to access any bibliographies you have created.
  4. Give your project a name and choose American Psychological Association as your documentation style. Then click the Create Project button.
  5. Add sources. First choose a source type from the dropdown menu. Then answer the questions. Helpful hints to the right will help you follow APA rules.
  6. To enter the text, click the Annotation and Evaluation tabs. You do not need to use the Content tab.
  7. When you are finished, click Save and then Close.
  8. You will see all of the entries you have made. To create a bibliography, click View Bibliography.
  9. You will be asked what should be included. To create an annotated bibliography, choose Include annotations and Include evaluations. To create a reference list, check nothing.
  10. You can then download your bibliography or have it emailed to you as an attachment.

Note: this citation-maker is more accurate than Citation Machine. It even preserves hanging indents.

Still have questions about what needs to be included in your annotated bibliography? See the Internet Resources and Hints for Finding Sources below.

Hints for Finding Sources

  • Librarians and your teachers can help you identify professional journals.
  • To find sites that list recommended resources on a topic, visit the Research page
  • To find the full range of opinions on a topic
  • If you're not finding enough resources, use Ixquick or Metacrawler to get results from several search engines at once.
  • If you're getting too many results or need different keywords, use Clusty or KartOO to cluster results.
  • If you find a useful article in a database, you can usually email it to yourself. Check the top or bottom of the screen for the email link.
  • If you want to remember a website, you can FurlIt! to create your own personal web archive.

Class Materials

Is This a Good Annotated Bibliography? (.doc)

Annotated Bibliographies (PPT)

Revision Checklist (.doc)

Peer Edit form (.doc)

Hamilton College Style Guide (APA citation style, updated for 5th edition)

Internet Resources

Bedford Bibliographer (online tool)

APA tips for annotated bibliographies (Lesley University)

Develop an Annotated Bibliography (step-by-step guide)

Writing Summaries (analytic/evaluative summary is most helpful)

Annotated Bibliography (UMass Dartmouth)

How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography (Cornell)

How to Distinguish Between Popular and Scholarly Periodicals


Annotated Bibliographies (UNC Writing Center)

Annotated Bibliographies (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Writing an Annotated Bibliography (UM-Crookston; good list of things to include)

Annotated Bibliographies (Purdue)

How to Evaluate a Professional Journal Article (tutorial)

Problem-Solving (UColorado)



   Copyright in these materials belongs to C. Munzenmaier © 2006.
Teachers are free to reproduce or modify them for nonprofit educational use. 

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