Annotated Bibliographies: What? Why? How?

Your final essay for the class will be a Toulmin Analysis/Research Essay (I’ll teach you how to do this!) of an article you will choose about the effects of social media on society (from the “Social Media Arti- cles for Final Essay” tab on the left side navigation bar). Although the article you choose will be the primary source of your analysis, you will also need to do a good deal of external research to help you develop an objective, academic and analytical approach to your critique. Two weeks before your final essay is due, you will turn in an annotated bibliography of at least ten sources related to your research topic. These should not be the only ten sources you examine but rather most useful or influential ones. Your grade will be based on the variety and relevance of the sources and on the insight and clarity of your annotations.


A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, websites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. A bibliography usually just includes the bibliographic in- formation (i.e., the author, title, publisher; etc.).

An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation. Therefore, an annotated bibliography in- cludes a summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources.

For your assignment, your annotations must do all of the following:

Summarize: What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say?

Assess : After summarizing a source, it is helpful to evaluate it. How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable, relevant and author- itative? How can you tell? Is it this source inappropriately biased or relatively objective? What is the goal of this source?

Reflect: Once you’ve summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits specifically into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?


To learn about your topic: Writing an annotated bibliography is excellent preparation for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations for each source, you’re forced to read each source more carefully. You be- gin to read more critically instead of just collecting information.

To help you formulate a thesis: Every good research paper is an argument. The purpose of research is to state and support a thesis. So a very important part of research is developing a thesis that is debatable, interesting , and current. Writing an annotated bibliography can help you gain a good perspective on what is being said about your topic. By reading and respond- ing to a variety of sources on a topic, you’ll start to see what the issues are, what people are arguing about, and you’ll then be able to develop your own point of view.

To develop enough authoritative, relevant and reliable support for your topic: Most top- ics that you will be writing about in college classes are very complex and multi-faceted. Usu- ally just finding a single source or two on a topic will not be sufficient to really understand all of the angles and nuances of the topic under consideration. A well researched and well written annotated bibliography will help you to be thorough and exhaustive in your research and guard against oversimplification and other forms of research-related blind spots.


The bibliographic information: The bibliographic information of the source (the title, au- thor, publisher, date, etc.) is written in MLA format.

The annotations: The annotations for each source are written in paragraph form. The lengths of the annotations can vary significantly from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages. The length will depend on the purpose and the particular complexity of each source.

Annotated Bibliography Checklist

Before your final essay is due, you will turn in an Annotated Bibliography of at least TEN sources related to your topic. These should not be the only sources you have examined but rather most useful ones. Your grade will be based on the variety and relevance of the sources as well as on the insight and clarity of your annotations.

  • Consult the handout on Annotated Bibliographies for information on the purpose, scope and content of the assignment.
  • Your annotations should be listed alphabetically, by the last name of the primary author of the selection and in proper MLA format.
  • At least TWO of your sources should be books (if possible).
  • At least THREE of your sources must be academic, scholarly or peer-reviewed journals.
  • At least TWO of your annotations must be longer and more thorough (at least a page each).
  • Be as specific as possible with your summaries, analyses and reflections on the relevancy of each source. Don’t just tell me it is a good source or that it is very useful. I am assuming this since it is one of the ones you have selected to annotate. Tell me exactly why it is a good source and exactly how it is useful to your topic.
  • Be sure to use the citation builder websites to help you build your entries in proper MLA format. They can be found on the Library website and on the our WR 122 Library Guide in the “Citation Style Guides” section.
  • Sources found in the MHCC library databases are already in MLA format. Scroll down to the end of the article and the entry will be posted in full MLA format. Just copy and past it into your Bibliography. (Make sure to make it double-spaced and in “hanging” format as well.)
  • See Syllabus/Schedule for Due Date


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Critical Thinking by Andrew Gurevich is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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