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APA Guide - 6th Edition: Annotated Bibliographies

Annotated Bibliography

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association does not provide instruction in creating an annotated bibliography. However, your professor may ask for one. The annotated bibliography allows your professor to see the sources you will use in your final research paper. It shows that you have planned ahead by conducting research and gave thought to the information you will need to write a complete research paper. The annotations may summarize or evaluate the sources used. The references need to follow the APA rules for citations and the good news is you have your reference list complete before writing your paper!

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

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).

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. 


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.

Useful Links

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