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Writing an Annotated Bibliography: Home

What is an Annotated Bibliography?


A "Bibliography" is like a "Works Cited" list of citations to books, articles, and other sources you used in your paper or project, but it is used in mathematics and the sciences and often also includes works that inform your thinking about a topic.

The "Annotation" follows the citation and is typically a brief (~150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph.

  • Length: Generally, annotations are one paragraph of approximately 150 words 
  • Person: Third person is the standard (avoid using "I")
  • Format: Whole sentences are preferable and if you use a quotation excerpted from the work set it within quotation marks

Why do it?

  • To summarize sources
  • To evaluate the strength of your sources for authority & quality
  • To reflect on sources

Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a very good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By both reading and responding to sources, you will start to understand what the issues are, and where there are scholarly disagreements, and this will help you develop your own point of view. Furthermore, annotated bibliographies help future researchers decide which sources will help them in their research.

Steps in Creating an Annotated Bibliography:

  1. Find a source as you normally would
  2. Read enough that you have an understanding of it
  3. Cite the source using the appropriate style in NoodleTools
  4. Write a concise annotation; include:
    1. the qualifications or authority of the author
    2. a summary of the central theme and scope of the source (e.g. main argument, point of book or article)
    3. a comment on the intended audience
    4. comparison or contrast with other works in your bibliography
    5. any special features included in or with the source (e.g. maps, photos, statistics, bibliography, CD)
    6. an explaination of how this work illuminates your topic--ask how the source fits into your research, if it was helpful to you, how it helped shape your argument, and whether it changed how you think about your topic
  5. Make sure you include works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic


Example of Each Element

Argersinger, Jo Ann E. The Triangle Fire: A Brief History with Documents. Bedford St. Martin's, 2009.

Qualifications of Author:

  • "Professor of history at Southern Illinois University and expert on labor and women, Dr. Jo Ann E. Argersinger writes that ..."

Summary & Scope:

  • "Using transcriptions of contemporary newspaper accounts, personal stories and songs, Argersinger sets out to illuminate the ways the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire set the nation on a new course of governmental social responsibility and oversight of working conditions as well as the importance of women's work in the industrialization of America."


  • "Written for the sophisticated high school or college student, the vocabulary and structure of the archival documents require a passing knowledge of the time period."

Bias or Standpoint of Author:

  • "Argersinger capably weaves together the stories of the factory workers and the social reformers who fought to improve conditions."

Comparison to Other Works in the Field:

  • "Unlike David Von Drehle's (Triangle, New York, Atlantic, 2003) recreation of the tragedy through vivid narrative storytelling, Argersinger relies heavily on historical documents to relay the factory conditions, the fire, and the time period."

Findings, Results, and Conclusions:

  • "Argersinger benefits from the 100 years since the fire to tell the story of labor unrest, protest and the fire, and its importance in launching the Progressive Era and the New Deal and the subsequent transformation of the Democratic Party into the champions of workers and urban reform that still exists today."

Special Features (bibliography, glossary, index, maps, CDs, or anything else that might be especially interesting to a researcher?):

  • "Notes, a few black & white photos, a chronology, questions for consideration, a selected bibliography, and an index are included."


  • "Although slim, this volume includes a concise story of the fire and its aftermath, as well as 25 transcribed contemporary documents that provide evidence for this provocative history. Each document is accompanied by notes as well as an explanation to help the reader put the speaker in context. The straightforward chronology of the fire is a unique feature, which extends from the 1900 foundation of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union to 2001, when the last survivor of the Triangle fire died at age 107."

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