How to Write an Annotated Bibliography Quickly and Easily


Crafting a bibliography for papers is often a challenge for college students and everyone working with academic texts. They try citation generators, refer to style manuals to re-check every comma, or outsource bibliography writing to professional academic writers.

The task becomes even more challenging if the case is an annotated bibliography.
What is it, and how can you write an annotated bibliography fast?

Read this detailed guide today to ensure that you’ll professionally craft annotated bibliographies for academic papers tomorrow.

Annotated Bibliography Writing

What Is an Annotated Bibliography?

So, what does an annotated bibliography entail?


To “annotate” means to “make notes”, and a “bibliography” is a “reference list” that comes at the end of your academic paper. And here we have it:

An annotated bibliography means adding notes to your references. It’s an overview of the research sources you used in your paper, and it comes in the form of a citation followed by an annotation — a paragraph summarizing and evaluating the source.

It begs the question:

What exactly are you supposed to include in that annotation?

Structure of an annotated bibliography

For every annotation in your reference list, you should provide the following:

  • A citation
  • A summary of the reference
  • An evaluation of the reference
  • The reference’s relevance to your research

Annotated Bibliography Structure

In the summary, introduce the purpose of the research, describe how they performed it, and provide their conclusion. This is an easy summary formula you can always apply in your work.
In the evaluation, assess the source. Start with what it contains:

  • Is it credible?
  • Is this research of quality material?
  • What is the size of the study? (The scope, the time frame used to conduct the research, etc.)

Once you have it, continue with what it doesn’t contain:

  • Is it biased?
  • Is it limited in any way due to their perspective?

As for its relevance, specify how the source is connected to your research. How is its information crucial to your big picture?

Why people write annotated bibliographies

What is the purpose of an annotated bibliography?
Depending on your assignment, it might:

  • Explore and organize the sources for your further research
  • Review the existing literature on your topic
  • Examine the scope of the sources available on the subject of your research
  • Demonstrate the quality of the sources you’ve revised for your paper
    Please distinguish annotated bibliographies from abstracts. While an abstract merely summarizes a source, an annotated bibliography describes and evaluates it.

Four Steps to Writing an Annotated Bibliography

As with a standard list of references, an annotated bibliography is arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name. Annotations should have 100-200 words per citation—check with your teacher, as the word count may vary depending on your assignment.

Below are your four steps to follow:

Step 1: Choose sources

First, you need to choose sources to place in your annotated bibliography. Consider those that are reliable, relevant to your topic, and valuable to your research.
What can be a source for your work?

  • Books
  • Scholarly journals
  • Academic articles at Google Scholar
  • Reputable online resources: New Scientist, Office of National Statistics, The Economist, TED talks, BBC News, etc.

Step 2: Review the chosen items

Organize your sources by content:

  1. Those setting the foundation for the problem you’re researching
  2. Those providing evidence to back it up
  3. Those suggesting a potential solution

(When writing a paper, you will also decide how to integrate all the sources into it. The ways to do that are quoting, paraphrasing, summarizing, and synthesizing.)

Step 3: Write a citation

Now, it’s time to write a citation for every source in your annotated bibliography. Follow the prescribed style — APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, IEEE — and format your citations accordingly.

When doubting where to place commas or what words to italicize, address the style’s manual. This is a set of rules for correctly formatting a bibliography and citing sources in the text of your paper.

Each citation style has a detailed manual to follow.

Step 4: Write an annotation

Finally, write an annotated paragraph for every citation in your list:

Briefly summarize the source, evaluate it, and explain why (or how) it’s important for your topic.

You can choose from among four writing styles for your annotation:

  1. Informative, with a focus on summarizing the source. (Here, you identify the source’s hypothesis, results, and conclusions.)
  2. Evaluative, focusing on a critical analysis of the source. (Here, you comment on the source’s strengths, weaknesses, and overall relation to your topic.)
  3. Combined informative/evaluative (the most preferred), providing a more comprehensive view of the source.
  4. Indicative, focusing on identifying the source’s central theme and included topics.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography Fast

How to Write Annotated Bibliography Fast

This section is your step-by-step guide on examining sources for annotated bibliographies. The following strategies will assist you in crafting annotations faster and structuring them so they are more valuable and engaging for readers.

Here are the steps:

1 — Summarize in your own words.
Use the source’s headers and subheads to guide you; look for arguments and evidence in bold or italics (as a rule, authors use such formatting to highlight the core information in their work). Paraphrase.

2 — Circle core phrases.
When reading and analyzing the source, circle words and phrases that can help you describe and evaluate its content in your annotation.

3 — Write comments in the margins.
While reading, leave comments and questions about the source’s statements in the margins. These will activate your analytical skills and help you understand what information to include in the evaluative part of your annotation.

4 — Use abbreviations and symbols.
Consider using any system of symbols that makes sense to you. Use “?” for something you need to explore further, try “!” for anything insightful or worthy of noting, place “*” for evidence or counterarguments, etc.

5 — Highlight.
When working with PDFs or digital resources, use their built-in comment or highlight features to support your annotations. Consider using your browser’s extensions or add-ons to make notes on web pages.

Also, check if you can import your digital source into a note-taking tool like Evernote or another one of your choice. This can help you annotate texts faster.


Below are several sample annotations, each with a different writing style and research project. How do you understand which style best suits your paper? Consider the purpose of your bibliography and the guidelines of your assignment.

Some annotations merely summarize a source. If that’s your case, consider writing your annotation in an informative style. For example:

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess. London: Routledge, 1998.

Davidson’s book examines the major roles filled by the numerous pagan goddesses of Northern Europe in everyday life, including their roles in hunting, agriculture, domestic arts like weaving, the household, and death. The author discusses relevant archaeological evidence, patterns of symbols and rituals, and previous research. The book includes several black-and-white photographs of relevant artifacts.

Other annotations may focus on evaluating a source and reflecting on its possible uses for your project. If so, try structuring your annotation in an evaluative style. Here’s what it looks like:

Amott, T. (1993). Caught in the Crisis: Women in the U.S. Economy Today. New York: Monthly Review Press.

This is a very readable (140 pp) economic analysis and information book that I am currently considering as a required collateral assignment in Economics 201. Among its many strengths is the lucid connection of “The Crisis at Home” with the broader macroeconomic crisis of the U.S. working class (which various other authors have described as the shrinking middle class or the crisis of deindustrialization).

The most preferred writing style for annotations is informative and evaluative combined. It provides a source’s summary and evaluation and explains its value for the overall research topic. Such annotations are more comprehensive and may consist of several paragraphs. Like this:

Aluedse, O. (2006). Bullying in schools: A form of child abuse in schools. Educational Research Quarterly, 30(1), 37.

The author classifies bullying in schools as a “form of child abuse” and goes well beyond the notion that schoolyard bullying is “just child’s play.” The article provides an in-depth definition of bullying and explores the likelihood that school-aged bullies may also experience tough lives as adults. The author discusses the modern prevalence of bullying in school systems, the effects of bullying, and intervention strategies, as well as providing an extensive list of resources and references.

The statistics included provide an alarming realization that bullying is prevalent not only in the United States but also worldwide. According to the author, “American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million victims.” The author references the National Association of School Psychologists and quotes, “Thus, one in seven children is a bully or a target of bullying.” A central point of emphasis centers around what has always been considered a “normal part of growing up” versus the levels of actual abuse reached in today’s society.

The author concludes with a section addressing intervention strategies for school administrators, teachers, counselors, and school staff. The concept of school staff helping build students’ “social competence” is showcased as a prevalent means of preventing and reducing this growing social menace. Overall, the article is worthwhile for anyone interested in the subject matter and provides a wealth of resources for researching this topic of growing concern.

💡 The samples source: How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

More samples to check: Annotated Bibliography Samples in MLA, APA, Chicago

Practical Tips on Writing Annotated Bibliographies

Below, you’ll find a few practical tips to help you write an annotated bibliography faster and make it more engaging and professional.

Ready? Go!

  1. Keep each annotation in your bibliography concise. Remember that it shouldn’t extend to one paragraph unless otherwise prescribed in your assignment’s guidelines.
  2. Don’t include the information a reader can get from the source’s title.
  3. Use formal language (academic vocabulary) when writing annotated bibliographies.
  4. Don’t write annotations for in-text citations you use for quotes to draw attention to a specific statement from the source.
  5. Make the summary part of your annotation brief. Only mention arguments that are significant to your research.
  6. There’s no need to include the author’s background materials and other works in your annotation. You’re addressing one text at a time, so focus on it and don’t cross reference.
  7. Remember the referencing style you should use for the citations (APA, MLA, etc.). Praise consistency.


Phew! That’s all, folks. Writing annotated bibliographies doesn’t look terrifying if you read a source carefully and follow the annotation structure:

  1. Cite a source according to your required referencing style.
  2. Summarize and evaluate the source.
  3. Specify its relevance to your research.

Annotations engage readers with the source you describe. So, be brief yet informative, draw connections, and add value.

Do you have any doubts or questions? Remember that you can ask our annotated bibliography writing service with professional writers to quickly help you with your paper.

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