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This handy libguide will tell you everything you need to know about citations and how to organize them.


A bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, websites, periodicals, etc.) about a topic (in alphabetical order).

A full citation, or  bibliographic record or bibliographic reference all refer to the same thing--that is all the data elements needed to uniquely identify and retrieve an information resource.  (i.e., the author, title, journal title, date, publisher, conference name, etc.).

"References" used in APA or "Works Cited" (used in MLA) sections appear at the end of a work indicating sources referenced in that work.

An annotation is a summary that may include an evaluation or notes about the source.

Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or evaluation of each of the sources. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following:

  • Summarize:  What is the main point?  What are the methods, main arguments, evidence, conclusions? 
  • Assess: What makes this a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the purpose of this work?
  • Integrate: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. How 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

But Why?

An annotated bibliography's purpose is to place your citations under the spotlight, and to explain how they're relevant to your research. They also provide extra context for your research, especially if your research is more original and hasn't been studied as closely as other topics.


Below you will find two examples of citations in an annotated bibliography. Keep in mind that the format may vary depending on which citation style you use. Annotated bibliographies are generally written in APA or MLA.

Example #1:

Finneran, K. (2001). What's food got to do with it? Issues in Science and Technology 17, 24-25.

In this editorial from a scholarly journal, Finneran questions why many people on both sides in the debate over the safety of genetically engineered food base their arguments on speculation, rumor, and emotion rather than scientific research. He references an article by Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin. Lewontin discusses an anti-genetic engineering physicist whose arguments are based on Hindu scripture instead of lab results and pro-genetic engineering scientists who advertise "Golden Rice" (a genetically engineered variety of rice rich in beta carotene) as a benefit for victims of malnutrition who lack vitamin A, even though many people suffering from malnutrition are too weak to properly metabolize the beta carotene into vitamin A. Finneran, editor-in-chief of Issues in Science and Technology, a policy journal sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the University of Texas at Dallas, is qualified to write about forming opinions on scientific matters. This editorial serves as a cautionary reminder that sensible decisions on important issues must be grounded in fact and not influenced by vague fears, unrelated beliefs, unwarranted enthusiasm, or knee-jerk emotional reactions. My study will discuss the pro’s and con’s of genetically modified foods, so I will use this article to better understand the types of arguments used in the debate. This article is also useful to me because it contains several other relevant ideas I can pursue. For example, I will read the article by Lewontin mentioned in this editorial, and look for more information about “golden rice.”

Example #2:

Donaldson, Kenneth. Insanity Inside Out. New York: Crown, 1976.

In this book, Donaldson examines the state of the mental healthcare facilities from the point of view of a former psychiatric patient who spent considerable time in such an institution. He describes what it feels like to be clinically insane and how he was treated by both doctors and nurses as well as by society. This is a reliable source because the author tells about his experiences based on first-hand experience, but it’s possible that to prove his point about the poor treatment of the mentally ill he might exaggerate some of his stories. My topic is mental health illness in the early 20th century and how that ties in to Willy Loman's experiences in A Death of a Salesman. I will use this source to compare Donaldson to Loman and gauge how the latter must have been dealing with his condition. This source ties in well into my paper since I examine how the mentally ill were treated in this time period and how that affected Willy Loman.

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