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PSCI 3300: Introduction to Political Research

Library research guide for PSCI 2300

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a an alphabetical or chronological list of citations with each citation followed by a paragraph that gives information about the resource. The paragraphs, or annotations, can be written in a number of styles that will be covered on the next page, Different Annotation Types.

The format of the citations and annotations is determined by the style guide you've been assigned - MLA, APA, Chicago, etc. The Libraries have both online and print style guides. In Political Science Research, you will be asked to use APSA (Reference Manual)and Chicago Author-Date, and Bluebook (for legal research).


There are numerous purposes for writing an annotated bibliography across the disciplines:

  • To familiarize yourself with the literature in an area;
  • To prepare to write a research paper and make a record of your impressions of the sources;
    • Annotated Bibliographies are great preliminary assignments before writing a full literature review.
  • To provide readers of your scholarly work with additional information about sources, such as author backgrounds, your evaluations, or summaries; and,
  • To place your research in a historical context for readers.

Types of Annotated Bibliographies

There are numerous ways to write an annotated bibliography, so pay attention to your instructor's directions! This page will show you a variety of approaches, but your instructor may have yet another personal preference for writing annotated bibliographies.

There are at least 4 types of annotations and most of the time your instructor asks you to combine some of the types. If you're doing independent research, think about the type(s) that will suit your purpose best. To see examples, visit the University of Maryland Library website.

  • Descriptive: You describe the source in this type of annotation.. The description includes topics in the work, the scope and time coverage of the topics, and any special features, e.g., appendices.
  • Summative: In this type of annotation, you present the main arguments and supporting content of the source, but without any critique. The author's background and credentials may also be included.
  • Evaluative or Critical: The point of this annotation type is to examine the author's presentation and discuss whether the methodology and reasoning are sound, whether the findings and conclusions contribute to the field, how it compares to other sources, and other evaluative issues. This is often a difficult annotation type for students. Visit the Critical Appraisal and Analysis webpage at Cornell University Library to see the types of questions you might ask. 
  • Reflective: This type of annotation is your chance to think about the source you've read and write about how it fits into your body of research and all the other investigation you've done.


This is an example of an annotated bibliography in the MLA style from the Purdue Owl with citations and annotations. It is meant to provide you with a visual of what annotations look like. If you were citing this source in APSA (the standard for political science citations), the citation would look like this:

Lamott, Anne. 1995. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York, New York: Anchor Books.

In general, the citation follows the format of the assigned style guide so it is best to familiarize yourself with the standards of the guide you being asked to use. Most styles call for a hanging indent, meaning the first line is at the margin and the subsequent lines are moved in a designated number of spaces. The formatting of the annotation and the spacing between it and the citation are also determined by the style guide. Any additional citations and annotations to this entry would be listed in alphabetical order by author last name, editors last name or title of article or work. 

Annotations are generally 150 - 200 words in length--this sample is 196 words. 


If you have questions about annotated bibliographies or citations, please contact your Political Science Librarian, Brea Henson.

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