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Study Skills

Annotated bibliography

Demonstrate the quality and depth of your reading and research.

An annotated bibliography is a list of references (bibliography) which includes a summary and often a comment on or evaluation of each reference. It is a common assessment task at university because it develops your research and reading skills and can prepare you for later writing tasks.

This page will help you to meet your lecturers' expectations by:

  • self-evaluating your current strengths and weaknesses

  • understanding the purpose of annotated bibliographies 

  • developing your ability to select and evaluate sources

  • structuring your annotations appropriately

  • making appropriate language choices. 

Download this summary sheet for your own reference.


Introduction to annotated bibliographies

All scholars refer to the work of other scholars in their writing. They are participating in a type of academic conversation that helps to build knowledge in their discipline. As a student, you also participate in this conversation by referencing the experts in your field. Writing an annotated bibliography develops your ability to do this. 

Self evaluation


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Reflect on your previous experience. How would you rate your ability in the following annotated bibliography skills? Rate your ability from ‘good’ to ‘needs development’.

Congratulations if you feel confident about your skills. You may find it helpful to review the materials on this page to confirm your knowledge and possibly learn more. Don't worry if you don't feel confident. Work through these materials to build your skills.

An overview of annotated bibliography tasks

Watch this video to learn more about annotated bibliographies. 

Reflect on what you have learned in the video about annotated bibliographies and literature reviews 

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Confirm your ideas by dragging and dropping the following elements into the correct place in this table. 


Purpose of an annotated bibliography

Annotated bibliographies can have several goals depending on the assignment. 

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Read the instructions for your annotated bibliography task in your unit and reflect on these questions. 

  • Why do you think your lecturer has set this task? What is the purpose of the annotated bibliography? 

  • How does this task fit into the assessment plan for the unit? Does it prepare you for a later essay or literature review? 

  • Which unit learning outcomes will the task help you to achieve? 

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Consider the possible goals of an annotated bibliography. Which of the following is NOT a reason to write an annotated bibliography? 

Steps to writing an annotated bibliography

The following steps can guide you through the process of writing your first annotated bibliography. 

Step 1 

Read the instructions very carefully to ensure you understand task requirements. You should check, for example: 

  • What is the purpose of the annotated bibliography? 
  • What type of sources are you expected to include? For instance, should they all be peer-reviewed? When should they have been published? 
  • How many sources are you expected to include?  
  • Which referencing style should you use? For instance, APA7, IEEE or AGLC? 
  • How long should the annotation be? 
  • What should the annotation include? For instance, are you expected to evaluate or simply summarise each source? 
Analyse the topic very carefully to ensure you understand the scope of the task. 
Conduct research to locate potentially useful texts. The subject guides in the library can help you get started. 
Select appropriate sources. Visit the Library page on evaluating sources to help you. 
Record the bibliographic details of the sources you locate. Use the required reference style to do this. If you are not sure which style is required, ask your lecturer. 
Evaluate and critically read the sources you have located. 
Make notes of the key points and the strengths and weaknesses of each source. 
Put the original sources away and use your notes to write a summary for each of your annotations. 
Use your notes to add your critical comment that evaluates each source and its usefulness, if required. 
10 Quickly reread each source to check that your summary is accurate and your evaluation is fair. Edit and proofread your document before submission. 

Download a copy of these steps and use them as a checklist as you do your assignment.

Structure and content

Annotated bibliography tasks can vary in their required structure and content. So, read your task instructions carefully, and if in doubt, ask your lecturer. 


Annotated bibliographies aim to describe sources about a specific topic. 

  • Most simply require a list of sources and annotations organised in alphabetical order according to the first author’s surname.  

  • Some may require you to begin with a brief introduction that announces the topic and aim and end with a conclusion that synthesises the main points that have emerged from the annotations. 

Examine this sample below. Remember:

  • each annotation is separate
  • the annotations are in alphabetical order
  • you must use the reference style stated by your lecturer (not the one in the sample below).
Annotated bibliography Anderson, A. (year). Title of the paper. Title of the journal. Vol. Issue. Pages.   This is a summary and evaluation of Anderson. This is a summary and evaluation of Anderson. This is a summary and evaluation of Anderson. This is a summary and evaluation of Anderson. This is a summary and evaluation of Anderson. This is a summary and evaluation of Anderson.    Bhaduri, B. (year). Title of the paper. Title of the journal. Vol. Issue. Pages.   This is a summary and evaluation of Bhaduri

Although annotations are not long texts, you should pay attention to using clear paragraph structure. Short annotations may comprise one paragraph, while longer annotations may comprise two or even three paragraphs. Revise paragraphs if you are not sure about clear paragraph structure. 


All annotations begin with the bibliographic details of your chosen sources followed by a paragraph that summarises the content. Many also include a comment that evaluates the source. 

Your summary and comment may include some or all of the following points:

  • full bibliographic details of the text 
  • an introduction to the text (topic, genre, aim and/or scope) 

  • relevant details about the author 

  • the intended audience 

  • the main arguments and key ideas 

  • the research methods, findings or main conclusions 

  • an evaluation of the text's strengths and/or limitations 

  • unique or helpful features (charts, graphs etc.) 

  • a comparison with other research in the field 

  • the contribution of the text to the field or discipline 

  • the relationship between this text and themes in your unit 

  • the relevance or usefulness of the text for your purpose 

Read your instructions carefully to check your lecturer's requirements. 

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Read these annotations and think about which of the elements the writer has included. Then, click on the hotspots to confirm your thoughts.

Reflect on what you have learned so far about annotations. Read the following sentences from an annotation and put them in the most appropriate order.


Evaluating sources

An important skill for writing annotated bibliographies (and literature review assignments) is the ability to critically evaluate sources.

Selecting sources

The CRAAP test offers a series of questions about currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose to help you choose good quality sources.  

Download and print this useful document from the CDU library so you can refer to the questions while you are researching.  

Evaluating sources 

To evaluate the content of most texts, you should focus on these main areas: 

  • the overall credibility of the text 

  • the quality of the argument and evidence 

  • the style and tone. 

Visit Reading critically for a list of suggested questions that guide your analysis and evaluation. 

Evaluating research

To evaluate research articles, use this list of questions to help you identify strengths and limitations.

Introduction and literature review 

  • Is the hypothesis or aim of the research clear?  

  • Do the researchers clearly show that their study is meeting a need or filling a gap in our knowledge? 

  • Do the researchers show how their study builds on previous research? 


  • Is any theoretical framework explained and justified? 

  • Is the study design made clear? For example, is it a randomised controlled trial? A longitudinal study? A systematic review? 

  • Is a rationale given for the chosen method? 

  • Is the research ethical? 

  • How detailed is the methods section? Are any steps missing or unclear? For example, how big is the sample? Is enough information given about participants? 

  • Do the researchers explain how they control variables? 


  • Are data analysis tools identified? 

  • Are the steps in the data analysis explained and justified? 

  • Are the results relevant to the aim? 

  • Are the results explained? 

  • Do tables and graphs support the explanation? 

Discussion and conclusions 

  • Are claims or conclusions supported by the results? 

  • Do the researchers discuss the extent of their success in testing the hypothesis or meeting their aim? 

  • Do the researchers discuss the limitations of their study? 

  • Does the discussion section contribute to scholarly debate on the topic? 

Useful language

You can incorporate your summaries and comments more seamlessly into your annotations (and into literature reviews) if you use clear language to guide your reader.

Signpost language

Remember that it is the responsibility of the writer to make their writing as clear as possible for their readers. Download and print this document and keep it above your desk for reference when you are writing.  


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Read through the useful language and complete the task below. 

Now, fill the gaps in the sample annotation.



When you write your annotations, take care that you use the most appropriate tenses.  

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  1. Read these extracts and pay attention to the verbs. 
  2. Choose the most common tenses for the different elements of an annotation. 


Reporting verbs

In annotated bibliographies, or any task in which you refer to sources, you will need to use reporting verbs accurately and appropriately. 

Refer to the list below:

The authors Smith and Hawthorn (2023) He/She/They aim intend + to + verb      to determine whether Method X was successful. argue  assume  claim  conclude  contend  explain  indicate  report  state  suggest + that + clause      that Method X was successful.analyse  defend  describe  evaluate  explain  focus on  identify  outline  present  report on  summarise + noun phrase      the success of Method X.



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Ensure you understand the meaning of each of these reporting verbs. Read these groups of reporting verbs. In each line, which one does NOT belong? 



Applying your learning

Reflect on what you have learned in this material and consider how you can use it in your own work. 

Draft an annotation

Use this framework to write a draft for one of your units.

Exchange your draft with a peer studying the same unit and give each other feedback.  

  • Does the annotated bibliography conform to the task instructions in your unit?  

  • Is the content appropriate for each paragraph in the annotations? 

  • Is the language clear and appropriate? 

Useful strategies


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Develop your skills by reading widely. 

  • Learn to read critically. Ask yourself a series of questions to guide your thinking while you read. Remember you usually need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the texts you read. 

  • Pay specific attention to how scholars in your field refer to the work of other scholars. 

  • Highlight the language used for critique. Consider: What elements do published scholars critique and how do they express themselves? 


To develop your language, you could:  

  • when doing your unit readings, pay close attention to the language writers in your discipline use to summarise and critique published research  

  • use a site such as the Manchester Phrase Bank, which is one useful source of language to help you express yourself when you refer to or critique sources in your annotations. 


Exchange a draft annotated bibliography with a peer and give each other feedback.  

  • Does the annotated bibliography conform to the task instructions?  

  • Is the content appropriate for each paragraph in the annotations? 

  • Is the language clear and appropriate? 


Be very careful with referencing. The referencing style that you use depends on the expectations of your lecturer, so always check first. 

Next steps


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Reflect on your learning. 

Revisit the self-analysis quiz at the top of the page. How would you rate your skills now? 

Remember that writing is a process and mistakes aren't a bad thing. They are a normal part of learning and can help you to improve. 

If you would like more support, visit the Language and Learning Advisors page. 

Did you know CDU Language and Learning Advisors offer a range of study support options?


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