Should Annotated Bibliography be Double Spaced?

You’re probably not sure about how to format your annotated bibliography.

This is the question that we will provide a concise answer for in this short reading.

You will also find an example screenshot of how an annotated bibliography should look like. 

Should Annotated Bibliography be Double Spaced?

Yes, an annotated bibliography should be double-spaced throughout. The spacing should be maintained between the title of the source and the first entry. The space between individual entries should also be formatted the same way.

Regarding font size, most schools recommend Arial and Times New Roman 12 point written with 1 inch margins.

Headings and Titles

Headings and titles in an annotated bibliography also need to be double-spaced. Simply title your paper “Annotated Bibliography” and center it at the top. Ensure that the space between it and the first citation is doubled.


Flush each citation to the left margin and indent it if it runs more than a single line. The first line is not indented but subsequent lines need to be half an inch indented from the left margin.

Regarding the annotation itself, you need to indent the body content. This makes it easy for the reader to read through the list of annotations based on their titles and author names.


Organize your annotations alphabetical by the first letter of the author’s surname. This is usually the name that comes before the first comma between the first name and the other names.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources that gives an account of the research that has been conducted on a particular topic. An annotated bibliography is different from a straightforward bibliography in that each reference is followed by a single paragraph annotation, often 100-200 words in length.

The annotation paragraph provides a concise summary of the source and some assessment of the relevance of the source. Usually, an annotated bibliography is an initial stage of a larger research project. However, it is possible to complete an annotation as an independent project.

You can skip to the lower sections of this article to see sample annotated bibliographies in APA and MLA formats.

Purpose of an annotated bibliography

A proper annotation goes beyond the brief summaries of articles, books, web sites, or other publications. Depending on the nature of the research topic, an annotated bibliography has different purposes.

  1. Gives the reader insightful information about research to decide whether to read the entire research paper. They can use the annotation to gauge whether the material is useful or not, if it is useful, and why?
  2. An annotated bibliography helps the researcher in hypothesis formulation. After reviewing the literature, the reader can identify patterns of findings and formulate an evidence-based hypothesis.
  3. Students also write annotated bibliographies to demonstrate their competence in researching literature on a given subject.
  4. Through an annotated bibliography, one gets to understand examples of reliable information available on a topic.
  5. Annotations are also useful in describing items that other researchers may find interesting and relevant to their scholarly investigations.

Types of annotated bibliographies

To annotate is to add short notes or comments to a text giving it insightful meaning and clarity. The principle of annotation has been used in the past to make literary texts more accessible. In the scholarly world, annotations help evaluate the contents of particular research quickly without the reader having to scan through the entire document.

Currently, there are only four main types of annotated bibliographies:

  • Descriptive or informative annotated bibliography
  • Analytical or critical annotated bibliography
  • Indicative annotated bibliography
  • Combination annotated bibliography
  1. A Descriptive or informative annotated bibliography

A descriptive or informative annotated bibliography is a summary of a source. The bibliography is similar to an abstract. This type of annotation outlines why a source is useful for a research question. The unique characteristic of descriptive of informative annotated bibliographies is that they explain the main arguments of the author and the conclusions of the annotated source. These descriptive annotations do not evaluate what the author says.

It is sometimes called a summary annotation. This type of annotation answers questions such as who wrote the document, why did the author publish the document, what content is being discussed in the document, and when and where was it published. It is just a surface description of a document.

A good informative annotation begins by a thesis of the source then states the main arguments or hypotheses supported by relevant proofs and finalized with a conclusion.

  1. Analytical or critical annotated bibliography

In analytical or critical annotated bibliographies, the annotation does not just summarize the material. It provides an analysis of what the author of the research is reporting. If it is a research paper, the annotation includes the strengths and weaknesses of the research. The applicability of the conclusion of the study is also included since the reader of the annotation needs to understand the relevance of the analytical content.

An analytical bibliography is sometimes called an evaluative annotation since in addition to the summary, it also critically analyzes the accuracy, quality, and relevance of the document. It is these analytical or critical annotated bibliographies that help researchers develop a thesis.

Most students or scholarly researchers often write analytical or critical annotated bibliographies because competent research needs to demonstrate critical thinking. Successful completion of assignments and projects depends on one’s ability to extract enough valid information from the identified sources.

  1. Indicative annotative bibliography

An indicative annotated bibliography is a type of annotation that does not provide any actual information from the source reviewed. Instead, it provides generalized information that answers the questions or issues addressed by the author. For instance, an indicative annotated bibliography can present information on what chapter titles are in a book.

Anyone writing an indicative annotated bibliography should not attempt to provide actual data or give proof for an argument.

  1. Combination annotated bibliography

Combination annotated bibliography combines different methods of annotation. This type of annotated bibliography combines a summary or description of the selected topic, evaluates the credibility, usefulness, and relevance of the source, and then adds a conclusion.

How to get started with your annotated bibliography

Now you are all set to begin writing your annotated bibliography. Here are the simple guidelines on how to get started.

  • Choose your sources – Before you start writing your annotated bibliography, you must choose your sources. Selecting your sources involves conducting some research much like you would for any other project. Take note of all materials that may contain information relevant to your topic.
  • Review your materials – Check the actual items one at a time and pick the ones that provide a wide variety of perspectives on your research topic. You may rely on article abstracts or book summaries to review which sources or items to include in your annotation.
  • Write citation and annotation – Writing your annotation is the most important part of your annotated bibliography. Complete the citation of the source first using the recommended format (APA, MLA, Harvard, etc.), then follow with your annotation. Depending on the type of annotated bibliography you are completing, it may be worthwhile to include:
    • The author’s reason for publishing the work
    • A concise summary of the contents of the work.
    • The relevance of the source
    • Strengths, weaknesses, and even biases you identified in the material

Depending on the guidelines provided by your instructor, annotated bibliographies may or may not be arranged alphabetically. Some instructors prefer a chronological arrangement of annotations.

Guidelines for formatting annotated bibliography citation

Always remember that annotated bibliography citations must be formatted properly. Individual universities have their own guidelines. However, standard citation formats such as APA, MLA, or Chicago style provide the base standard for all institutions. When unsure which formatting style to use, check with your instructor.

Components of an annotated bibliography

Regardless of institutional differences, an annotated bibliography must contain certain important components. The fields to include may vary depending on instructors and the purpose of the annotation assignment.

  1. Full bibliographic citation – A complete bibliographic citation contains information including author, the title of the source, publisher, date, and other details.
  2. Background of the author – Some instructors may provide a rubric requiring you to name the author, his experience, authority, and qualifications.
  3. Scope of the source – State how deep you think the work covers the topic of your interest.
  4. Main arguments – Highlight the main propositions and counterarguments presented in the source you have identified in an informative way.
  5. Audience – Sometimes, you may need to include the audience to whom the article or literature was written. It can be for the public, students, subject specialists, businesspersons, etc.
  6. Methodology – Methodology is particularly important if you are writing an analytical annotated bibliography for scholarly purposes.
  7. Reliability – Assess and state how reliable the source is for its claims.
  8. Conclusion – What is the overall conclusion of the article or book? Ask whether the work makes a justified conclusion or not.
  9. Personal voice – You may include your viewpoint or reaction to the annotated information based on your prior knowledge and understanding of the researchers. Opinions of other researchers may help you assess whether you want to support the conclusion of the source or the views of other researchers.

Formatting Annotated Bibliography in APA and MLA

The correct format of an annotated bibliography contains two sections;

  • the bibliographic information
  • the annotations
  • The bibliographic information section

This section can be formatted in APA, MLA, Chicago, or any other formatting style. The decision about which style to use for your annotated bibliography lies with the instructions from your supervisor. Nonetheless, all your bibliographic pieces should follow the same rules.

All your bibliographic information should come before the annotations.

  • Rules of formatting of a bibliographic section of an annotated bibliography
    • The author (s) name should be the only part flushed left.
    • Keep the rest of the text indented.
    • Write the bibliographic information before the review of the source’s content.
    • Write the bibliographic information in APA, MLA, or Chicago style.
  • The annotations section

In this section, you present the contents of the source you are using. The section is written in a paragraph form, usually 100-200 words. Although the length of your annotations may vary from just a few sentences to a couple of pages, each source often requires just a single paragraph to cover the summary and analysis.

For annotations that require a summary of sources, the length of your content does not need to be very long. However, if the annotated bibliography requires extensive analysis of each source, more space may be needed. It all depends on the nature of your project.

Annotated bibliography example APA format

Students studying social sciences, health sciences, and technical subjects often write their papers in APA styles. Writing a good annotated bibliography APA may require some level of practice, but it is never difficult for those who are willing to meet the challenge.

Begin writing your annotated bibliography APA style by jotting down the bibliographic information. I believe that by now, you are familiar with APA referencing style. You can check out APA format if you are new to citation styles.

The next step is to provide a summary of the source you are annotating. Depending on the type of your annotated bibliography, you may include the purpose of the source, its significance, a critical evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses, overall reliability as well as your personal opinion.

Below is an example of an annotated bibliography APA. Remember to have a full reference list of all the annotated sources organized in alphabetical order.

Anderson, D. M. “In School and Out of Trouble? The Minimum Dropout Age and Juvenile Crime.” Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 96, no. 2, 2014, pp. 1-51.

Anderson examined whether children who stay in school stay out of trouble compared to those out of school. He sought to understand how the number of juvenile arrests correlates with the minimum high school dropout age. The researcher used county-level arrest data for children between 1980 and 2010. The author conducted an empirical comparison between various age groups and arrest rates. Findings of the study showed that the minimum dropout age in each state was associated with negative impacts such as violent crime and subsequent arrests. The findings are consistent with the suspected incapacitation effect where completion of high school attendance is associated with decreased criminal activity among young people. Therefore, the findings suggest that keeping children in schools displaces crime from the city street to learning institutions where they can be controlled when their dropout age is higher.


Anderson, D. M. “In School and Out of Trouble? The Minimum Dropout Age and Juvenile Crime.” Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 96, no. 2, 2014, pp. 1-51.

Annotated bibliography MLA example

The use of MLA format in writing annotated bibliographies is often reserved for humanity courses and liberal arts classes. However, some professors have their own preferences. Begin by checking your instructor’s guidelines.

Write your bibliographic information in MLA format. If you are not sure about how to format your reference in MLA format, please check out MLA Referencing Style.

After writing the bibliographic information, include your annotations below your source. Below is an annotated bibliography example in MLA.

Written below is a sample MLA annotated bibliography. Remember to have a full list of all the references organized in alphabetical order on works cited page.

Waite, Linda J., et al. “Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations among Young Adults.” American Sociological Review, vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 541-554.

This article published by researchers from the Rand Corporation and Brown University sought to investigate non-family living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. The study hypothesized that that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. Using data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis the researchers found strong evidence to support their hypothesis about young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. If young adults stayed away from their parents for a long time before they get married, they became individualistic, self-sufficient, and no change in attitudes about family. On the other hand, an earlier study by Anderson cited blow revealed that there is no statistical significance in the male and female gender attitudes towards sex roles dues to nonfamily living.

Work cited

Waite, Linda J., et al. “Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations among Young Adults.” American Sociological Review, vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 541-554.

Selecting sources for an annotated bibliography

The quality of your annotated bibliography project depends on the sources you select for annotation. Once you have defined the scope of the research, well-defined boundaries are needed to screen the best sources to use. The following questions can help you identify effective limits for your research:

  1. What are you investigating? What research question are you pursuing? Try to formulate your topic as a research question and find out which sources answer the question. For example, how has marijuana legalization affected police incarcerations in California?
  2. What kind of material are you looking for? Are you interested in academic books, peer-reviewed journal articles, reputable websites/press, or government reports?
  3. Are you looking for high-impact studies that are cited by several other sources and have an influence on policymaking?

Appropriate phrases for an annotated bibliography

Writing a good annotated bibliography requires precise vocabulary. It is sometimes challenging to find the correct words to use while summarizing and discussion a source you identified. We provide you with the following list of words commonly used when referring to ideas from a source.

Examine, account for, describe, exemplify, indicate, clarify, depict, investigate, analyze, compare, contrast, determine, explain, argue, judge, conclude, evaluate, assess, distinguish, illustrate, emphasize, persuade, assume, define, assert, criticize, question, report, review, demonstrate, propose, imply, suggest, claim, defend, etc.

Placed in context, here are some of the ways to use the verbs:

  1. The author emphasized the need to vaccinate children against measles.
  2. The article explained how games improve cognitive performance in children.
  3. Henry concluded that all politicians are cunny.

Places to get sources for your annotated bibliography

Book Review Index Online is an online database that provides thousands of free book reviews. The reviews cover authors published from 1965 to present. They cover a range of topics.

EBSCOhost is also a popular platform where you can find over 200,000 full-text review and millions of review citations. The database covers over 13 main subject categories.

JSTOR is another popular online library that has high-quality articles. You can access the articles by searching directly for a particular subject and using the search restrictions to limit the content you retrieve.

PubMed is an important database for students in the medical field. Other human science publications are also available in the database. Most of the journal articles published here are peer-reviewed and are of high impact.

Help writing an annotated bibliography?

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