Annotated bibliography

  • An annotated bibliography is a list of academic sources (books, journal articles, etc.) with short comments underneath each source that summarise their content and evaluate their usefulness for a research purpose.

    Our top tips


    Be selective. Each annotation is usually relatively short (100-200 words) so you do not need to summarise everything in the source. Focus on the usefulness to your research and your purpose. Look at these prompt questions to help structure your annotations concisely:

    Full reference (not included in word count)
    What it is about?
    • The author’s purpose, aim or question
    • Main argument, central idea, findings or conclusions
    • What sort of text is it? General? Specific?
    What do I think about it?
    • Who is it written for?
    • Particular strengths, from your point of view
    • Any weaknesses or limitations?
    How might I use it?
    • Has the text helped you understanding something better? How useful is it? Will you use it? How?

    Table created by Kate Williams


    As well as summarising the main argument of each source, analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the source. See this example annotation that highlights the parts that evaluate the source and reflect on its usefulness:


    See the following annotated bibliographies as examples of what they look like as a whole:

    Not a literature review

    Do not confuse an annotated bibliography with a literature review. You might be asked to write an annotated bibliography as preparation for a literature review. However, a literature review compares and links sources so does not take the form of a list. See our literature review tips to understand the difference: