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APA Style (Seventh edition): Annotated Bibliographies

This guide will assist students in learning APA style and applying it when writing and formatting papers and other course assignments.

What's an Annotated Bibliography

Brock University Library. (2013, July 18). What's an annotated bibliography [Video]? https://youtu.be/R0Hsnx0l1q4 

The Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography provides specific information about each source you have used in your paper. A citation is followed by an annotation or summary and/or evaluation of the source. The entries are organized in alphabetical order.

Three Types of Annotated Bibliographies

  • Descriptive: A descriptive annotated bibliography provides a summary of the source’s main points and an outline of how it came to those points. 

  • Analytical: An analytical or critical bibliography provides a critique of the source’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the author’s authority in the specific field and how the source might relate to your own essay. 

  • Combination: A combination annotated bibliography is the most common annotated bibliography. As with the descriptive annotation, it describes the source, but it also critiques the contents of the source similarly to an analytical annotation. 

Where to Find the Main Ideas of the Source?

  • Check the introduction, conclusion, table of contents and abstract.  

  • Look for repeating ideas or terms.

  • Look for sections, headings and subheadings or discussion sections in the source and think about the main idea of each section.

Ask Questions

  • Is the author’s background related to the topic of the writing assignment? 

  • Is the chosen resource reliable and relevant? 

  • What are the resource’s strengths and weaknesses?  

  • Is the resource somehow connected to another resource in the bibliography, and how does this source differ from or compare to the other resources? 

  • What is your reaction to the resource?

Depending on the type, an Annotated Bibliography may include

  • A third person point of view perspective (e.g., not “I” or “you”). 

  • The author’s background, which reflects their authority on the subject they write about.  

  • Any biases or weaknesses, as well as any strengths. 

  • The intended audience.

  • Your evaluation of the source and why/how it is relevant or useful in your writing assignment.

Douglas Learning Centre. (2020, August). Creating an annotated bibliography

https://library.douglascollege.ca/sites/default/files/WR_6_40_Creating_an_annotated_bibliography.pdf 

The Annotated Bibliography in APA Citation Style

Instructors usually provide guidelines for the length and focus of each annotation; otherwise format the bibliography as follows:

  • Format and order references in an annotated bibliography in alphabetical order as you would order entries in a reference list.

  • Each annotation should be a new paragraph below its reference entry. Indent the entire annotation 0.5 inches from the left margin, the same as you would a block quotation. 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 inches, the same as you would a block quotation with multiple paragraphs.

Example                                                                                       

Waite, L., Goldschneider, F., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among

young adults. American Sociological Review, 51, 541-554.


The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.