Magoosh GRE

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

| April 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

You may be wondering why anyone would want to write an annotated bibliography, so let’s address this first of all. An annotated bibliography shows your tutor that you have read a lot, understood what you have read and on mature reflection, decided how integral the books in your bibliography will be to your future research project, i.e. your dissertation or thesis. Not only does the annotated bibliography show the depth of your research but it also gives concrete examples of  its scope, as you can use books, journals, magazines, web sites and so on.

On a more altruistic note, an annotated bibliography helps other researchers to decide if the books you have listed will be useful to them in their research. It serves to highlight sources which may be of interest to other researchers.

Having such a bibliography will also help you explore and organize your sources, so that you know exactly where you read a certain paragraph; all you prior reading for the research topic you undertake eventually will be at your fingertips.

If you have to write essays or papers, then an annotated bibliography looks good for all the above-mentioned reasons. It enhances your credentials as a researcher.


How do you write an annotated bibliography?

First of all you list your citations as you normally would. The difference is that you make notes on each of the books, journal articles etc. which you have in your bibliography, immediately after each citation.

The order of your notes should be as follows:

  1. After the citation (article, author’s name etc.) you introduce the work; for example “In the article…”and state the main theme or topic.
  2. Now you write the aims and research methods used.
  3. The scope and usefulness to the topic of your research.
  4. The limitations of the study.
  5. Your general conclusion regarding the article.
  6. This is the most useful part for you, in which on reflection you state whether or not this article will be useful to your research and in what way. Will it be a major influence and necessary for the research or will it be useful to add to the appendices as supplementary material. Make a statement here.


You should ask your tutor for the departmental word limit for annotated bibliographies as this can vary between departments and universities. The word limit is usually 200-250 words for each annotation.

When you write one of these annotated bibliographies, you will realize how important it will be for your future research and the writing up of your dissertation or thesis. It’s worth the extra effort!


Category: Essay Writing Guide

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