Annotated Bibliographies

What Is an Annotated Bibliography? WATCH VIDEO

A bibliography  is a list of citations put together on a topic of interest. Citations follow a specific format depending on the subject area; for example, researchers in the humanities usually follow the style set by the Modern Language Association (or MLA).

An annotation is a commentary a reader makes after critically reading an information source. It can include a summary of the reading, the reader’s response to the reading, and/or questions/comments addressing the article’s clarity, purpose, or effectiveness.

An annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list (arranged by the last name of the authro) of research sources  (citations to books, articles, and documents). Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words or 4-6 sentences long) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

What is the purpose of an annotated bibliography?

They keep your reseach organized and are a great first step to preparing a paper or presentation. A list of works cited comes at the end of any research project, so if you do this step first, your bibliogprahy is completed as you work.  As you do in-text citations, your annotations will help remind you of an author's central themes or ideas.

Creating an Annotated Bibliography

  1. Find books, periodical articles, and other sources that provide useful information and ideas about your topic. Review these materials to make sure they are appropriate and valuable sources for your topic.
  2. Create citations for each item following the appropriate style.
  3. Write a concise annotation for each item (usually about 150 words or 4-6 sentences long). Annotations should include:
  • Main focus or purpose of the work (its relevance, accuracy, and quality of sources cited)
  • Background and credibility of the author
  • Intended audience
  • Special unique features
  • Weakness or bias

Questions to ask yourself as you critically analyze the item:

  • Who is the author? His/her credentials?, biases?
  • Where is the article published? What type of journal is it? What is the audience?
  • What do I know about the topic? Am I open to new ideas?
  • Why was the article written? What is its purpose?
  • What is the author’s thesis? The major supporting points or assertions?
  • Did the author support his/her thesis/assertions?
  • Did the article achieve its purpose?
  • Was the article organized?
  • Were the supporting sources credible?
  • Did the article change my viewpoint on the topic?
  • Was the article convincing?
  • What new information or ideas do I accept or reject?

Sample Citations

The following examples follow MLA format.

Journal Article

Robertson, Marta. "Musical and Choreographic Integration in Copland's and Graham's Appalachian Spring." Musical Quarterly 83.1 (Spring 1999): 6-26.

Martha Graham was the original choreographer for Copland's ballet, Appalachian Spring. Using both the composer's score and a filmed version of the original ballet, the author studies how Graham expressed Copland's music in dance. There are notated musical examples for particular parts of the score and transcriptions of dance rhythms for some of the soloist's steps. As both a dancer and a musicologist, the author offers a unique view combining both fields.


Smith, Julia. Aaron Copland: His Work and Contribution to American Music. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1955. 194-198.

Smith calls this book a "biographical-critical study" (Acknowledgments). The section on Appalachian Spring included in Chapter VII, "Third Style Period," provides a somewhat more technical analysis than some of the other studies do. Smith gives details about the work's commission from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation, first performance on Oct. 30, 1944, in the then-new Coolidge Auditorium in the Library of Congress, highly favorable critical reception, and receipt of the Pulitzer Prize for Music (1945) and Music Critics' Circle Award for outstanding theatrical work in the 1944-45 season. The brief but clear technical discussion comments on nearly all the eight sections of the 1945 orchestral arrangement, noting folk idioms and Shaker characteristics. Smith refers to the work of Manfred Buzofzer in discussing Copland's contrapuntal treatment of the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" in Section VII. She also cites some of S. M. Barlow's summary comments on Appalachian Spring , calling it "limpid, sparkling, and rhythmically diversified" (page 194). Three figures show sections of the score. Appendix II (pages 312-318) lists recordings, arranged by recording company, of Copland's works prior to this book's publication. There are four listed for Appalachian Spring .


Rubric for grading an annotated bibliography