Annotated bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources relevant to your research that includes concise descriptions and evaluations of your selected sources.

The annotations for your sources usually contain a brief summary and analysis of content, though this will depend on the nature of your assignment. 

An annotated bibliography may be a stand-alone assignment, or it could be a component of a larger assignment, such as a literature review or research project.

Purpose of an annotated bibliography

Depending on the requirements of your assignment, an annotated bibliography might:

  • Explore and organise the relevant literature on a particular subject
  • Demonstrate the quality and depth of reading that you have done
  • Discuss the depth and scope of sources available, or the gaps and limits of the research
  • Explore and organise sources for further assignments (e.g. to inform a literature review or research project)  

Things to consider

  • Be concise!
  • Do not write anything that does need to be there, remember that you are writing a short summary and analysis – not an essay
  • Information such as the title or journal should be omitted in the annotation
  • Background materials and references are not necessary unless specified  

What does an annotated bibliography look like?


  • Full bibliographic citation (according to the required referencing style)
  • Indicate the background of the author(s)
  • Indicate the content and scope of the text  


Aims and Research Methods

  • Outline the main argument
  • Indicate intended audience
  • If applicable, indicate the research methods utilised by the author(s)  


  • Discuss whether the text was reliable or convincing and why
  • Indicate they ways in which the text relates to the theme of your research or assignments  


  • State the strengths and weakness of the source
  • Present your own view and understanding of the source  

Sample annotation 

Below is a sample annotation. The comments on the right explain the features or elements covered and provide some sample sentence starters that you might use.

SectionExampleTips/Sentence starters


McFarlane, J.K. (1973). Standards of care—what do we mean by care? Nursing Mirror. 143(23), 40–42.

Check the subject outline for the referencing style required and use the guides available on the Learning Co-op Referencing & Citing page.


The article examines the meaning of the word ‘care’ within a nursing context.

Sentence starters:
-In this article, Johnson reviews . . .
-This article examines . . .
-The authors describe . . .
-The author’s purpose is to challenge . . .

Aims and Research Methods

The responsibility of nurses to provide care is legitimised in numerous documents, and the author goes on to identify key concepts related to nursing care. In particular, these concepts include assisting, helping and giving a service; offering this service to people who need help with daily living activities and to others who are affected by health deviations or illness of some kind. Moreover, the nurse’s caring role is legitimised by the patients. Finally, the article concludes by relating how these concepts are put into operation by using the steps of the nursing process—assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating the patient’s need for nursing care.

Sentence starters:
-The main ideas expressed are . . .
-Support for these claims is documented . . .
-Smith has conducted a thorough investigation of . . .
-The author’s research focuses on . . .


The main limitation of the article is that all of the research was exclusively conducted in large city hospitals.

Sentence starters:
-The author provides a strong theoretical . . .
-The writing style considers a range of audiences . . .
-Theories are supported by well-known researchers in this field, such as . . .
-There is a lack of supporting evidence . . .
-The main limitation of the website . . .


Therefore, while the article is useful for an analysis of nursing care, the limitations of its research base will require some adaption to meet the needs of this assignment that requires a commentary on services in both city and country area hospitals. (172 words)

Sentence starters:
-This article is useful for my research topic . . .
-Because the information is up-to-date and from a reliable source . . .
-It is relevant to my thesis because . . .
-In particular, this article will assist . . .

Further resources