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Online Writing Lab

Annotated Bibliography


Annotated Bibliographies

An annotated bibliography is a prewriting assignment that typically accompanies a comprehensive research paper. The purpose of an annotated bibliography is to conduct research on a topic and organize and analyze the research. In order to create an annotated bibliography, it is necessary for the writer to thoroughly read each source that will be annotated in the bibliography. Reading each source will not only allow the writer to explore the topic and formulate a thesis, but also understand the academic conversation that is occurring within the field of the topic. Understanding the current conversation of the topic is important because the writer can then contribute to the conversation.

The word annotation means to summarize or explain a particular document.  A bibliography is a list of sources that are used (or will be used) in a research paper, and sometimes even includes sources that are evaluated during research but not actually used in the essay (this is often called the “works consulted”). (The previous sentences in blue were taken from the Aims OWL Annotated Bibliography website because I didn’t see any need to change them. I hope that’s okay.) By annotating the sources, the writer can begin to piece together how a source may be useful in his or her paper. Although not all sources will be used in the actual research paper, having a variety of research is beneficial for background knowledge and context.

General format

An annotated bibliography is a list of annotated sources cited in MLA, APA, or Chicago Style that are listed in alphabetical order. Typically, an annotated bibliography will require two paragraphs: 1) a summary of the source and 2) an evaluation of the source (i.e. how the source will be useful in the research paper). However, the annotation requirements may vary by instructor; for example, some instructors may only want one paragraph of summary and evaluation, or a paragraph of freewriting exploring ideas about the source in place of an evaluation.

In addition to the varying annotation requirements per instructor, there also may be a requirement on the types of sources allowed in the annotated bibliography. Some instructors may only allow scholarly, peer-reviewed sources (i.e. articles published in scholarly journals like PMLA, Journal of Gender Studies, or The Journal of the American Medical Association), whereas other instructors may allow non-scholarly sources (i.e. websites like Buzzfeed, Forbes, or TIME). Typically, the types of sources allowed will depend on the topic being researched. However, most college-level research papers will require scholarly, peer-reviewed sources to ensure reliability.

Brief examples

The following is an example of one source with a summary paragraph and evaluation paragraph (MLA format-8th Edition):

Alaimo, Stacy. “Darwinian Landscapes: Hybrid Spaces and the Evolution of Woman in Sarah Orne Jewitt and Mary Wilkins               Freeman.” Undomesticated Ground: Recasting Nature as Feminist Space. Cornell University Press, 2000.

            This chapter outlines several works by Sarah Orne Jewitt and Mary Wilkins Freeman and identifies the domestic and undomesticated spaces that are present within each story. Alaimo discusses the domestic space as a space within a home, or private place, and the undomesticated space as nature. Within both Sarah Orne Jewitt and Mary Wilkins Freeman’s writings, the female characters are seen in both domestic and undomesticated space. The female characters have the ability to cross between the domestic and undomesticated space, which allows the women to live in a hybrid world between both spaces. These female characters are depicted as having a certain closeness to nature, which was unusual during the 19th century because women typically remained confined to the domestic space due to male oppression.

            Alaimo’s discussion of the hybrid domestic and undomesticated space will be useful to my research because I am examining the relationship between women and the natural world in Sarah Orne Jewitt’s The Country of the Pointed Firs, Marsh Rosemary, and A White Heron. The female character’s within each story cross the line between the domestic and undomesticated space. Discontent with their domestic lives, the female characters demonstrate an agency unusual for women of their time period. This chapter will help me analyze the women’s special connection to nature that frees them from the oppressing male characters. In addition this chapter will allow me to highlight why wilderness is not only reserved for the masculine but can also be feminine space.  


The following is an example of one source with a summary paragraph and free-write paragraph (APA format):

Bauman, Z. (2007). “Consumerism versus Consumption.” Consuming Life. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

            Bauman discusses today’s society as a consumer-based society. A society of consumers demands instant gratification and unlimited access to fulfillment of all wants and needs. With that, such a culture creates instabilities of desires and needs, which mean the fulfillment of these desires and needs is only for a limited time until a new want or need surfaces. Bauman points out that the constant consumption of the consumerist society boosts the economy and makes product innovation increase exponentially. However, although the economy benefits from consumer’s wants and needs, Bauman argues that instant gratification and constant consumption does not make people happy. In fact, Bauman claims that this is the reason a consumerist society thrives—there is never complete satisfaction and, thus, more consumption continues to occur in attempt to fill a void.

            Bauman’s section on discussing the happiness of consumers based on their income and possessions was very interesting to me. The idea that society thrives on a void seems to be a little unsettling. Most people in today’s society participate in the consumerist economy and are constantly wanting more. It is sad to think that people are only wanting more because they are continuously unsatisfied—will there ever be complete satisfaction?

Note: The freewrite can be any thoughts or refection on the material read. Freewriting is a good strategy to begin prewriting. Making connections to other texts or experiences is useful when analyzing a source that will be used in research.


The following is an example of one source with one summary and evaluation combined into one paragraph (Chicago Style):

Baig, Barbara. “What is Writing Practice (and How Do I Do It).” In How to be a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills through               Practice and Play 2010, 11-28. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2010.

            Baig discusses the importance of practicing writing and keeping it a part of an everyday routine. Similar to aspiring musicians, aspiring writers must take time to hone in on little skills that eventually build up to great talent. Baig points out that aspiring writers should not treat practicing like school. When practicing, there is no right or wrong way to write—getting words on the page is the only important part (editing can be worried about later). If an aspiring writer is constantly trying to produce the next bestseller, he or she will be disappointed because practice takes time. Baig advocates for freewriting because it gets creative juices flowing and allows the writer to get words onto a page without worrying about criticism. Baig offers good advice to novice writers who are just starting his or her writing career. Sometimes the hardest part about writing is worrying what other people are going to think. When the writer can put those worries aside, writing can begin. This is useful information because oftentimes in school, students are encouraged to be correct all the time; however, when practicing writing, it is important to write to leave behind external and internal criticisms.