Creating an Annotated Bibliography

Let's assume you have just been given by your professor or instructor the task of creating an annotated bibliography as part of your assignment. You have never heard the word bibliography before, let alone created one, so how do you begin?

Let’s start with what a bibliography is. A bibliography is a list of scholarly materials, ranging from books to journal articles that you will have have used in your research of a subject. The entries are formatted in the citation and documentation style of your discipline, and may or may not have notes for each entry. If a bibliography has notes or annotations for each entry, then it is known as an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography has annotations because they explain what each source discusses on your subject, and how they contribute to your research on it. Annotations in an annotated bibliography can either simply describe a source, or engage in a critical evaluation of it. If the annotations critically evaluate the sources in an annotated bibliography, they will evaluate the usefulness of the source in your research, how a source compares to other research done in its field, and  how it could be made more useful. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Writing Center features a handout, "Annotated Bibliographies", that thoroughly explains what kinds of annotations an annotated bibliography uses or can use, and gives a general guide as to how to write one. 

Another aspect of an annotated bibliography is the citation of your sources. The citation and documentation styles you will use vary according to the discipline. If you are working in the field of English, you will use MLA style to document your sources. This is also true if you are in any field of the humanities.

If, however, you are working in library and information science, you will use APA style to document the sources in your annotated bibliography. The same is true if you are studying psychology or any field in the social sciences.

If you are working in history, you will use Chicago style to document your sources. Chicago is also known as Turabian, and is used in the history discipline. It is recognizable because it uses footnotes, whereas other citation and documentation styles only use in-text citations. To find out more about how to use MLA, APA, and Chicago, visit the Purdue OWL's Research and Citation Resources page. This page features sections on MLA, APA, and Chicago that will prove helpful in formating your citations in your annotated bibliography and other assignments.

If you need to know what an annotated bibliography looks like, the Purdue OWL also features a section called "Annotated Bibliography Samples" that offers samples from annotated bibliographies, both with annotation samples and a PDF file, "Annotated Bibliography Samples," that is featured as a media file at the top of the page. Just click on the media file, and it will take you to an example from an annotated bibliography.

For a comprehensive guide to writing an annotated bibliography, visit Cornell University Library's LibGuides page "How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: The Annotated Bibliography". Other comprehensive guides include Skidmore College's Lucy Scribner Library's page on "Writing An Annotated Bibliography" and Southern Polytechnic State University's L.V. Johnson Library's LibGuides' annotated bibliography guide, "About Annotated Bibliographies".

All of these resources will introduce you to the basics of writing an annotated bibliography, explain what it is and what it entails, and will help you get started on writing and completing it.

Don't be afraid to ask your professor or instructor if you have questions about writing an annotated bibliography and/or you require help with writing it. He or she is there to help you, and can give you valuable advice and tips on writing an excellent annotated bibliography.

You should also visit your college or university's Writing Center and feel free to contact the tutors here at as you write your annotated bibliography and at every stage of the process in your writing. 

Creating an Enumerative Bibliography

An enumerative bibliography is a list of the sources you have collected and will be using in the research for your academic papers. It can be organized alphabetically, by author, by title, or by other arrangements. Unlike an annotated bibliography, it has no annotations or notes explaining what each source is and/or discussing how each source is or is not useful in your research. It simply lists your sources, and gives information (author, title, etc.) in the listings. This will help your readers find the sources you used in your research, and help them decide if they want to use them in their own work or not.

The first step in creating your enumerative bibliography is to gather the sources you need, and to find out the information on them that you need for the bibliography. You can find the author, title, publisher, year of publication, and other bibliographic information by either looking at the source or by looking it up on your college or university library's article databases (for journal articles) or in its catalog (for books and other materials in the catalog). If you cannot find the bibliographic information on your source, ask a librarian for help in locating it. He or she knows bibliographic information on sources, and can help you find it for yours.

The second step in creating your enumerative bibliography is to write it. You organize it by author, title, or other arrangements, and you create it following the citation and documentation style of your discipline. As stated previously, if you are an English major or have a major in any of the humanities, you will use the MLA style to document the sources in your enumerative bibliography. If you are a psychology major or have a major in any of the social sciences, you will use APA style. Finally, if you are a history major, you will use Chicago (Turabian) style. Depending on the country in which you live, you may be expected to use the Harvard style. If your professor or instructor allows you to use a citation and documentation style of your choice, check with him or her to make sure the one you choose to use is permitted.

The third step in creating your enumerative bibliography is to look it over for typos and other errors once you have created it. This will ensure that your enumerative bibliography is perfect and that your readers will have an easy time looking for and finding your sources. It also ensures that your enumerative bibliography looks professional and will get a good grade.

Do not be afraid to ask your professor or instructor for help at all stages of the writing process for your enumerative bibliography or for other assignments. He or she is there to help you succeed, and can give you advice and tips on how to create an excellent enumerative bibliography.

For a general introduction to bibliographies and writing them, check out the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)'s page "Annotated Bibliographies".  If you are formatting your enumerative bibliography in MLA style, check out their "MLA Style" page. For APA style, their "APA Style" page will be helpful to you and for Chicago style go to the "Chicago Manual of Style" page. Finally, Anglia Ruskin University Library's "Harvard System" guide and The University of Western Australia Library's "Harvard citation style" guide will help you create bibliographic citations in Harvard style.


Writing a Works Cited Page

A works cited page is another variant of the bibliography page.

The first step in creating this page is to know which sources and how many you used for your essay. Keeping a list, complete with author, title, and publication information, including the pages or paragraphs you used to quote from in your essay if you used a print source or online source with pagination or paragraphs, such as an online journal, will help you keep track of them, and will help you remember what you need to cite with in-text citations (MLA, APA) or footnotes (Chicago) in the body of your essay, and with bibliographic citations in your works sited page.

Keeping a list of your sources is also the first step in protecting you from committing plagiarism. Plagiarism is neglecting to credit the authors of the outside sources you used for your essays by failing to cite them, and is a very serious offense, with penalties ranging from getting an F for the plagiarized assignment or the class in which you committed plagiarism, to being expelled from school. Therefore, always cite and document your sources in your essays.

The second step in writing a works cited page is to find out what the citation and documentation style of your discipline is. For English and the humanities, MLA style is the style you will use. For the social sciences, APA style is used. For history, Chicago style is the citation and documentation style of choice. 

The Purdue OWL is another good resource for learning to cite and document your sources in MLA, APA, and Chicago style, and for learning how to write a good, strong essay from start to finish.

Once you have found and learned how to cite and document your sources in the citation and documentation style required by your discipline, you can start writing the works cited page. The minimum length is one page, while the maximum length will vary according to the number of sources used. The works cited page goes at the end of your essay, and is, depending on the discipline, titled "Works Cited" or "Bibliography". It lists all your outside sources, including those you only quoted from once or twice in your essay, and it lists all the authors of those sources, not just a few. This ensures that the authors of your sources get credit for originating the ideas you have quoted. It also shows that you are acknowledging those who came before you in your discipline who have contributed to the body of knowledge on your subject. Without this acknowledgement in your work, you are stealing other people's ideas and presenting them as your own. Keep this in mind as you compile the works cited page for your essay.

When you are done with the works cited page, go over it and make sure you have included all of your sources, and the authors of your sources, titles, publication information, whether you used print or web sources for MLA style, the date you accessed an internet source, and the web address. Remember to edit and proofread, correcting any typos and errors you find. You want this page to be as perfect as the rest of your essay, so that your work will look professional, and receive a good grade.

One way to keep track of your sources as you conduct your essay research is to write the information (authors, etc.) on index cards, and to keep these in a safe place to refer to as you write your essay. This will help you to keep track of your sources, help as you write your essay and your works cited page, and will save you from accidentally committing plagiarism.

Finally, ask your professor or instructor for help as necessary. He or she will have good tips and advice for producing the best works cited page and essay.

Check out these resources as you write your works cited page. The Indiana University of Pennsylvania's The Works Cited Page will help you learn to write a works cited page, including MLA style. Illinois Valley Community College's Creating a References List in APA Style and Creating a Bibliography in Chicago Style  will show you how to write a Works Cited page in APA and Chicago style.

To fulfill our tutoring mission of online education, our college homework help and online tutoring centers are standing by 24/7, ready to assist college students who need homework help with all aspects of bibliography writing. Our writing tutors can help with all your projects, large or small, and we challenge you to find better online bibliography writing tutoring anywhere.


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