Writing an Annotated Bibliography

A bibliography is a list of sources (journals, books, websites, etc.) related to a particular topic. An annotation is an explanatory note. An annotated bibliography combines the two, and is a list of sources used to research a particular topic where each source has an accompanying explanation that summarizes what the source says and analyzes its reliability and relevance to the topic.

Annotated bibliographies are valuable tools that help you learn more about your research topic, keep track of relevant sources, and organize how each source fits into your research thesis. If for an assignment, your instructor will specify what they want included in your annotations. Always be sure to review your assignment information before getting started.

A basic annotated bibliography will frequently consist of these components:

  • Citation: This is the identifying information for a source. It will most likely be formatted in MLA or APA style; your instructor will specify which citation style they want you to use.
  • Annotation: The length of the annotation varies, but annotations can range anywhere from a few sentences to several paragraphs. Annotations frequently contain one or more of the following:
    • Does it support, complicate, or contradict your argument? 
    • Summary of source content
    • Critical evaluation of source material and authority
    • And/or analysis of how the source fits into your research

Annotated Bibliography entry examples

  • Note: All citations should be double-spaced and contain hanging indents. The citations below do not follow the correct citation format, due to web browser functionality.

MLA example

Marik, Monika, and Thomas Stegemann. “Introducing a New Model of Emotion Dysregulation with Implications for Everyday Use of Music and Music Therapy.” Musicae Scientiae, vol. 20, no. 1, 17 Feb. 2016, pp. 53-67. Sage Journals, doi:10.1177/1029864915622055.

Emotional regulation defined is the ability to influence when emotions are felt, what they are, and how they are expressed. The goal of music therapy is to allow its participants to discover, express, and gain control over their emotions. Implications for use in psychotherapy are monumental, but Marik and Stegemann caution that much is still unknown and variable in the field. The effect varies depending on an individual’s past experiences and on their emotional goal. Given that both authors are practicing music therapists and have doctorates in the field, their points should be taken seriously.

Similar to Moore’s work, this article furthers the concept that the success of music therapy depends largely on an exploration of the individual characteristics of patients’ musical past. Beyond that of Moore, however, Marik and Stegmann place the concept of emotional regulation through music into the larger context of psychotherapy, including numerous references to studies about music and emotional effect, which adds credibility to their assertions. Despite their emphasis on the importance of previous musical experiences, the authors do not discuss any of the developmental details of these previous experiences or exactly how they alter music therapy’s efficacy.

MLA annotation explanation

First, the above annotation summarizes the article by Marik and Stegemann. Second, it evaluates the source’s credibility, noting that both authors have doctorates and relevant work experience. Third, it engages with the larger conversation—demonstrating how it relates to the work of another scholar, Moore. Finally, the annotation points out some information is missing from the article.

APA example

Moore, K. S. (2013). A systematic review on the neural effects of music on emotion regulation: Implications for music therapy practice. Journal of Music Therapy, 50(3), 198-242. https://doi.org/10.1093/jmt/50.3.198

Kimberly Moore, Music Therapy Instructor at the University of Miami, investigates how music enhances or weakens adolescent ability to control their emotions. Listening to or participating in familiar music led to more emotional control, while unfamiliar, complex, and/or dissonant music lessened emotional control. In the context of music therapy, the review is a thorough analysis that can validate the use of music therapy to develop more functional emotional response in youth. In the context of my research, this review and the conclusions drawn with it support my assertion that not only is music an integral part of emotional maturity in adolescents but that not all music types have the same effect on youth. The effectiveness of music as a developmental facilitator depends largely on the exposure that a child or teenager has had to that particular style of music. The question is left open, however, about whether different types of music in the foundational years of early childhood lead to different rates of emotional development.

APA annotation explanation

First, the above annotation summarizes the article by Moore. Second, it discusses how the source will contribute to the student’s research paper by supporting their thesis. Finally, it points to the article’s place within a larger scholarly conversation by noting what still needs to be discussed about the topic.

More information