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Citing Sources: Annotations

Use this guide as a resource when you cite sources.

What is an Annotation?

An annotation is a brief piece of writing about a longer written source, such as a journal article or a work of fiction.  An annotation minimally contains a brief summary, but may also include an assessment or reflection about the work being annotated.  The length of an annotation can vary from a few sentences to many paragraphs, depending on the need.

An annotated bibliography is much like a Works Cited page, except each entry also contains a brief summary. You'll want to gather your sources, create a Works Cited list in alphabetical order, then under each citation provide an annotation of that source.

Purdue's Online Writing Lab does a very good job of describing Annotated Bibliographies and providing both MLA and APA examples. 

Annotated Bibliography Types

There are at least two types of annotated bibliographies often assigned as college assignments:
  • Descriptive - intended to describe the title under study, and may include:
    • Information about the author(s) and their credentials;
    • Summary of the work's main points -- > This is where you tell your reader what the book or article is really ABOUT;
    • Description of what the work includes (photos, charts, tables, etc.)
    • Description of the author's writing style;
  • Critical - intended to provide an analysis of the title under study, and may include:
    • The strengths and weaknesses of the title;
    • How the source compares to other works on the same topic;
    • Other elements that will provide clues to its usefulness to the next user (your professor, your boss, etc).

For excellent examples of both styles, see Prince George's Community College Descriptive Annotations and Critical Annotations

student typing with books at side