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APA Guide - 7th Edition: Annotated Bibliographies

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a type of student paper in which reference list entries are followed by short descriptions of the work, called annotations. Annotated bibliographies can also constitute one element of a research paper in fields that require bibliographies rather than reference lists. Most APA Style guidelines are applicable to annotated bibliographies (margins, font, line spacing, etc.).

In general, it is not necessary to cite the work being annotated in the annotations because the origin of the information is clear through context. However, do include in-text citations if you refer to multiple works within an annotation to clarify the source.


Your instructor will generally set all other requirements (e.g., number of references to include, length and focus of each annotation). In the absence of other guidance, format your annotated bibliography as follows:


  • Format & order references alphabetically (same as a References list)
  • Each annotation should be a new paragraph below its reference entry
    • Indent the entire annotation 0.5 inches from the left margin (same as a block quote).
    • Do not indent the first line of the annotation
  • If the annotation spans multiple paragraphs, indent the first line of the second and any subsequent paragraphs an additional 0.5 in. (same as a block quote with multiple paragraphs)

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Useful Links

Evaluative Annotations

An evaluative annotation includes a summary but also critically assesses the work for accuracy, relevance, and quality. The focus is on description and evaluation.

They can help you: 

  • learn about your topic
  • develop a thesis statement
  • decide if a specific source will be useful for your assignment
  • determine if there is enough valid information available to complete your project. 

Sample Annotation

Basic Writing & Format Tips

Basic Writing and Format Tips:

  • Start with the same format as a regular References list.
  • After each citation, the annotation is indented two spaces from the left margin as a block.
  • Each annotation should be one paragraph, between three to six sentences long (about 150-200 words).
  • All lines should be double-spaced. Do not add an extra line between the citations.
  • If your list of citations is especially long, you can organize it by topic.
  • Try to be objective, and give explanations if you state any opinions.
  • Use the third person (e.g., he, she, the author) instead of the first person (e.g., I, my, me).


An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation. Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or critical evaluation of each of the sources. The annotated bibliography looks like a References page but includes an annotation after each full citation.

Annotated bibliographies can be part of a larger research project, or can be a stand-alone report in itself.

Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following: 

  • Summarize
    • Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What topics are covered? The length of your annotations will determine how detailed your summary is. Who wrote the document? When and where was the document written?
  • Assess
    • After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other soruces in your biliography? What is the goal of this source?
  • Reflect
    • Once you've summarized and assessed a source, ask yourself how it fits into your research. How does it help shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project?

Your annotated bibliography may include some of these, all of these, or even others. If you're doing this for a class, you should get specific guidelines from your instructor.