Get Help
Skip to Main Content

Annotated Bibliographies: A Step by Step Guide

Learn how to create an annotated bibliography.

Step 6: Write the Annotations

For each item you selected, write down a concise summary of what it contains, and how it will inform someone. If appropriate, add evaluative comments telling what is or is not covered, any strengths or weaknesses you notice, and where it might fit into an overview of your topic. Note the author's experience and qualifications in their field, or lack of it. 

Ask yourself these questions to write an annotation:

  1. What is a short summary about the item (1-2 sentences)?
    • What are they saying?
    • Why was this written?
    • Who are they writing to (scholars, general public, etc.)?
  2. What is or is not included in the item?
  3. What strengths or weaknesses do you notice?
  4. How is it relevant to your topic?
  5. What are the author's experience and qualifications in their field, or lack of it?
  6. Are there obvious biases presented?


Breaking Down an Annotation

Example MLA Style Annotation

[STEP 1] Smith, John."Causes of the Russian Revolution." Critical Essays on the Russian Revolution, edited by David Fry, MIT Press, 1973, pp. 91-133.

Smith, [STEP 4] a Russian history professor at USC, based his research in this book chapter on documents discovered in the early 1970s. He reveals that a few Germans played a key role in the events leading up to the revolution. They provided money, arms, and leadership that helped the revolution get started. Smith's conclusions are radically different from those in Mark Johnson's Why the Red Revolution? However, Smith's case is [STEP 6] somewhat weakened by an anti-German bias, which was mentioned by two other sources. [STEP 3] Smith addresses himself to the scholar, but the language will be clear to any informed reader. The style is heavily argumentative, with [STEP 5] many footnotes to back up claims. [STEP 2] It is relevant to the research topic, specifically how anarchists played a role in the Russian Revolution. It is especially useful for its information on the action and attitudes of the anarchists. This chapter is cited by other writing about the Revolution, but is considered controversial. 


Step 1: Cite the source properly. Get more information about Citing Sources.

Step 2: Use RADAR: Relevance to explain how this source is related to your topic. Does it answer your research question? What does it add to your research so far?

Step 3: Use RADAR: Rationale to explain who the audience is for this source. What sort of language is used to talk about the topic?

Step 4: Use RADAR: Authority to talk about the author's credentials, affiliation, and relationship to the discipline or topic discussed in the source.

Step 5: Use RADAR: Accuracy to state whether other experts of scholars support this source's claims or not. Is there a shared expert opinion on this source?

Step 6: Use RADAR: Rationale to state whether the source presents obvious bias. Are they implying something not backed by evidence? Do they make statements not clearly linked to the evidence or data presented?



Advanced and Graduate Work

For more advanced and graduate level annotated bibliographies, which cover more territory and are evaluative and analytical, take a look at this online guide from the University of Toronto.  It distinguishes various kinds and levels of annotation, and gives guidance for critical analysis involving theoretical and research aspects of the individual items, and some sample words to spark your analytical writing.