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The Annotated Bibliography: Step by Step Guide: STEP TWO: Creating the Annotations

This library guide covers everything you need to know about writing an annotated bibliography

STEP TWO: Creating the Annotation

After completing step one by analyzing all your sources, the next step is to create the annotations. There are different ways in which to create annotations, depending on what the intent of your project is. You may opt to use summary, evaluation, or even descriptive in your annotations or all three! Remember, we are always mixing the different rhetorical styles without even realizing it. The most important thing for annotations is to remember what your instructor's directions.


Informative or Summary

Summary type annotations are exactly as called-they provide a summary of your source. The author describes the main argument of the research. The points may also be discussed, but keep it concise! This is how the author provides a summary type annotation:

MLA Sample:

Adogame, Afe, Roswith Gerloff, and Klaus Hock, editors. Christianity in Africa and the African Diaspora: The Appropriation of a Scattered Heritage. Continuum International, 2011.

This book is crucial to the developing thesis as an important source for factual data surrounding the colonization of Africa. Several scholars collaborated to produce this text offering new resources for the analysis of African Christian movements. This research includes specific focus on the first and second part of the book, which discusses the historical development of the Berlin-Congo 1884 Conference and how it influenced political, social, economic, cultural and religious aspects to Africa.

Indicative or Descriptive

Descriptive annotations describe the source. Indicative annotations provide a brief summary of the source and also describe the main points or chapters.

MLA Sample:

Griffin, Williams, C., editor. Teaching Writing in All Disciplines. Jossey-Bass, 1982.

Ten essays on writing-across-the-curriculum programs, teaching writing in disciplines other than English, and teaching techniques for using writing as learning. Essays include Toby Fulwiler, “Writing: An Act of Cognition”; Barbara King, “Using Writing in the Mathematics Class: Theory and Pratice”; Dean Drenk, “Teaching Finance Through Writing”; Elaine P. Maimon, “Writing Across the Curriculum: Past, Present, and Future.”


Evaluative annotations simply evaluate the source by comparing and contrasting to explain why this particular resource is included. Explain what the source's goal is and why it is relevant to your research. Evaluative annotations allow the author to assess the source’s strengths and weaknesses.

MLA Sample:

Gurko, Leo. Ernest Hemingway and the Pursuit of Heroism. Crowell, 1968.

This book is part of a series called Twentieth Century American Writers”: a brief introduction to the man and his work. After fifty pages of straight biography, Gurko discussed Hemingway’s writing, novel by novel. There’s an index and a short bibliography, but no notes. The biographical part is clear and easy to read, but it sounds too much like a summary.



And, finally the combination annotation, which is the most common type. Combination annotations include one or two sentences that summarize or describe content with an additional couple of sentences that evaluate the source. 

Annotations can include a combination of all the different types. A common method of writing annotation includes describing, summarizing, and evaluating.

MLA Sample:

Strong-Leek, Linda. “Reading As A Woman: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart And Feminist Criticism.” African Studies Quarterly 5(2): 2. 2001. 2.

Strong-Leek’s suggestions for a feminist reading of Things Fall Apart provide instances of the degrading treatment Igbo women suffered. By referring to several incidences of beating women, she demonstrates how the strict confines of patriarchy belittle the importance of the female characters within the novel.

What do I include?

An annotation is typically 1-300 words in length (a paragraph); however, your instructor may require something different.

Annotations may include the following:

  • A brief summary of the source
  • The source’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Its conclusions
  • Why the source is relevant in your field of study
  • Its relationships to other studies in the field
  • An evaluation of the research methodology (if applicable)
  • Information about the author’s background
  • Your personal conclusions about the source

Annotations Explained

Formatting your Annotated Bibliography

Check out the tab labeled "STEP THREE: Formatting the Annotated Bibliography" to be sure you're listing your annotations correctly.