Skip to Main Content

Annotated Bibliography: A How-to-Do-It Guide: .

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotation is a simply an explanation or description used to further clarify a particular item. An annotated bibliography is a list of citation to books, article, or any other documents and each cited item is followed by an annotation. The style of the annotation can be summative, descriptive, evaluative, or a mix.

Annotated Bibliography: Summative

Hullfish, H.G., & Smith, P.G. (1961). Reflective thinking: The method of education (273 pp.). New York: Dodd, Mead & Company.

This book, co-authored with a former student and published the year before Hullfish died, summarizes his beliefs about democratic education and describes the method, reflective thinking, which the authors believe will yield the desired delivery vis-à-vis the promise of democracy.

Schmidt, S. (1994). Effects of humor on sentence memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20, 953-967.

210 college students participated in a memory test involving humorous and non-humorous versions of sentences. Results concluded that humorous sentences are remembered better than non-humorous sentences on both free- and cued-recall tests and on measures of word recall and sentence recall.

Annotated Bibliography: Descriptive

Gross, R.E. (1996). World history and issues-centered instruction. In R. W. Evans, & D. W. Saxes (Eds.) Handbook on Teaching Social Issues (pp. 161-163). NCSS Bulletin 93. Washington, D.D.: National Council for the Social Studies.

Initially, Gross addresses the fact that many secondary students find world history the least interesting of the social studies and history courses they are required to take. He also discussed how teachers find teaching the whole of world history to be a futile enterprise. He goes on discuss how teachers and schools over the years have attempted to address the aforementioned problem. Ultimately, he suggests that “A prime suggestion for meeting the aims and content of World History rests in a focus on a Problem of Humanity, Moral Dilemmas, or Continuing Issues Organization.” Gross then goes into some detail discussing the two approaches, some of the difficulties faced, and the various values of a problem approach.

Annotated Bibliography: Evaluative

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2011). TOXMAP: Environmental health maps. Bethesda, MD: Author. Retrieved from

In something known as the Toxins Release Inventory, each year industries and federal agencies report their amounts of hazardous waste and toxic releases. The interactive map highlighted here allows users to compare the levels of toxic materials released with the distribution of diseases such as cancer in the population. This data help students explore the issues of environmental racism and public health. However, the display can become cluttered with too many layers of data, so students need to carefully select only a few attributes of data to display. Select the “For Teachers” tab both for background information about specific toxic, and directions on how to use the map in the classroom.

The resource can be a popular one or a scholarly one. How to evaluate a resource? These are the things to remember: Credential, Coverage, Objectivity, Reliability, Contribution, Connection/Recommendation, and Limitation.

The above bibliographies adapted from:

Roeckelein, Jon E. The Psychology of Humor: A Reference Guide and Annotated Bibliography.  Connecticut, 2002.
Totten, Samuel, and Pedersen, Jon E. Educating About Social Issues In the 20th and 21st Centuries: A Critical Annotated Bibliography. Information Age Publishing, 2012.

How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography?

Preparing an annotative bibliography is an intellectual activity in conjunction with cognitive skills, such as searching, identifying, selecting, comprehending, analyzing, summarizing, synthesizing, evaluating, criticizing, formatting, organizing, and presenting.

  • Step one. What is the purpose of this annotated bibliography?
  • Step two. What is the topic/main problem to be explored?
  • Step three. What kind of materials to be included and why?
  • Step four. Read, read and read again!
  • Step five. Write, write and write again!

Questions to Ask While Reading an Article

  • What is the author’s credential or affiliation?
  • What is the main point of the author’s argument?
  • Is the author’s point of view biased or neutral, subjective or objective?
  • What is the author’s conclusion and what would you draw from it?
  • How does this author’s work relate to your field? How does it benefit your research topic?
  • Would you recommend to this work to another audience? Why and why not?

How to Organize and Format Your Annotated Bibliography?

To choose the citation style for your annotated bibliography, you have to talk with your instructor and ask what style is preferred. If your bibliography is going to be submitted to a conference and a journal for publication, check the submission requirements of that conference and journal. If you can not decide, just follow the convention of the subject discipline. Science and Engineer tend to follow APA format; Humanity and Social Science give favors to MLA or Chicago Manual; Sociology has its own preferred ASA Style.

Finally, depending on the materials in your hand, the annotated bibliography can be arranged:

  • By alphabet (This is a most common way)
  • By genre
  • By geographical area
  • By subject
  • By others

Asst Prof/Head of Cataloging & Serials

Profile Photo
Junli Diao
94 - 20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., Jamaica, NY 11451

Why an annotated bibliography?

Writing an annotated bibliography is not only an assignment that helps you develop the capability of concisely extracting the main or central argument out of someone else's work. A carefully-selected and well-organized annotated bibliography will make you look good to your instructor. It will

  • Demonstrate the in-depth and quality work of your reading
  • Show your thorough understanding of the chosen research field, especially your critical thinking
  • Provide readers with a shortcut to topics for future investigation
  • Lay a foundation for writing book reviews in the future
  • Lay a foundation for writing literature reviews to research projects in the future

Annotated Bibliography by CUNY Faculty in Academic Works

CUNY Academic Works is an open access CUNY institutional repository that aggregates the research, scholarship and creative work of the CUNY faculty and researchers. Here are a few selected annotated bibliographies by CUNY faculty in Academic Works.