Annotated Bibliography


Scholars write annotated bibliographies while developing their research in order to remember what they’ve read and what they thought of it. Annotated bibliographies are also a way of concisely sharing one’s thoughts about key sources. These documents help us learn about a topic and share that knowledge.

In this assignment you will select and annotate four sources that relate to a particular text, author, or period/school (e.g. Confederation Poets, McGill Poets). Choose a topic that interests you, that you would be interested in writing a paper on, or that you’d just like additional information about.

You are encouraged to use Canadian Literature’s extensive archive, which is divided by subject tags and is also fully searchable through the cumulative index by keyword, author, and title. These searches can be further sorted by genre—for this assignment, you would want to sort for articles.

The library also has a wide array of databases of scholarly articles, such as Ebsco or JSTOR, which you can search for relevant articles.


Write annotations around 200–250 words long for each source. You can include books from university presses or other major academic publishers (which are typically peer reviewed), articles in books, and articles in journals—all should be scholarly sources.

Summarize the point/focus of the source and critically assess it. Please note when the source was written and its general applicability to the area you’re researching, and comment on its effectiveness. Make sure to note any deficiencies. Does it omit an argument? Is it biased? Is the argument poorly supported? Your sources must be analytical—not biographical or expository.

Steps for Preparing an Annotated Bibliography

  1. Search and Select: When you find a potential source as you search, read the abstract, skim the first page or so of the article, or read the jacket information for the book, to assess the relevance of the source to your topic. Try to select sources that seem the most useful, not just the ones at the top of the list.
  2. Read: Read enough of the work to assess its usefulness. For articles and chapters, focus on the abstract, introductory and concluding paragraphs, and topic sentences throughout. For books, read the preface or introduction and the opening and concluding paragraphs of chapters that you find useful. As you read, make notes of key points and your assessments of them. These notes will help you write your summary and criticism.
  3. Write: Provide a quick (one–two sentences) overview of the source’s publisher and date of publication, as well as how it relates to your topic. Also consider searching the title and author on Google Scholar, which can give you an indication of how the work has been received and how often it is cited by other writers.
    • Provide a short summary of the key argument of the selected source, but avoid misrepresenting the overall work by omitting contradictory elements.
    • Assess if the work is well documented and the arguments supported. Are there particular biases, perspectives, or alternative ideas that the work employs or ignores? How does or doesn’t the source help in the discussion of your topic? Your annotation should offer a clear assessment of the reliability and effectiveness of the source.
  4. Format:
    • Title: Title your annotated bibliography with sufficient specificity to indicate your focus or topic.
    • Citations and annotations: Use MLA style for works cited to list all of your citational information. Add your annotation after each citation. In the end, the annotations should look like notes inserted into a works cited list.

Sample Annotated Entry

Here’s an MLA style annotation of an article called Method Acting and Pacino’s Looking for Richard, by Peirui Su.

Su, Peirui. Method Acting and Pacino’s Looking for Richard. CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 6.1 (2004). Web. 15 Sept 2012.

CLC Web: Comparative Literature and Culture is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal from Purdue University Press. While a reliable source, the article itself contains grammar errors that compromise the article’s clarity and authority. This essay examines Al Pacino’s directorial choices in Looking for Richard, arguing that Pacino’s choice of genre (docu-drama), method-acting background, and focus on a specifically American audience allowed him to avoid some of the pitfalls encountered by other film versions of the play. It goes on to explore the claim that Richard, like Pacino himself, is an actor, relying on an audience to propel the action forward. As a method actor, Pacino’s approach is one that sees the audience as an intelligent and integral participant in the drama; he pays special attention to voice level, blocking and so on, which have specific effects on an audience’s response. Comparing his approach with Olivier’s and Loncraine’s (the McKellen version), Su concludes that Pacino’s choice of genre and his expectation of audience engagement bring an immediacy to his film lacking in the others, and compares the lonely anti-hero with those in other films and plays. Grammatical errors aside, the argument is well supported and persuasive, contributing to the discussion of adaptation and genre. (203 words)

Adapted from

Roberta Birks, University of British Columbia