Annotated Bibliographies

A BIBLIOGRAPHY is a list of resources designed to fulfill a need. It may be the list of sources cited in a paper or book. It may also be a document of intrinsic worth and usefulness. This note includes guidelines in producing several types of bibliographies. Some bibliographies are for the use only of the writer. Others are meant for use by students and scholars.

Organizing and retrieving information for use in one’s occupation and personal life is increasingly necessary. Bibliographies offer a way of organizing. If stored electronically, information can be searched and manipulated for many uses.

The American Library Association’s Guidelines for the Preparation of a Bibliography (1992) is the major source used for this note.


1. Enumerative bibliographies are just lists of citations. They list everything available on a topic in a given timespan, journal, library, etc. A standard bibliographic format suitable to the subject or discipline should be used. Examples are the APA Publication format and MLA Style. Other recognized styles may also be used.

2. Annotated bibliographies include notes about the items. Clear concise writing is desirable. Some writers include lengthy annotations. The length of the comment is determined by the writers purpose. Or in the case of a class assignment, the parameters set by the instructor. The notes may be of several kinds. An annotation can include one or more of these types.

    A. Informative notes offer explanations of the reason for including the item.

    B. Descriptive annotations include information about the contents. They may include subject matter, research type, author affiliations, or any information related to the purpose of the bibliography. The type of descriptions in a bibliography are often commented on in the introduction.

    C. Critical evaluations describe the place of the item within the literature and assesses its value. The appropriateness of research methods may be included if it is a bibliography of research. The critical comments may be positive or negative. Comparisons to other similar works are sometimes commented upon.


Lengthy bibliographies usually include an index. However, it should be organized so that it can be used without an index. It may be organized alphabetically by author, or by topic, or by media/format, or other specified arrangement. This should be indicated in the introduction. Whatever the arrangement, it should be easy to understand and use.

The introduction to the document should give the rationale and anticipated use(s) for the bibliography. It should state its limitations and any special features.


Suggestions for materials to be included in a bibliography follow. Some or all may be appropriate to a topic. The physical arrangement is determined by the anticipated use.

These are typical groupings or arrangements in bibliographies.


Works by and about a person:

1.Primary Sources
A. Books
B. Shorter works
C. Essays, articles, nonfiction
D. Audiovisuals by type

2. Secondary Sources
A. Biographical
B. Interviews
C. Book Reviews
D. Criticism
E. General books & articles


Subject matter resources

These may be lists of resources grouped by category or they may be pathfinders. A subject matter bibliography can be a precursor to a review of literature essay. It can be as narrow or broad as the subject matter under consideration. It can be limited to books or journals or other media or be inclusive. This is determined by the writer.

Pathfinders are bibliographies designed to introduce the novice to a discipline. They often start with reference materials, lists of subject headings, lists of periodicals and lists of periodical indexes useful for that subject, in addition to some of the following:


1. General Books
A. grouped by content
1. primary
2. secondary

B. grouped by audience
C. support or peripheral materials

2. Professional Books
A. pedagogy
B. technology
C. standards or licensing

3. Reference Books
A. handbooks
B. almanacs
C. dictionaries
D. encyclopedias
E. directories
F. bibliographies
G. government publications

4. Audiovisuals by type



The usefulness of a bibliography is dependent on the accuracy of the information. Effort should be made to have complete citations with no typographical or content errors. Notes or annotations should be factually correct and grammatically sound. Well-turned sentences and interesting imagery is to be encouraged in annotations.


The format of the document itself should be attractive and clear. Many computer word processing programs have a selection of page layout possibilities. Computers also allow for the use of several typefaces to are emphasis and subdivide the bibliography. Visual components can make a document more or less accessible to the reader. White space and margins on the pages are important. If it is a working document, space for personal notes is appreciated.