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UMass Amherst Libraries

Annotated Bibliographies

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of citations for writings (sources) with a specific focus. 

An annotated bibliography also provides description and/or opinion for each source.  Annotations are usually brief (less than 150 words). Two basic types of information they can include are:

Summary / Description

    • What credentials does the author have? 
    • What does it cover, or not cover?  
    • Who is the intended audience?   
    • What is it about?  
    • What is the main argument?

 Evaluation / Opinion 

    • How useful is this source for a specific purpose?  
    • Are the conclusions of the research reliable? 
    • Is it well presented or laid out?  
    • How does it compare with other references in the list?

What you write depends on your purpose.  Annotations can be written in short phrases for brevity or private use, or in complete sentences for clarity and/or publication. 

If you are writing an annotated bibliography for a class assignment, ask which writing style and citation format style to use (see Overview box in Using RefWorks for Annotations tab). Also, make sure you know what kind of annotations are expected.

Using Annotated Bibs and Literature Reviews by Other Authors

Published annotated bibliographies by others on your topic will save you time and effort!

Gathering in the city [electronic resource] : an annotated bibliography and review of the literature about human-plant interactions in urban ecosystems. This U.S. Forest Service report discusses 140 sources, but begins with an introduction and "key findings" in the research.

Literature review articles are a closely related type of article. The author synthesizes research articles written on a topic over a particular span of time to create a narrative report on the "state of research" on one topic during that time - look for recent review articles on your topic.

Literature reviews can be individual articles in journals, or collected in book series, for example, the Annual Reviews (e.g., Annual Review of Animal Biosciences, ... of Astronomy and Astrophysics)  (Note: link goes to the library catalog record for the series).  Also, the Annual Reviews site allows you to search across all their titles for every year they cover. A potential gold mine!

You can find literature reviews in many research databases as a type of article/document. Contact me (or any librarian) for help. 

Smart researchers use literature reviews to stay current on the literature in their field, or to learn about new areas.